Who's Right on the War on Terrorism? The 9/11 Commission, the U.S. Senate Assessment of Prewar Intelligence, and the British Butler Committee

(Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs) Dore Gold - The Bush administration never said that it went to war against Iraq in order to retaliate for the destruction of the World Trade Center and the attack on the Pentagon. It did warn that Iraq could transfer its prohibited weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups, especially to al-Qaeda. Is there a real risk in the transfer of weapons of mass destruction from rogue states in the Middle East to terror groups? The resolution of this question will affect how the U.S. and its allies address other problematic states like Iran in the future. For example, Israeli military intelligence is warning that Iranian WMD are liable to be given to Hizballah. The credibility of warnings of this sort will be affected by the outcome of the U.S. debate. What emerges from the intelligence presented in the 9/11 report is that Iraq had an ongoing and cooperative relationship with al-Qaeda that intensified after 2001. There were grounds for concern that if Iraq continued along the same path, expertise in weapons of mass destruction might have been provided to al-Qaeda. Indeed, British intelligence raised the possibility in March 2003 that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's "sleeper cells" in Baghdad, on the eve of the Iraq War, might use biological and chemical agents in a future insurgency against U.S. troops. David Kay, who headed the Iraq Survey Group looking for weapons of mass destruction, said in early 2004: "We know there were terrorist groups in state [Iraq] still seeking WMD capability. Iraq, although I found no weapons, had tremendous capabilities in this area. A marketplace phenomenon was about to occur, if it did not occur; sellers meeting buyers. And I think that would have been dangerous if the war had not intervened." The 9/11 Commission also examined the Saudi tie to terrorism, noting that it "does not exclude the likelihood that charities with significant government sponsorship diverted funds to al-Qaeda." Is it necessary to produce a check signed by a senior Saudi official to an al-Qaeda operative in order to prove Saudi financial backing of the organization? Doesn't the movement of funds to al-Qaeda from charities financed and monitored by the Saudi government raise serious questions about Riyadh's past role in the growth of the new terrorism? Realistic expectations are necessary about the degree of proof that intelligence agencies can provide, if the war on terrorism is to succeed.

2004-07-26 00:00:00

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