"THE PRESIDENT CONVINCED the country with a mixture of documents that turned out to be forged and blatantly false assertions that Saddam was in league with al Qaeda," claimed former Vice President Al Gore last Wednesday.
"There's absolutely no evidence that Iraq was supporting al Qaeda, ever," declared Richard Clarke, former counterterrorism official under George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, in an interview on March 21, 2004.
The editor of the Los Angeles Times labeled as "myth" the claim that links between Iraq and al Qaeda had been proved. A recent dispatch from Reuters simply asserted, "There is no link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda." 60 Minutes anchor Lesley Stahl was equally certain: "There was no connection."
And on it goes. This conventional wisdom--that our two most determined enemies were not in league, now or ever--is comforting. It is also wrong.
In late February 2004, Christopher Carney made an astonishing discovery. Carney, a political science professor from Pennsylvania on leave to work at the Pentagon, was poring over a list of officers in Saddam Hussein's much-feared security force, the Fedayeen Saddam. One name stood out: Lieutenant Colonel Ahmed Hikmat Shakir. The name was not spelled exactly as Carney had seen it before, but such discrepancies are common. Having studied the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda for 18 months, he immediately recognized the potential significance of his find. According to a report last
week in the Wall Street Journal, Shakir appears on three different lists of Fedayeen officers.
An Iraqi of that name, Carney knew, had been present at an al Qaeda summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on January 5-8, 2000. U.S. intelligence officials believe this was a chief planning meeting for the September 11 attacks.....