The Last Round: American Double Message

A diplomatic source that opted for anonymity, contended that “whether former President Bush wanted it or not, he made the unforgivable mistake of allowing Saddam to remain in power, when he was able to bring him down. This is the very cause behind all the terrorist attempts that struck America since 1993. For Mr. Bush did exactly what Machiavelli had warned any lucid ruler from doing in his ” Prince”: if you hit a powerful man, don’t just wound him, but kill him right away, for if he survives he will never forgive you.”

According to the same source, Usama bin Laden and all the mess about the Taliban is just a smoke-screen to cover the American failure in tackling the terrorist threat which was quite real since the first attempt at bombing the World Trade Center in 1993. Some people in the American intelligence agencies think that Iraq – not any islamic fundamentalist State – has sponsored the operation against New York City’s twin towers, but they could do nothing because:

1- there is no sufficient evidence.

2- the political consequences could be drastic. For America would subsequently recognize that it is well its own policy towards Iraq that caused its violent wrath and desire for revenge.

3- that could lead to completely reversing the tide in the American opinion, from the current indifference vis-a-vis 11 years of embargo against Iraq and continuous siege (with no fly zones and sudden air raids now and then) towards wondering whether it is really worth.

4- Therefore the American administration will be put under popular pressure, for as long as the terrorist threat was anonymous and remote, people in the US felt safe and the government was trustful. But if the policy towards Iraq reveals to be the cause of unrest inside the USA, then there will be two options:

– Either the government is able to put an end to the threat, by a quick and efficient action.

– Or it is unable. Which means the policy must be changed.

5- As it is unlikely that any American administration recognizes its own mistakes, the government would opt for a mystification: You need to know who is the enemy? Ok. It is bin Laden and the Taliban! There is no evidence about Iraq involvement; which means that the administration wants to win time, and to carry on with the same policy until the moment it feels it good to act otherwise.

Two persons at least in the Bush administration made the current dilemma very clear. Mrs. Condoleeza Rice told the Arab satellite TV network al-Jazeera on Oct.15 that ” we worry about Saddam Hussein. We worry about his weapons of mass destruction… and certainly, the United States will act if Iraq threatens its interests.” And Mr. Paul D. Wolfowitz, Deputy Defense Secretary advocated striking Baghdad as soon as ” we find the right way to do it.”

But former President George Bush can obviously not live with a feeling of guilt upon his shoulders. In a CBS interview on Oct.23, asked if he had any regrets about not going after Saddam Hussein in 1991, he said: “The answer is no. What would have happened if we had done that is we would have been alone. We would have been an occupying power in an Arab land…And we would have seen something much worse than we have now, because we would have had the enmity of all the Gulf. Egypt would have been gone. Jordan, who came back, would have been gone; Turkey, you name it. So I think we did the right thing.”

This is not an opinion easy to sustain, some people would argue. First, because the US was claiming to fight against a dictatorial regime. Now any country that has been for long years victimized and crushed by a dictatorial regime would logically welcome its liberators. If Mr. Bush was sure that Saddam is an unpopular dictator, why did he refrain from helping the Iraqi people to get rid of him? The answer he gave suggests that he was worried by the reaction not only in Iraq where the US would have become ” an occupying power” whereas logically it was expected to be a liberator, but also in the Gulf region and in Egypt and Jordan! This is just amazing, because while trying to relieve himself from responsibility and guilt, Mr. Bush gave us – unawarely – another message: Maybe Saddam Hussein is not – after all- the unpopular dictator the Western media was indicting! Maybe if” we” entered Iraq and tried to topple his regime, the Iraqi people would have revolted against us as invaders, not with us as liberators!

Obviously, such logic cannot help the American cause. Bush did exactly what both administrations – his and Clinton’s- has long pretended avoiding to do: i.e. making of Saddam a popular hero while they were seeking to vanquish him! Bush’s argument did not reduce his responsibility as regards the consequences of Desert Storm, while it proved just the contrary of what he was saying. Is the USA today less alone? Are the Gulf States, Egypt, and Jordan still in the American lap? Has the American popularity increased among the Arabs since 1991? And if this is so, why the old Arab allies dispersed and kept their distance with the current administration confronted with a terrorist threat and seeking their cooperation?

The Iraqi officials have no illusion as to the intentions of the US administration. In an interview with London’s Sunday Telegraph, Tariq Aziz, Deputy Prime Minister, said ” its is just a matter of time”. He is convinced that the US and Britain plan to launch one-thousand missiles at 300 Iraqi targets. People are already speculating about the “phase two” in the US response to Sep.11 attacks. For many of them Iraq is the designated target, not only because President Bush has to complete what his father left unachieved, but also because the real danger is not Usama bin Laden but well Saddam Hussein!

Anyway, there is no doubt about a connection between them, say some commentators. William Safire wrote in The New York Times (Oct.22) for example a story that was substantially run by other people close to the Iraqi National Congress (the Iraqi opposition). Much of what he tell us about Jim Hoagland’s precious ears, and the “Iraqi ties to terrorists”, is available on the Arabic site of the I.N.C., along with Mr. James Woolsey opinion. As the latter is the former director of C.I.A., one has no difficulty in making the rapprochement between what he says and what Safire, Hoagland, and the anonymous report of I.N.C. were saying.

The story may be summed up in few lines:

Faruq Hijazi, Saddam’s ambassador to Turkey, has had a series of meetings with bin Laden. These began in Sudan, arranged by Hassan al- Tourabi, the Sudanese Islamist leader, and continued in Afghanistan. The conspiracy was furthered in Baghdad in 1998 between bin Laden’s lieutenant, Ayman el-Zawahiri, and Saddam’s vice president, Taha Yasin Ramadhan. To strengthen Saddam’s position in the Arab world during his 1998 crisis with the United Nations, bin Laden established the “World Islamic Front for Jihad Against the Jews and the Crusaders”. Saddam reciprocated by promising secure refuge in Iraq for bin Laden and his key lieutenants if they were forced to flee Afghanistan.

However, for Mr. R. James Woolsey, Iraqi implication in the terrorist operations in America can be proved even since 1993. He says: ” little was done to discover the implications of the fact that one of the indicted plotters, Abdul Rahman Yasin (who held Iraqi and American citizenship) fled to Baghdad after talking the FBI in New Jersey into releasing him. There are indications that both he and Ramzi Youssef, now in prison in Colorado, may be Iraqi agents.”

But the question is not new.

In March 25, 1997, a petition was presented to the United States Court of Appeals on behalf of Timothy James McVeigh by his defendant, under the reference (case No.96-CR-68-M). To save the head of the terrorist who bombed the Murrah building in Oklahoma City, his lawyer imagined a very simple scenario where he would be no longer the cold-blooded killer but rather the victim, manipulated by more powerful than him. The document entitled ” PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS”suggests the following hypothesis:

A foreign power, probably Iraq, but not excluding the possibility of another foreign state, planned a terrorist attack(s) in the United States and that one of those targets was the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma city (…) The plan was arranged for a Middle Eastern bombing engineer to engineer the bomb in such a way that it could be carefully transported and successfully detonated. There is no reported incident of Neo-Nazis or extreme right-wing militants in this country exploding any bomb of any significant size let alone one to bring down a nine story federal building and kill 168 persons (…) This terrorist attack was “contracted out” to persons whose organization and ideology was friendly to policies of the foreign power and included dislike and hatred of the United States government itself, and possibly included was a desire for revenge against the United States, with possible anti-black and anti-Semitic overtones.”

Then the document suggests that Iraq had already tried its hands at such a conspiracy in 1990, but had been thwarted by Syrian intelligence information given to the United States! Taking in consideration that first failure, the Iraqis decided then to act from a remote base in the Philippines!

Operating out of Philippines as a base, the state-sponsored (sic) terrorists, with the Murrah Building already chosen as the target, enlisted the support and assistance of members of the Radical American Right. The defense believes the evidence suggests that American neo-Nazis were chosen to carry out the bombing of the Murrah Building because of a shared ideological bent of hatred against the American government. It is possible that those who carried out the bombing were unaware of the true sponsor.

But the most striking is about another piece of information, which reveals that the FBI had an informant in Elohim City who warned the Bureau of a plot targeting for destruction federal buildings in Oklahoma, including the Murrah Building. And you know what? The FBI buried the information! The lawyer of McVeigh went even to the extent of comparing the case with the World Trade Center bombing and stating that ” it is similar”! Which ultimately means that both operations are related, although the persons who carried them out came from different environments!

Enter Sherman H. Skolnick (see part 1 of this story) and the CIA.

For the former there is evidence that both FBI and CIA knew about the conspiracy and buried the information in order to protect Bush and Clinton who allegedly were deeply involved in business with Saddam! But for the latter, it is not the American government but well Saddam – and his ally bin Laden- the source of all the troubles.

For any impartial observer, the question raised by this concatenation of events is about the credibility – not the acknowledged legitimacy – of the American response. Thus, if we take the example of the anthrax affair, we may wonder whether the American administration is trying to find the truth or just something corroborating its own assumptions about the Sept.11 attacks? Second question: behind the insistence on Iraq necessary involvement in all these terrorist operations that struck the United States, is there a non-said acknowledgement that America is also guilty?

Remember the aforementioned double message – the apparent and the latent- of former President Bush!

More coming. Stay tuned.

Hichem Karoui is a writer and journalist living in Paris, France.

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