First, thanks Chris for the plug. (Since my thesis isn't due until April, you can view updates at http://students.hamilton.edu/2005/jrick/thesis.htm.)
Cameron: I agree that Hitchens--like Tom Friedman and Paul Berman, I would add--"is the kind of leftist I admire considerably and that the world needs more of." In fact, one of the first books I read this summer for my research was A Long Short War, and it too persuaded me.
Hitchens is most persuasive in arguing for Iraqi-Qaeda collaboration outside of 9/11. For instance, referring to Saddam's allowing Zarqawi to receive medical treatment in Baghdad, allegedly a leg amputation, after we routed him from Afghanistan, he argues, “[N]o Baathist official would make such a safe-haven decision without referring it to the Leader" (79). Or, as Donald Rumsfeld put it, “In a vicious, repressive dictatorship that exercises near-total control over its population, it’s very hard to imagine that the government is not aware of what’s taking place in the country.”
In a recent Slate column, Hitchens elaborates: “To believe that Zarqawi was innocent of Al Qaeda and Baathist ties, or to believe that he does not in fact represent such a tie, you must believe (1) that a low-level Iraqi official decided to admit a much-hunted Jordanian—a refugee from the invasion of Afghanistan, after September 11, 2001—when even the most conservative forces in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were keeping their distance from such people and even assisting in rounding them up; (2) that this newly admitted immigrant felt that the most pressing need of the holy war was the assassination of Kurdish leaders opposed to the rule of Saddam Hussein; and (3) that a recently arrived Jordanian, in a totally controlled police state, was so enterprising as to swiftly put himself in possession of maps, city diagrams, large sums of cash, and a group of heavily armed fighters hitherto named after the Iraqi dictator—the Fedayeen Saddam.”
You'll have to wait for my response, since while I've finished my section on Iraqi-Qaeda 9/11 collaboration, I'm still working on their non-9/11 relationship. But briefly, I'll say this: The road from Baghdad to Kabul by any account was oblique; it resembled dots more than solid lines. As C.I.A. Director George Tenet acknowledged in his 10/02 letter to the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee: “Our understanding of the relationship . . . is evolving and is based on sources of varying reliability.” The top secret 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (N.I.E.) similarly cautioned that the pertinent intelligence was largely circumstantial. The reason was that the prevailing evidence came not from spies, the field’s gold standard, but from defectors and exiles. Foremost among such people, the Iraqi National Congress, a London-based umbrella group of anti-Saddam activists, gushed with grandiose but uncorroborated allegations. Indeed, as one op-ed writer scoffed, Ahmad Chalabi, the I.N.C.’s and a darling of leading American neoconservatives, left Iraq the same year as the Dodgers left Brooklyn.
Linz: "I doubt that Hitchens' hatred for Saddam & Saddamites would equal mine, but I'm glad someone's comes close." This is silly to debate, but it's worth noting that Hitchens cancelled his long-standing column with the Nation due to the magazine's opposition to the war, and that Hitchens has many Kurdish friends, who were intimately aware of the thirty-year nightware that was Iraq under Saddam.
Now, for the more important issue: "*Not* that Iraq could necessarily, itself, unleash WMD on America, but would give WMD to terrorists who *would* unleash them. The Saddamites had no answer to this, but refused to budge nonetheless."
With all due respect--and since I know you appreciate KASS--because you're unaware of the answers doesn't mean they don't exist. The 2002 N.I.E. indicated that if Saddam ever struck American targets, he would likely rely on his own operatives rather than outsource. Consider the Palestinians, his cause célèbre. The news regularly aired stories about Saddam’s payments to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers for the deeds of their “martyred” kin. If Saddam were willing to collaborate with Palestinian terrorists this blatantly, wouldn’t he do the same—or worse—with Al Qaeda terrorists?
History suggests not. Saddam received great utility, at negligible cost, from publicly awarding those checks. It was a creative way to swashbuckle onto the world stage, to present himself as spitting in the face of the invincible “Zionists,” thereby gaining him prestige on the Arab street and moving himself closer to realizing his dream as uniter and overload of the Arab world. His goal was symbolic, not strategic.
It is also difficult to believe that once he attained a nuclear weapon, Saddam would then fork over what he had spent billions of dollars on and worked decades for. Just as the U.S. did not share all its nuclear expertise with its allies, so the Soviet Union balked at giving nukes to China despite repeated Chinese requests and ideological sympathies. A handoff of conventional weapons, as with biological or chemical ones, would have been likelier, but still unlikely, since despite his longstanding collaboration with Palestinians—who reciprocated rhetorically in spades for their avuncular hero—Saddam never once gave them anything from his longstanding and vast arsenal. Even less likely was he to have smuggled weaponry to Qaeda operatives, who were determined ultimately to topple secular regimes like his and who might well turn on him. To trust an outsider with such responsibility would have been uncharacteristic for a Stalanist paranoid.
Moreover, in the event of a future attack against America, Saddam had every reason to believe—whether he was involved or not—that, at a minimum, he would be a top suspect and a target of the subsequent investigation. Given the Bush administration’s zealous pursuit of casus belli against Iraq, he would likely suffer guilt by association.
(Edited by Jonathan Rick on 1/10, 5:34pm)