The commission looking into the causes of the 9/11 terror attacks on the United States did not conclude that claims by the Bush administration of ties between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda were pure myth, as many newspaper headlines and broadcast reports asserted. As the vice chairman of the panel, Lee Hamilton, stated, "There were connections between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's government. We don't disagree on that."
Perhaps this can be placed in a context more Americans would understand. Suppose that instead of radical Islamists (would the non-radicals kindly step forward and isolate and eliminate the radicals?), we were talking about the Mafia. Surely in our "Sopranos"-obsessed age we would immediately get it, wouldn't we?
Let's say the Gambino family was mostly in charge of loan sharking. The Bonanno family ran prostitution rings. The Genovese family looked after the numbers racket. The Lucchese family established legitimate business fronts through which they laundered everyone's illegally obtained cash. A technical case could be made that members of the Genovese family were not directly connected to the activities of the Bonanno family. Neither could it technically be said that the Gambino boys had much to do with the fronts of the Luccheses. Does that mean there would be no direct criminal relationship among them, though all were part of the Mafia?
Maybe Saddam Hussein didn't speak directly to Osama bin Laden, but he was part of the same "family." Saddam did not personally bomb targets inside Israel (except during the 1990 Gulf War) but he rewarded the families of homicide bombers. Does that prove a connection between Saddam and Palestinian terrorism? The guy who drives the getaway car is as guilty as the people who rob the bank and shoot the teller.
Jeff Birnbaum of The Washington Post wrote: "The staff report (of the 9/11 Commission) indicates that there was considerable interaction between Bin Laden and Iraq ... it was clear that they're fellow travelers." Commission co-chair Thomas Kean said, "What we have found is, were there contacts between Al Qaeda and Iraq? Yes, some of them were shadowy - but they were there."
This is far removed from the headlines that screamed "Al Qaeda-Hussein Link Is Dismissed" (Washington Post); "Panel Finds No Qaeda-Iraq Tie" (New York Times); "No Signs of Iraq-Al-Qaeda Ties Found" (Los Angeles Times).
Russian President Vladimir Putin said last Friday (June 18) his government had warned Washington after 9/11 and before military operations in Iraq that Saddam Hussein's regime was preparing attacks in the United States and on its interests abroad.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Cal Thomas' column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.