March 25, 2006
by David KopelThe U.S. military has recently begun releasing documents and videotapes captured from the Saddam regime. The Rocky Mountain News(March 20) and The Denver Post(March 22) ran short pieces reporting on a little bit of the new information that had been released, but both failed to report on some of the most crucial information. For example:
A set for orders for the Mukhabarat, Saddam's secret police. One part of the Mukhabarat, Directorate 8, had "advanced laboratories for testing and production of weapons, poisons, and explosives." There, materials were to be used in "covert offensive operations."
Regarding Directorate 9, "Most of its work is outside Iraq . . . focusing on operations of sabotage and assassination."
Office 16's job was training "agents for clandestine operations abroad." The office ran "special six-week courses in the use of terror techniques . . . at a camp in Radwaniyhah."
Saddam supplied financial aid to the Philippine terrorist organization Abu Sayyaf, which is linked to al-Qaida, and which frequently kidnapped Americans.
Four days after the Sept. 11 attacks, an Iraqi intelligence source in Afghanistan reported back to Iraq about information he received from a Taliban official: Bin Laden had visited Iraq and was in communication with Iraq, and the U.S. "has evidence that the Iraqi government and the group of Osama bin Laden have cooperated to attack targets inside America." Thus, if it were proven that bin Laden and the Taliban had planned "such operations, it is possible that America will attack Iraq and Afghanistan."
The documents and tapes are available at a pair of U.S. military Web sites: http://126.96.36.199/ and www.ctc.usma.edu /harmony_docs.asp.
Slated for future release are 700 documents that are discussed in the next issue of Foreign Affairs.The documents state that Uday Hussein ordered "special operations, assassinations, and bombings" against London and other targets. Moreover, the Iraqi regime, at the time of the March 2003 coalition invasion, had made advanced preparations for "Blessed July" terrorism attacks against the West.
The Foreign Affairsarticle explains that Saddam, attempting to impress the Arab world, insisted on making foreigners believe he had weapons of mass destruction. One of Saddam's terror masterminds, "Chemical Ali," personally thought that Iraq did not have WMDs, but he stated to investigators that many top members of the regime believed otherwise. Ali supported a policy of perpetuating the impression that Iraq had WMDs because Ali believed it would deter an Israeli attack.
A March 12 New York Timesarticle in the Postsummarized some of the findings about how Saddam's poor leadership ruined the Iraqi military, but did not report the information about the ongoing WMD propaganda and the plans for July 2001 terrorist attacks on the West.
• Like Postcolumnist Gail Schoettler (March 12), I disagree with the new South Dakota law outlawing almost all abortions. Unfortunately, Schoettler's column about the ban focused on bashing the South Dakota legislature because most legislators are males. She blasted "these men" for declaring that "an unknown fetus . . . is more important than a woman."
Had Schoettler researched before writing, she would have discovered that the lead Senate sponsor of the abortion ban is a woman and that female legislators in South Dakota (who comprise 15 percent of the legislature) voted for the ban 11-5. A better column might have investigated why the ban attracted bipartisan support from legislators of both sexes.
• An Associated Press article by Mohammed Daraghmeh (Post,March 16) reported on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas fulminating about the Israeli capture of Ahmed Saadat from a Palestinian jail in Jericho, after U.S. and British unarmed guards left in fear of their lives. Saadat was the mastermind of the 2001 assassination of an Israeli cabinet official. A more complete article would have noted what Abbas told the AP on March 7: that he would free Saadat, and that Abbas would not be "responsible for what would happen to him after that."
• Another article that needed more context was Vanessa Miller's Boulder Daily Camera(March 16) report on a CU speech by former Iraqi weapons inspector Scott Ritter. Ritter claimed that the CIA knew that Iraq had no WMDs or missiles.
The article included one sentence by Ritter's former boss alleging that Ritter made false allegations. But the article overlooked clear evidence of Ritter's apparent mendacity: Ritter's Dec. 21, 1998, article in The New Republic.In that article, Ritter stated: "Iraq has kept its entire nuclear weapons infrastructure intact. . . . Iraq has retained an operational long-range ballistic missile force that includes approximately four mobile launchers and a dozen missiles." Further, "we found irrefutable evidence that the warheads had been filled with both VX nerve agent and anthrax biological agent."
Better reporting would, at least, have noted the contradictions between Ritter's 1998 story and his current one. Or the reporter could have asked Ritter to explain whether he learned new facts that invalidated his 1998 story, even though he ceased being a weapons inspector in 1998.