Monday, June 14, 2004
Vice President Dick Cheney said Monday that Saddam Hussein had "long-established ties" with al Qaida, an assertion that has been repeatedly challenged by some policy experts and lawmakers.
"He was a patron of terrorism," Cheney of Hussein during a speech before The James Madison Institute, a conservative think-tank based in Florida. "He had long established ties with al Qaida."
While nobody sane disputes that Saddam was a "patron of terrorism" insofar as he supported the Palestinian intifada, there is no probative and credible evidence that he was a patron of terrorists who targeted the United States, whether on September 11 or otherwise. So what are the "long established" ties with Al Qaeda? To make this assertion without offering new evidence is to embarrass the Bush Administration to the great detriment of the mission in Iraq, which needs all the credibility that it can get right now.
There are only three possible explanations for this story. First, the AP may have misquoted Cheney. Did the reporter record his remarks, or obtain a transcript? If not, how do we know that Cheney actually accused Saddam of having "long-established ties" with Al Qaeda?
Second, it is possible that Cheney has new evidence, and that the White House is waiting to release it until the right news cycle comes along. The Democratic Convention, perhaps?
Third, it is possible that Cheney has lost it, at least insofar as he does not realize how much the Administration's reputation is suffering from constant over-promising and under-delivering on its stated reasons for the Iraq war.
I'm not sure which explanation will hold water, but I know it must be one of these three. I'm hoping that the second explanation is correct, but I'm concerned that the third explanation is closer to the truth.