Genies grant three wishes. But the moral of dealing with genies is that things never work out well. In last week’s debate against Sen. John Edwards, US Vice President Cheney rubbed his lamp and out popped three reasons for America’s invasion of Iraq:
Saddam Hussein “had established relationships with Abu Nidal, who operated out of Baghdad; he paid $25,000 to the families of suicide bombers; and he had an established relationship with Al-Qaeda.”
“Specifically,” Cheney challenged, “look at George Tenet, the CIA director’s testimony before the Committee on Foreign Relations two years ago when (Tenet) talked about a 10-year relationship.”
Sounds good, right?
Look carefully. Tenet’s Foreign Relations testimony? Doesn’t exist.
And nothing could be more about Israel, and less about US security, than Cheney’s three reasons.
What a shock. Let’s take things one by one.
If Cheney is right, over a thousand Americans and 30,000 Iraqis died fighting a Palestinian ghost. No Islamic jihadist, Nidal was a secular Palestinian fighter determined to change Israel from a restrictionist Jewish state to a secular Arab state.
Infamously splitting from Arafat in the 1970s, he and his followers fled to Baghdad to fight Syria before being expelled, and then to Syria to fight Jordan before being expelled, and then to Libya where, in 1999, hoping to deflect international sanctions, Libya kicked them out and Egypt closed their offices.
Saddam probably wanted to save Cheney the trouble of capturing Nidal, who had settled uneasily in Baghdad where his death from leukemia, eight months prior to the US invasion of Iraq, was hastened by untimely gunshots.
Indeed, facts indicate anything but a close “relationship” between the Palestinian and Saddam in 2002.
Baathist officials hurriedly announced to skeptical reporters Nidal supposedly killed himself after Iraqi intelligence uncovered his plot to assassinate Saddam. Others believe Saddam murdered Nidal. Some Israeli sources even claim that Arafat himself demanded Saddam kill Nidal because he was passing evidence to America of a new “terror partnership” between Arafat, Saddam, and Bin Laden!
Nidal’s “relationship” with Saddam?
Hardly worth invading Iraq over.
Saddam’s “relationship” with Al-Qaeda is equally tenuous.
America’s 9/11 Commission explicitly found no evidence of any “collaborative operational relationship.”
And Cheney dares to check out Tenet’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee testimony?
Tenet never testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, at least in declassified records. But he did testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 12, 2003.
Tenet swore he saw “disturbing signs that Al-Qaeda has established a presence in both Iran and Iraq,” but never said what these “signs” were.
When Kansas Republican Sen. Roberts asked Tenet whether a Bin Laden tape closing “with a lament indicating two-thirds of his operation has either been destroyed or captured,” indicated no “relationship with Iraq,” Tenet hedged, saying, “We have to get our experts to understand all the historical consequence and allusions and symbols.” But, he claimed, “Iraq is harboring senior members of a terrorist network led by Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, a close associate of Osama Bin Laden.”
US Secretary of State Colin Powell also raised Zarqawi’s specter in his infamous United Nations speech wherein he described Saddam’s rolling weapons laboratories and “nuclear” aluminum tubes — all now unambiguously discredited.
How involved was Zarqawi?
Legend holds Zarqawi’s Afghanistan adventure ended in 2001 when he injured his leg battling invading US forces. He allegedly escaped to Iran and then to Iraq in May 2002, where his leg was amputated and replaced prosthetically. Powell averred that during Zarqawi’s two-month “recuperation,” nearly two dozen extremists converged on Baghdad and established a base there.
But who were these “nearly” 24 masked men?
They were not likely close to Zarqawi, who fled Baghdad as soon as he could hobble, hiding in Ansar Al-Islam’s camp in northern Iraq, a region ruled by radical religious Kurds and uncontrolled by Saddam.
So, far from being offered a “safe haven” by Saddam, Zarqawi fled Saddam’s Iraq, able to emerge from hiding (if indeed it’s him) only after the US invaded.
No wonder Tenet was forced to resign.
Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby, director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency, testified at the same hearing, suggesting Saddam incurred America’s fury by “aligning himself with the Palestinian cause,” referencing Saddam’s $25,000 payments to families of suicide bombers as justification for Iraq’s invasion.
But did suicide-bombing start only with Saddam’s payments, which commenced in 2000?
Hardly. Nor did it stop when the payments ceased. Instead, suicide bombings soared in Israel.
Research increasingly shows suicide bombers come more from educated elites than impoverished groups. Freedom House data indicates Israel’s Palestinian repression leaves intelligent, well-educated Palestinians no other outlet to express their devotion to one overriding right “to simply” be.
To be a people.
To defeat this struggle, Cheney obliquely says, the US invaded Iraq.
Three wishes, three reasons.
Israel, Israel, Israel.
It will be hard to coax this genie back into its lamp.