Iraq, Saddam and 9/11

by Chris Bertram on December 14, 2003

Great news that “mass-murdering dictator Saddam Hussein has been captured in Tikrit”: . With any luck the Iraqi people will get to try him for his crimes against them over so many years. One thing he won’t be charged with, tried for, or convicted of is involvement with 9/11, despite some reports in today’s Sunday Telegraph from the if-you-believe-that-you’ll -believe-anything department. As “one”: of the “two”: pieces says:

bq. For anyone attempting to find evidence to justify the war in Iraq, the discovery of a document that directly links Mohammed Atta, the al-Qaeda mastermind of the September 11 attacks, with the Baghdad training camp of Abu Nidal, the infamous Palestinian terrorist, appears almost too good to be true.

Leaving out the “appears almost”, I’d agree with that. And it gets better …

bq. In the memo, Habbush reports that Atta “displayed extraordinary effort” and demonstrated his ability to lead the team that would be “responsible for attacking the targets that we have agreed to destroy”.

bq. The second part of the memo, which is headed “Niger Shipment”, contains a report about an unspecified shipment – believed to be uranium – that it says has been transported to Iraq via Libya and Syria.

In next week’s episode Instapundit excitedly links to an article alleging the discovery of a Post-it apparently connecting Jacques Chirac, Noam Chomsky and Stavro Blofeld to a Cuban bioweapons project….

[UPDATE: This should really have been two separate posts – I had started writing on the absurd Torygraph story when the news of Saddam’s capture came through and ended up adding to the beginning. But the effect on some readers of my combining the two things may be to suggest that I’m somewhat grudging in my reaction to the tyrant’s arrest. I’m not — it really is great news.]



Andrew Edwards 12.14.03 at 12:31 pm

I agree, this is great news. Good on Bush and good on the US military.

I hope they handle it correctly from here – a fair, public trial.


Doug 12.14.03 at 12:46 pm

Props to Clinton’s Army on a job well done.


Ray 12.14.03 at 1:03 pm

If anybody gets to try Saddam, it should be the people he oppressed for years. It’s not our place.


Nabakov 12.14.03 at 1:03 pm

Great news. Now show the world what western values really mean and put the evil old f**ker on public and fair trial – and let the evidence about WMDs and who supported him over the past two decades+ fall where it may.


Keith M Ellis 12.14.03 at 1:25 pm

Hussein will shortly be transferred to an “undisclosed location” and details about his disposition will be murky. We’ll be told that US authorities are evaluating, likely negatively, the “security implications” of a trial and that, anyway, Hussein has much sensitive information that requires he be secretely interrogated for many months.

That’s my prediction. Don’t expect a trial.


Nabakov 12.14.03 at 1:32 pm

Oh c’mon Keith, don’t be so negative.

Look at all we learnt about WMDs etc from the capture of 4/5ths of that deck of cards.


Keith M Ellis 12.14.03 at 1:37 pm

I do see that Chalabi et al are talking about a trial of Hussein, possibly in absentia. I suspect this will happen—a sort of show trial staged for the Iraqi people. But I can’t imagine the US allowing an actual fair trial of Hussein where he would be allowed to present a defense.

They should. But they won’t.


Keith M Ellis 12.14.03 at 1:42 pm

Hmm, continuing my cynicism, I suspect that the troops that found him didn’t really expect it and that most of the higher-level plans for his capture included a high-possibility of his “unfortunate” demise in a shoot-out. Like his sons.

His capture alive may be a hot potato this administration may come to regret handling. It’s an immediate boost, yes, and it will take a good bit of the air out of the resistance. But it will also create some possibilities that the administration will find deeply uncomfortable. Some people are going to start demanding that questions be answered now that #1 has been captured and is in custody.


Andrew Boucher 12.14.03 at 2:19 pm

“Some people are going to start demanding that questions be answered now that #1 has been captured and is in custody.”

“Some people,” I’m breathless. Just who are these people who are going to be *demanding* answers?

By the way, maybe Chris was all set to write about 9/11 and then tagged on the beginning once he heard this morning’s news. Otherwise, my mind spins if his first (second?) thought on hearing Saddam’s capture is, he won’t be charged for 9/11. Gosh, there would be no better evidence of the moral decline of the Left. (Mind you, I’ve just come from Harry’s Place. Great stuff he writes there.)


Chris Bertram 12.14.03 at 3:34 pm

Pretty much exactly right Andrew. When I saw the Telegraph stuff this morning I was incredulous that they’d even print it. But yes, I do think that Saddam’s capture is great news – and without qualification.


jdsm 12.14.03 at 4:19 pm


I don’t share Keith Ellis’s scepticism regarding what goes on from here. Firstly, Tony Blair has already said the Iraqi people would get to try him (which to be fair Keith may not have known about).

On the second point I actually think the US and Britain will be chuffed that Hussein was caught alive. Even the most rabid anti-war folk are glad this has happened and the longer his trial and incarceration last, the fresher this victory will seem in the eyes of all.

Interesting moral quandry though. Given the kind of information he must have, is it right to torture him to get it (and I mean full on torture not sleep deprivation and a quick tickle)?


chun the unavoidable 12.14.03 at 10:06 pm

I probably don’t have to point this out, but torturing Hussein would not only yield no useful information, it would make those of us responsible for it complicit in the same type of crime for which he is universally reviled.

You are closer to the animal responsible for torturing hundreds of thousands if you torture one than you are to the human. You’d probably want to gnaw your leg to get out of the trap, but we humans will wait until the trapper comes along to remove a threat to our kind. Now put your hand in this torture-box.


Zizka 12.14.03 at 10:44 pm

Considering that Saddam doesn’t know about anything except his own defunct regime, it’s hard to think what crucial information he’s supposed to have. The quick speculation about torturing him is also hard to understand. One of the problems with torture, ethics aside and example aside, is the “whatever you say” problem. I’m sure that with torture we can get Saddam to say that Mohammed Atta was his man, but how reliable will that information be?


harmon 12.15.03 at 2:21 am

Anyone who thinks that the Bush administration preferred SH dead rather than alive is not thinking it through. SH is more valuable alive than dead. For one thing, it’s harder to convince people that a dead body was SH than it is to show them a live SH being deliced and tonsilled.

For another, SH will talk – I don’t even think he will need to be made to talk. He’s probably a psychopath, & will need to brag about what he did. The problem will be to figure out how much of what he says is true. Plus, the mere fact that we have him & he might talk will cause a good deal of disruption to the terrorists.

And don’t forget, he’ll tell us where he hid the money that can be used to pay the debts he ran up, which could be the first step in repudiating the debts as those of Iraq and establishing them as those of SH.

It will be interesting to see what they do with him. He will be kept in the traditional undisclosed location for a while, I think. I expect he’ll be handed over to the Iraqis some time next spring or summer. Why not the UN? – well, because the UN didn’t help capture him, & besides, who trusts the UN? The Hague? – I don’t think so, given our own resistence to their claimed jurisdiction. Military trial? – maybe, but I’m not sure that there are any military charges that can be brought against SH. The man was a tyrannical murdering dictator, and we ought to hand him over to his victims to be given a fair trial, and then hung.


Dell Adams 12.15.03 at 2:48 am

What the last three commenters said.

But that Saddam would end up in a “shouting match” with Adnan Pachachi (according to the Newsweek story) is something I just don’t understand. Why are they even on speaking terms?


Jon H 12.15.03 at 3:49 am

Jim Henley takes apart the Torygraph here.

What’s amusing is that the Abu Nidal story is reported by the same guy, Con Coughlin, who in 2002 reported a story about Abu Nidal which probably contradicts the new story.

I propose he change his name to Credulous Coughlin by deed poll.


Anthony 12.15.03 at 4:55 am

Why not the UN? – well, because the UN didn’t help capture him, & besides, who trusts the UN? The Hague? – I don’t think so, given our own resistence to their claimed jurisdiction. Military trial? – maybe, but I’m not sure that there are any military charges that can be brought against SH. The man was a tyrannical murdering dictator.

Whether or not the UN aided in his capture, the charges against him are offenses against humanity as a whole. I don’t think this should undermine the fact that he does need to answer to those who suffered under him for his actions, but we do need to hold ourselves to the same human standards in sentencing him as we hold him to while condemning him.


DrZin 12.15.03 at 6:16 am

Well, I should think that the ultimate demise of a savage regime that is an affront to EVERYTHING for which you so-called “progressives” stand would be a matter of unmasked jubilation. I noticed that a few expressed unmitigated gratitude, but for the rest, you may as well admit it: you would have preferred another decade of Hussein’s slaughter waiting for your corrupt U.N. to do something than for President Bush to be successful.

Speaking of the U.N.:

“Whether or not the UN aided in his capture, the charges against him are offenses against humanity as a whole.”

The United Nations is an offense to humanity as a whole; it needs to go the way of the Iraqi Baathists. A new “United Democratic Nations” organization, in which corrupt despots are not treated to unearned democratic legitimacy would be an extremely fitting alternative. And speaking of unearned legitimacy, I think the French government could be considered exempt from any veto authority in the UDN.


leftsucks 12.15.03 at 12:43 pm

Let’s see if I have this straight:

1) If there is no evidence linking 9/11 to Iraq, then no connection exists.

2) If there *IS* evidence linking 9/11 to Iraq, it cannot be real, and thus no connection exists.



Howard Shaw 12.15.03 at 2:10 pm

There may not be a direct connection between Saddam & 9/11 but I don’t think anyone disputes that Saddam was a sponsor of terrorism in other countries. For example, his “gifts” to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers.


TomD 12.15.03 at 3:02 pm

Ah, the new McCarthyism rearing its head.

If you don’t shout “Hooray for Bush’s Wonderful Success!” whenever drzin tells you to, you are objectively a Saddam-lover. Stunning!


The Sanity Inspector 12.16.03 at 12:58 am

He’d really be in for it if he were to be tried in the U.S. He’d be looking at twelve to fifteen minimum, *zero* chance of parole, and all interviews and commencement addresses at California universities delivered by transcript only!


Anthony 12.16.03 at 6:35 am

This reminds me of my grandmother’s suggestion prior to our invasion: get Saddam to consent to withdraw his regime for power, allowing international groups to step in and rehabilitate the nation, in exchange for which he would be left in peace to live on some remote island writing poetry.

Mind you, my grandmother is 90 years old and very conservative (when her opinions are coherent enough).

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