Willfully Blind - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Willfully Blind

John Kerry’s estimate of Saddam Hussein’s character is that he was not the sort of person to associate with anti-American terrorists. “Iraq is now what it was not before the war, a haven for terrorists,” says Kerry.

Kerry’s position, while baffling to ordinary Americans, has a certain perverse logic to it. That is, in order for Kerry to argue that the war in Iraq “diverted” attention from the war on terrorism, he has no choice but to say that Iraq under Saddam Hussein was terrorist-free and that Saddam Hussein wasn’t a terrorist himself. Under the guidance of new advisers demanding clarity from him, Kerry has reconciled himself to a Michael Moore-style whitewash of pre-war Iraq so as to free up his reasoning that America would have won the war on terrorism while ignoring one of its chieftains.

In Thursday’s debate, George Bush should ask John Kerry to answer a few questions about his confidence in Saddam Hussein’s character and his belief in the dictator’s steadfast abstinence from terrorist ties. Such as: If Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was not a haven for terrorists before the war, why is it that American soldiers keep capturing terrorists who resided in Iraq before the war?

Does Kerry, who praised inspector David Kay, disagree with Kay’s conclusion that “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”?

Does Kerry deny that Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, the beheader of Nick Berg and two Americans last week, was in Iraq before the war and harbored by Saddam Hussein? Or does Kerry think that Zarqawi just happened to be vacationing there?

Kerry will no doubt try to nail Bush for taking America to war on “false intelligence.” But what about the true pre-war intelligence about Zarqawi’s presence in Baghdad? Bush ought to remind Kerry that the very terrorist the Bush administration held up before the war as exhibit A of Saddam Hussein’s ties to terrorism is the terrorist who is now beheading Americans. Kerry says that he would have focused his “energies” on capturing the Zarqawis and bin Ladens instead of dissipating them in the “wrong place.” But since Zarqawi was in Iraq before the war and Kerry says he wouldn’t have entered Iraq, we know that he doesn’t mean it.

John Kerry can’t imagine Saddam Hussein as a godfather to terrorists before the war. But Zarqawi had no problem envisioning Saddam Hussein in that role. Colin Powell’s pre-war presentation before the United Nations established that Zarqawi received safe haven in Iraq, 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.”

In other words, the insurgents after the war are terrorists Saddam Hussein harbored before it.

Powell said 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.”

Kerry says that Americans are getting their heads cut off because George Bush invaded Iraq. But Bush should inform him in the debate that Zarqawi was killing Americans long before the war began. Powell, again in his 2003 address to the U.N., noted 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.”

Before the war, American officials called on Saddam Hussein to extradite Zarqawi for the killing of Foley. Instead, Hussein let Zarqawi set up terrorist operations in Baghdad.

Before the war, Iraq was a haven for terrorists. Now it is more like a hell for them as American soldiers systematically pick them off.

George Neumayr
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George Neumayr, a senior editor at The American Spectator, is author most recently of The Biden Deception: Moderate, Opportunist, or the Democrats' Crypto-Socialist?
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