May 23, 2008
Smoking Something - War critics are comfortably numb
By Daniel Clark

The summary of a recent Pentagon report says there was “no ‘smoking gun’” connecting Saddam Hussein to al-Qaeda. One can just imagine how furiously somebody must have lobbied to have that language included, because those are the same three magical words that have been successfully used to convince the public that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction.

Because the “smoking gun” standard is entirely subjective, the existence of such a thing can never be proven, at least not to the satisfaction of a determined contrarian. Thus have the most intransigent critics of the war effort succeeded in granting themselves veto power over the facts. Regardless of the evidence of Saddam’s WMD, there cannot be a “smoking gun” until Hans Blix, Cindy Sheehan and the New York Times agree to say that there is.

That’s the degree of denial that’s necessary to characterize the Pentagon report as anything other than an absolute vindication of the war in Iraq. That study, comprised of information culled from the evidence left behind by Saddam’s government, makes it clear to all but the willfully obtuse that removing the Iraqi dictator was essential to any serious effort to combat terrorism.

A Senate Intelligence Committee report issued in 2006 had taken an imprisoned Saddam Hussein’s word for it that he had not cooperated with al-Qaeda, although the terror group had met repeatedly with his Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS). This new study, which has received far less media attention, tells another story. �ptured documents reveal that the regime was willing to co-opt or support organizations it knew to be part of al-Qaeda,” it concludes, “as long as that organization’s near-term goals supported Saddam’s long-term vision.”

The identities of two of Saddam’s beneficiaries ought to be enough to cause the Senate to rescind, and apologize for, its attempted exoneration of the deposed Iraqi government. One of those groups is Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Ayman al-Zawahiri’s organization that became the nucleus of al-Qaeda. The other is the Afghani Islamic Party, which Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard tells us controlled that part of Afghanistan where Osama bin Laden established his training camps in the early 90s.

In addition, Saddam funded Ansar al-Islam, which has become the core of al-Qaeda in Iraq, as well as Filipino al-Qaeda affiliate Abu Sayyaf, and a Bahrainian group called the Army of Muhammad, which an IIS document describes as an “offshoot of bin Laden” whose use of a different title “can be a way of camouflaging the organization.”

This tells us not only that Iraq was collaborating with al-Qaeda, but also that it was doing so surreptitiously. That’s why we’re learning that Saddam assisted many affiliates of, and precursors to, bin Laden’s organization, but we’re not likely to find a picture of the Butcher of Baghdad directly handing Osama an enormous check.

Not that it would make any difference. The Democrats and therefore the news media would forcefully deny any relation between them.

Perhaps because of our gullibility regarding dual-use materials related to Saddam’s WMD programs, he seems to have understood that all he needed was a modicum of deniability in order to placate the West.

By swiftly dismissing the evidence as it arises, the magic words of “no ‘smoking gun” have spared the “Bush lied” chorus responsibility for everything about which it has been proven wrong. Critics of inaccurate prewar intelligence have themselves been far less accurate in their anti-war intelligence, such as their certainty that Islamic terrorists would never cooperate with an infidel like Saddam. As long as they maintain that there’s “no smoking gun” to the contrary, however, they need never admit fault.

By refusing to accept unwanted realities, they’ve relegated themselves to the land of the anti-war lotus-eaters, where they remain comfortably numb to the impact of the emerging facts. The tragedy is that most American news consumers have become unwittingly trapped in that haze-filled netherworld with them.

The People of Iran Want to be Free
By Esmaeil Abnar

As the barrage of rockets hit Baghdad’s Green Zone for a fourth day, there was clear evidence that Iran’s support for the insurgency had been heightened. The bombs made in Tehran crashed into buildings in the most fortified area of defense for the US forces.

These attacks are part of ever-growing terrorist acts conducted by the Iranian regime and its proxies, which have led to the death of thousands of Iraqis as well as hundreds of US troops.

In an interview with the BBC, the top US Commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, stated, “The rockets that were launched at the Green Zone ... were Iranian-provided, Iranian-made rockets.” He reiterated that the groups carrying out these attacks were funded and trained by Iran’s infamous Qods Force.

There can now be no doubt that Iran’s tactics in Iraq are leading to the deaths of many coalition troops and this simply must not be allowed to continue.

The rocket attacks on Baghdad’s Green Zone coincided with a military operation by the Iraqi army in Basra. This operation was aimed at removing the influence of rival Shiite militias. The ensuing stalemate showed that the Iraqi military was unable to handle the growing insurgency in Basra.

The events in Basra and Baghdad had one clear winner: Iran. Mahmoud Othman, a member of Iraq’s Parliament, and a Kurd, told CNN that what happened “is another victory for Iran.” Othman said, “They make problems, then they end it the way they like.”

Unfortunately, the British don’t seem to yet realize the threat posed by Iran as it arms and funds militias to destabilize the fledgling democracy, since the British themselves ruled out assisting the Iraqi army in any form of heavy fighting. Regrettably, the British government seems to be retaining the policy of appeasement that it has followed vis-à-vis the Iranian regime for over a decade.

As the situation in Iraq deteriorates, and the death toll rises, the US search for a solution to the crisis of the Iranian regime grows more necessary. As Iranian elections showed a growing stronghold for Iran’s fundamentalist faction, confrontation in Iraq looks likely to grow.

However, the Iranian people showed their clear contempt for Iran’s rulers in their wholesale boycott of Iran’s elections, and it seems that the Iranian opposition movement offers an option which must not be overlooked. Some 5.2 million Iraqis are calling for an end to Iran’s influence in Iraq and support the democratic values of the Mujahedeen e Khalq (MEK/PMOI)

The largest opposition group is the Mujahedeen e Khalq (MEK), a group with considerable support which has the capabilities to bring about change in Iran. This group has in fact greatly assisted the democratic process in Iraq as the majority of the Iraqi population tries to root out the Iran’s destructive influence in their nation.

However, rather than support the MEK as a solution to this crisis, the US administration continues to label it as ‘terrorist’. Both the United Kingdom’s High Court and the European Court of Justice have ruled that the decision to ban the MEK was “unlawful.” This legally unjustified terror tag seems to be the greatest political blunder in our struggle against this Iranian regime.

It’s astonishing that at a time when Iran continues to murder US troops in Iraq, while continuing full throttle in its nuclear weapons program, we are restricting the work of the Iranian opposition group which the regime views as its greatest threat.

Clearly the time has come for removing MEK from the US blacklist. This removal will not only allow the Iranian opposition to oppose this Iranian regime, but it will send a clear message to Tehran that the US administration will not allow the Iranian regime to continue its destructive behavior.

The MEK and the Iranian opposition can bring change in Iran and they must now be allowed to do so.

 Esmaeil Abnar, Lt. Cdr. (Ret.) is a former Iranian navy officer who served for 18 years in the Shat al-Arab waterway prior to 1979.

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of contributors are their own, and are not necessarily those of Sage Commentary.