Sunday, April 11, 2004

Richard Clarke's 'Nuanced' View of the Iraq Connection.

So, if not al Qaida, do we know who was behind the 1993 WTC bombing?

The uncertainty revealed by the 8-6-01 PDB memo reflects a long standing disagreement among counter-terrorism officials about the WTC bombing, state sponsorship and a possible link to Saddam. The current debate between Richard Clarke and Laurie Mylroie, an early Clinton advisor on Iraq, is revealing.

Mylroie presents a chain of circumstantial yet compelling evidence that links Saddam's regime not only to the 1993 WTC bombing, but to al Qaida and alleged 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Clarke, in turn, has dismissed evidence of an official Iraq connection to the February 1993 WTC attack. Since 9-11, too, Clarke has vehemently denied any link between Saddam's regime and international terrorism directed at U.S. interests (well, aside from the April 1993 assassination attempt on former president Bush in Kuwait). All the while Clarke questioned the judgment and motives of those who held opposite views.

But the manner in which Clarke made his differences known, with maximum publicity and media controversy, prompted some (including Hitchens and Murdock) to look back at his words during the intervening period.

Interestingly, when the Clinton administration offered its justification for the August 1998 pre-emptive cruise missile attack on the El-Shifa "aspirin factory" in Sudan, out popped Richard Clarke with some "new information."

In January 1999, the Washington Post reported that, according to Clarke, "intelligence exists linking bin Laden to El-Shifa's current and past operators, the Iraqi nerve gas experts and the National Islamic Front in Sudan."

Clarke said the U.S. government was "sure" [WaPo paid archive] that Iraqi nerve gas experts were the ones who actually produced a powdered chemical at the plant that would have become fully active VX nerve gas when mixed with bleach and water.

The article continued: "Clarke said U.S. intelligence does not know how much of the [WMD] substance was produced at El Shifa or what happened to it" following the cruise missile attack. Meanwhile, Clarke admitted no failure in finding no WMD and expressed no doubt about the target or the tactic of unilateral surprise attack against a neutral county. He said the president "would have been derelict in his duties if he did not blow up the facility."

Are we to consider Clarke's shifting views concerning a link between Iraq, al Qaida and WMDs a harbinger of how a "nuanced" foreign policy is conducted?

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