Connection Tenuous at Best
Commentary, William O. Beeman,
Pacific News Service,
In his Feb. 5 presentation to the United Nations, Secretary of State Colin
Powell repeated the assertion that Saddam Hussein has connections to the terror
group al Qaeda. Despite the rhetoric, writes PNS
contributor William O. Beeman, no hard evidence has been revealed.
The Bush administration wants above all to prove a connection between the al Qaeda terrorist network and Saddam Hussein. Secretary of State Colin Powell tried to do just that in his argument before the United Nations on Feb. 5. Despite his claim that his words were based on "solid sources," Powell's argument was specious and based on deceptive rhetoric.
Powell stated, "
Proving the link between al-Zarqawi and the Iraqi regime has thus far been impossible for the American intelligence community, as reported widely in the
Al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian of Palestinian descent, is a shadowy figure who has recently been associated with the assassination last October of Laurence Foley, an American diplomatic officer in
Al-Zarqawi is likely associated with al Qaeda. He did visit
The idea that al-Zarqawi runs a "terrorist network" of his own or that he is the No. 3 figure in al Qaeda is hyperbole. There is no information available that shows that he is anything other than a foot soldier in connection with known al Qaeda operatives. The administration hypothesis is essentially "proof by proximity." They claim that al-Zarqawi had a group with whom he was operating, and that group could not be functioning in
Even if al-Zarqawi had been in touch with Iraqi officials, the idea that he is operating a terrorist training center in
Thus, all the pieces in Powell's accusation -- al-Zarqawi, al-Ansar al-Islam, al Qaeda and the Iraqi regime -- do exist. But the crucial connection between Saddam and al-Zarqawi is based on supposition, and all the rhetoric in the world cannot create a true link between them.
It is worth asking why the White House is so desperate to link al Qaeda to Saddam that they would resort to deception and lies. The reason may lie in the slipping
Revenge is a powerful motivator, however. Americans are desperate to punish someone for the horrible Sept. 11 tragedy. In their grief, they are primed to believe any tenuous accusation. A recent poll shows that more than 80 percent believe that Saddam was responsible.
However, the international community has been more measured in its judgment and more skeptical.
The arrogance of the Bush White House should now be well known to most thinking Americans, but it is disappointing that one of our most trusted public officials would go before the United Nations and essentially lie about a matter so essential as this connection. Moreover, the Bush administration must be truly contemptuous of the world body, since the U.N. delegates could have read about the tenuousness of the al-Zarqawi connection in newspapers just days before Powell addressed them.
Beeman (William_beeman@brown.edu) teaches anthropology and is director of
©2003 William O. Beeman and Pacific News Service. All rights reserved. This may be distributed freely for all non-commercial purposes. For commercial use, please contact the author or Pacific News Service.