So why do these Democrats and these government professionals seem to have such a conviction that there must have been no collaboration between al-Qaida and Saddam? The Democrats fear that more Americans would support Bush and the war effort if they believed there was. The career professionals, with their many years of training in the subtleties of the Middle East, have developed a vested interest in the notion that religious Wahhabis like al-Qaida could never collaborate with a secular tyrant like Saddam. If alliances could be formed across religious lines, what use would all their learning be?
The Minnesota Democrats cite the 9-11 commission's report that it found no evidence of "operational" cooperation between al-Qaida and Iraq, although it did find evidence of many contacts. But, as Donald Rumsfeld likes to say, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Neither al-Qaida nor Saddam operated under a Freedom of Information Act. Any collaboration between them on 9-11 would have been kept very secret -- al-Qaida did not want to leave a return address. We do not know that there was such collaboration. But we also do not know that there was not.
Going back to the days before our military action in Iraq, it would have been irresponsible for any president to have assumed that there was no relationship between al-Qaida and Iraq, given previous contacts between them and their proven hostility to the United States. President Clinton, responsibly, did not assume that, and neither did President Bush. Nor was there any information that intelligence could have been acquired that could have assured us, with 100 percent certainty, that there was no such relationship.
Light on the Saddam regime's collaboration with terrorists will almost certainly be shed by analysis of some 2 million documents captured in Iraq. But, as the intrepid Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard has pointed out, almost none of those documents has been translated or released either to the public or to the congressional intelligence committees. It appears that career professionals and, perhaps, political appointees have been blocking release of these documents.
Why do their superiors not order them released? Many Americans cling with religious intensity to the notion that somehow Saddam had no terrorist ties -- a notion used to delegitimize our war effort. We should bring the truth, or as much of it as is available, out into the open.