EVAN COLEMAN, MSNBC TERRORIST ANALYST does a good job explaining the facts: There was not a pre-9/11 operational relationship between Osama bin Laden and former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
COLEMAN: Well, I think much like a lot of the other evidence linking Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda, you scratch at the surface a little bit, and it completely falls apart.
I think first of all, you have to look at the source of these documents, that they come from the U.S. Department of Defense, and the Department of Defense has attached a big disclaimer to them, saying that “We do not make any representations as to the authentication, as to the accuracy of these documents. We have to way of knowing they’re authentic or not.” So that’s kind of a big caveat we have to move beyond to begin with.
No. 2, they’re talking about a meeting that took place in 1995 in the Sudan. At the time the Sudan was the Casablanca of terrorism. Every terrorist group you can imagine, with every state sponsor you can imagine, Iran included, were harboring there, working together, were training each other.
That all pretty much stopped in 1996, when the Sudan decided it no longer wanted to be involved with terrorism. Al Qaeda went its way; Iran went its way; and Saddam Hussein went his way. Since then, there has been no credible indication there has been any cooperation as a result of this meeting.
And if you look at the substance of the meeting, you’ll maybe understand why. The talks were about distributing radio broadcasts from an al Qaeda preacher by the name of Suleiman al-Ouda.
Now, Suleiman al-Ouda is someone who’s very well well-known. The reason is because in 1995 you could have purchased dozens of his audiotapes anywhere in the world: in the United States, in the United Kingdom, in any country in Europe, in Saudi Arabia, anywhere.
So the fact that Saddam Hussein was going to allow these radio broadcasts in didn’t put him on any different standing than any place else in the world.
What’s more, in 1995, at the same time that this alleged meeting might have been happening, the neighboring state of Qatar in the Persian Gulf was providing direct assistance to the mastermind of 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. It spirited him away. It helped him escape from the CIA.
At the same time, millions of dollars were coming from Saudi Arabia to sponsor charities that were funneling money to al Qaeda.
COLEMAN: And we have evidence of one possible meeting here. This is really...
CARLSON: But yet what’s interesting about it—and I don’t disagree with a word you said—however, we knew that the Saudis and I assume Qatar, as well, were sympathetic or had large elements in them that were sympathetic to Islamic extremism.
All along, however, we have heard of Saddam Hussein, he hated the Islamic radicals. He saw them as a threat to his own power. He killed a lot of them in Iraq. Is it interesting to you that he had any dialogue at all with an Islamic radical like Osama bin Laden?
COLEMAN: Well, I think we have to, again, we have to put a caveat here. This was an attempted dialogue. And I think what these documents make clear is that no connection was established, that this would-be relationship withered.
And in fact, what’s interesting, as well, is that al Qaeda, in the last couple of weeks, has been releasing their own set of internal documents, documenting the early days of al Qaeda in Iraq, the people that laid the foundation for al Qaeda in Iraq.
And the one thing that comes up over and over again in those documents is that al Qaeda in Iraq had absolutely no connection to the regime of Saddam Hussein.
COLEMAN: In fact, the leading figures in that organization swear that back before the U.S. ever invaded Iraq, they were waging an open war against Saddam Hussein.
One of these individuals profiled by al Qaeda, his famous quote was his uncle came to him, who was an official in Iraqi intelligence, and said to him, you know, “If you go back, if you agree to support Saddam Hussein, all will be forgiven. I can make all well.”
And he turned to his uncle and he said, “You should be the one apologizing. You should be apologizing to God for working for an apostate like Saddam Hussein.”
COLEMAN: These folks were not in league with each other.
CARLSON: On the other—on the other hand, I mean, to play devil’s advocate here, though, al Qaeda would—has motive, of course, to say—to release these documents, because al Qaeda is waging a pretty sophisticated propaganda war against the United States, as well as the military and against the war in Iraq.
COLEMAN: This goes back way—I mean, this goes back to the early days of the Arab Afghans. One of the individuals that often popped up in these intelligence reports as the link between Saddam Hussein’s regime and al Qaeda was an al Qaeda official, an Iraqi guy, Mamdouh Mahmoud Salim, who’s actually in prison here in New York for his role in the ‘98 East Africa embassy bombings.
What’s the problem with that? Well, despite the fact that he may be al Qaeda and he’s Iraqi, what this ignores is the fact that the many years he worked opposing the regime of Saddam Hussein.
He actually—his comment was that the fact that we come from regimes that are tyrannical makes us turn into tyrants the moment anyone gives us any shred of power.
COLEMAN: These people were absolutely opposed to the reign of Saddam Hussein, before the U.S. invaded, while we invaded and afterwards. They regarded Saddam as a tyrant. In fact, they blamed us for the fact that Saddam Hussein was in power. They felt that Saddam Hussein was able to invade Kuwait, was able to stay in power because of the United States.
CARLSON: Well, they got half of it right, he was a tyrant. [No Carlson, U.S. officials are indeed responsible because they supported Saddam starting in the late 1950's, paying him to be a killer. They alos backed the two coups that put the Ba'ath party into power in the first place. see the CIA and Saddam]
Evan Coleman, from New York, thanks a lot.
COLEMAN: Thank you.
From transcript of 'The Situation with Tucker Carlson' for March 23, 2006