Rebirth of Reason


A Retroactive Analysis of National Security Casus Belli for the Iraq War: Part 2
by Jonathan R

Collaboration with Non-Al Qaeda Terrorists

But what about Saddam’s well-known collaboration with non-Al Qaeda terrorists? In 1985, after Abu Abbas hijacked the Italian cruise ship, Achille Lauro, and rolled the wheelchair-bound American, Leon Klinghoffer, off the side to his death, the Palestinian flew to Baghdad for refuge. Ditto for Abu Nidal, who, before the emergence of Osama bin Laden, was the world’s most prolific and hotly pursued terrorist, and who later became, as Christopher Hitchens notes, “an arm of the Iraqi state, not an asylum seeker.”[1] Nor should we forget Saddam’s harboring of Abdul Rahman Yasin, whom U.S. prosecutors indicted for mixing the chemicals in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.[2]

Further, Saddam’s goons tried to assassinate Bush père when the former president made a ceremonial visit to Kuwait in 1993. In 1998, after defecting ultimately to the U.K., Iraq’s former consul in the Czech Republic, Jabir Salim (who was Ani’s predecessor), divulged that Saddam had given him $150,000 to blow up the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty headquarters in Prague.[3] Most recently, as discussed above, Saddam had become an overt sugar daddy of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas.

Clearly, then, Iraq was a state sponsor of terrorists who often murdered Americans. Saddam’s attempted assassination of Bush père might have arguably been the last straw, but, in June 1993, President Clinton retaliated by firing twenty-three Tomahawk missiles at the headquarters of his intelligence service.[4] Concludes Kenneth Pollack, former director for gulf affairs at the National Security Council: on the grand scale of such sponsors, Iraq was “well behind Iran, Syria, Pakistan, Sudan, Lebanon, North Korea, [and] Libya. . . . [I]f one were to list Saddam Hussein’s crimes against humanity in order of their importance,” his collaboration with non-Al Qaeda terrorists would have ranked low.[5] For as deadly as they were, the said terrorists no longer imminently threatened Americans; indeed; the C.I.A. had no evidence of Iraqi-related terrorist operations against the U.S. in nearly a decade.[6] This is not to say that time exonerates criminality—once a murderer, always a murderer—but that war is belatedly excessive to bring half a dozen terrorists to justice. Granted, anything less would never drain the swamp that Iraq was for terrorists; but the safety of Americans need not entail eviscerating every evil.

[1] Christopher Hitchens, A Long Short War: The Postponed Liberation of Iraq (New York: Plume, 2003), p. 13.
[2] Alison Mitchell, “U.S. Informer Is New Suspect in Bomb Plot,” New York Times, August 5, 1993.
According to the F.B.I.’s Most Wanted Terrorists list, Yasin “possibly has a chemical burn scar on his right thigh,” presumably from mixing said chemicals. “Most Wanted Terrorist: Abdul Rahman Yasin,” Most Wanted Terrorists, Federal Bureau of Investigation. http://www.fbi.gov/mostwant/terrorists/teryasin.htm
[3] Michael Isikoff, “The Phantom Link To Iraq,” Newsweek, May 6, 2002, p. 36; Peter Finn, “Czechs Confirm Key Hijacker ‘Contact’ with Iraqi Agent in Prague,” Washington Post, October 27, 2001. http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&contentId=A59829-2001Oct26&notFound=true
[4] Additionally, the veteran political reporter, Seymour Hersh, has argued that “the American government’s evidence for Saddam’s involvement—“as it has been outlined in public, anyway—is seriously flawed.” Seymour M. Hersh, “A Case Not Closed,” New Yorker, November 1, 1993. http://www.newyorker.com/archive/content/?020930fr_archive02
[5] Kenneth M. Pollack, “Next Stop Baghdad?” Foreign Affairs, May-April 2002.
[6] James Risen, “Terror Acts by Baghdad Have Waned, U.S. Aides Say,” New York Times, February 6, 2002; Dana Priest, “U.S. Not Claiming Iraqi Link To Terror,” Washington Post, September 10, 2002. http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A59403-2002Sep9?language=printer

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