Monday, May 10, 2004

Saddam & al Qaeda

I've read so many times that the administration's claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda were wrong and that this position had been "discredited". Well, maybe, but maybe not.

One of the most spurious arguments from the anti-war crowd was that Saddam had nothing to do with September 11. I accept that Iraq may have had no involvement in the planning and execution of that attack, but that does not mean that there was no relationship between the two.

The September 11 argument ignores two other possibilities:
  1. Saddam was funding al Qaeda with little tactical input other than America be the target of any attacks he funded - think "oil for food"
  2. Saddam's aid for al Qaeda only began in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.
Personally, I believe number 1 to be the case, but if not, then number two seems almost certain given that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is apparently in Iraq and is presumed to be coordinating al Qaeda operations in the region.

One of the justifications used by those who claim there were no links between Saddam and al Qaeda is that Saddam was a secularist and would have been an enemy of bin Laden's. But, this lengthy Letter from Baghdad indicates that Saddam was beholden to the clerics and imposed a stricter form of Islam on Iraq than is generally assumed.

It may be that our understanding of Iraqi society was based on what existed before the first Gulf War.
An entire subspecialty of forensic medicine in Iraq deals with virginity, Shaker said. In any criminal case involving a woman, it's the most important piece of information. "It rules our life," he added. The surprising thing about these details of his profession is their ordinariness. In the West, Iraqis developed a reputation for cosmopolitan modernity that is now decades out of date. In order to win the support of Iraq's clerics, Saddam obliged people to adopt a harsh form of traditional Islam. In private matters of religion, family, and the treatment of women, the vast majority of Iraqis are far more conservative than most outsiders understand.