Special Report

A Very Dangerous Place

On Monday Bush’s pre-war point held up: terrorists were operating in Iraq, and they did have access to Saddam Hussein’s powder keg.

By 5.18.04

"A small amount of the nerve agent sarin was found in a shell that exploded in Iraq, the U.S. army said Monday in the first announcement of discovery of any of the weapons on which Washington made its case for war," reports Reuters. In the Washington game of pulling back the goal posts whenever the opposing team gets close to scoring, the Democrats will dutifully downplay this report. Recall their selective reading of David Kay's report. They ignored Kay's finding that up until the beginning of the war Iraqi scientists were "actively working to produce a biological weapon using the poison ricin."

Monday's news confirms what Kay reported to an indifferent Congress: "We know that terrorists were passing through Iraq. And now we know that there was little control over Iraq's weapons capabilities. I think it shows that Iraq was a very dangerous place. The country had the technology, the ability to produce, and there were terrorist groups passing through the country -- and no central control."

The Democrats seized upon elements of Kay's report to advance their claim that Iraq under Saddam Hussein was less dangerous than assumed. But Kay was trying to explain to them that Iraq was more dangerous than even Bush's pre-war picture allowed: "I actually think what we learned during the inspection made Iraq a more dangerous place, potentially, than, in fact, we thought it was even before the war."

Bush's pre-war point holds up: terrorists were operating in Iraq, and they did have access to Saddam Hussein's powder keg. The constant claim that the war in Iraq is irrelevant to the war on terrorism is impossible to sustain when U.S. forces keep capturing terrorists Hussein harbored. Just like the antiwar Democrats refused to acknowledge Central America as a link in the Communist chain, so they deny that Iraq under Hussein was a link in the chain of Islamic terror.

Who beheaded Nicholas Berg? Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi -- the very terrorist the Bush administration before the war presented to skeptics as an example of Saddam Hussein's ties to terrorism. In his 2003 address to the United Nations Security Council, Colin Powell said that "Iraq today harbors a deadly terrorist network headed by Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi."

Zarqawi received safe haven in Iraq, said Powell, traveling "to Baghdad in May 2002 for medical treatment, staying in the capital of Iraq for two months while he recuperated to fight another day.…During this stay, nearly two dozen extremists converged on Baghdad and established a base of operations there. These al Qaeda affiliates, based in Baghdad, now coordinate the movement of people, money and supplies into and throughout Iraq for his network, and they've now been operating freely in the capital for more than eight months."

Powell noted that an "al Qaeda associate bragged that the situation in Iraq was, quote, 'good,' that Baghdad could be transited quickly," and that "We know these affiliates are connected to Zarqawi because they remain even today in regular contact with his direct subordinates, including the poison cell plotters, and they are involved in moving more than money and materials."

Zarqawi was killing Americans long before the war began. Powell in his 2003 address to the U.N. said that Zarqawi had American diplomat Lawrence Foley gunned down in Jordan: "We, in the United States, all of us at the State Department, and the Agency for International Development -- we all lost a dear friend with the cold-blooded murder of Mr. Lawrence Foley in Amman, Jordan last October, a despicable act was committed that day. The assassination of an individual whose sole mission was to assist the people of Jordan. The captured assassin says his cell received money and weapons from Zarqawi for that murder."

The Bush administration gave Saddam Hussein's regime a chance to distance itself from Zarqawi by helping to locate him. It provided no help, and continued to let his network operate in Baghdad. "We asked a friendly security service to approach Baghdad about extraditing Zarqawi and providing information about him and his close associates," said Powell. "This service contacted Iraqi officials twice, and we passed details that should have made it easy to find Zarqawi. The network remains in Baghdad. Zarqawi still remains at large to come and go."

In discrediting the war, the Democrats have pushed the idea that neither dangerous weapons nor terrorist networks existed in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. How do they explain that terrorists Hussein harbored are beheading American civilians and trying to kill American soldiers with poisons he spread?

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About the Author
George Neumayr, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is co-author of No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom.