It must be hard to be Colin Powell–that is, it must be tough to have to keep defending an administration that makes dramatic assertions untethered from known facts. But that’s what Powell, the (mostly) loyal lieutenant, was doing yesterday, as he shilled for his president regarding the supposed link between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.
Earlier in the day, the 9/11 commission issued a report that declared there was no evidence of any “collaborative relationship” between Iraq and al Qaeda. (For a summation and a to-the-point analysis, see my blog entry on this.) The day before that, George W. Bush offered his “best evidence” of such a link, but he botched the facts and misrepresented the truth. His “evidence” was, at best, flimsy. In fact, it could be considered evidence that there was no significant link between Hussein and al Qaeda. (For the stunning details, click here.) Remember, the purported al Qaeda-Hussein bond was a primary argument for Bush’s war. Prior to the invasion, Bush claimed that Hussein was an “immediate” threat because he possessed weapons of mass destruction and at any given moment could slip them to his good pals in al Qaeda. As Bush put it, “he’s a threat because he is dealing with al Qaeda.” Without those WMDs, without the al Qaeda connection, what’s left of Bush’s main justification for the war?
After the 9/11 commission released its report dismissing the idea of an al Qaeda-Hussein partnership, I predicted the ensuing White House spin would be dizzying. And the first to run in circles was the Secretary of State. In an interview with Hafiz Mirazi of Al-Jazeera television, the following exchange occurred:
MirzaiI: Mr. Secretary, let me start first with the reports coming out of the conclusion of the 9/11 congressional investigative commission that they concluded that there is no evidence or critical evidence, whatsoever, of any link between al-Qaida and the regime of Saddam Hussein, or that Saddam Hussein did help al-Qaida in targeting the US. And the reports are saying this is in contradiction with the Bush administration. What would be your comment?
Powell: I have seen some press reports that suggest things like that, but I haven’t seen the 9/11 report yet. So until they actually do issue the report, it will be premature for me to comment on such a speculation. I think it’s better we all wait and see the report and see what it says.
Mirzai: But as far as the administration is concern, for the record now, it is still the US position of the administration that the regime of Saddam Hussein did help al-Qaida in targeting the US?
Powell: I think we have said, and it is clear, that there is a connection, and we have seen these connections between al-Qaida and the regime of Saddam Hussein and we stick with that. We have not said it was related to 9/11. So, you know, this is the commission that was looking into 9/11. But we have indicated that we have seen terrorist links with Saddam Hussein and his regime and some linkages with Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida.