Liz Cheney continues to be the gift that keeps on giving. Today's installment is downright Orwellian, In an interview with NBC News' Andrea Mitchell, Cheney insisted that her father had always disavowed the notion that there was a link between Iraq and al Qaeda and September 11th, while simultaneously suggesting that such a link was true. Then she sort of got snippy with Mitchell for the way she kept intimating that maybe this was all a little nonsensical.
The segment began generically enough, with Liz Cheney saying that she was, is, and continues to be troubled by the way the current administration keeps characterizing torture and rendition and the maintenance of Kafka-esque penal colonies as a bad thing. Where things really got testy -- downright mindbending -- was this exchange over Vice President Dick Cheney's appearance at the National Press Club, at which time, as Mitchell pointed out, he "seemed to be taking a step back" from contentions he had previously made about the connections between Saddam Hussein and 9/11.
MITCHELL: Has he rethought that? Was he rephrasing it?
LIZ CHENEY: No, this is something he has actually said for many years. There was a report in the aftermath of 9/11 that came from the CIA that Mohammad Atta had met in Prague --
MITCHELL: It was quickly discredited!
LIZ CHENEY: Well, let me finish. So, there was a report, and when the report was outstanding, you had a number of people in the administration publicly talking about the fact that there could have been a connection in terms of the Mohammad Atta meeting. Once it became clear that the report didn't hold up, he and others in the administration were out publicly saying that and there's been a real attempt in my view to blur the distinction. He has not said that there is a connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11.
She's correct that there's been a real effort to blur the distinction! But it's her father and the administration he participated in said effort. If you are looking for evidence of this, well, heck! Let's take a look at the 2002 Joint Resolution to Authorize the use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq. In plain English, it says:
Whereas members of al-Qaida, an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United States, its citizens, and interests, including the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, are known to be in Iraq;
Whereas Iraq continues to aid and harbor other international terrorist organizations, including organizations that threaten the lives and safety of American citizens;
Whereas the attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001, underscored the gravity of the threat posed by the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by international terrorist organizations;
Additional false foundation comes later in the Authorization:
Whereas Congress has taken steps to pursue vigorously the war on terrorism through the provision of authorities and funding requested by the President to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such persons or organizations;
Whereas the President and Congress are determined to continue to take all appropriate actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such persons or organizations
That's the core foundational document of the Iraq War and in it, clearly, the administration is arguing vehemently that there was a link between Iraq and both the September 11th attack and al Qaeda.
This warped recall of historical fact continues:
LIZ CHENEY: The issue is whether there's a connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, which as he mentioned in that speech, George Tenet himself testified to, there's much evidence between the connection of Saddam and al Qaeda and Saddam and other terrorist organizations.
MITCHELL: Well, al Qaeda in Iraq, which was an offshoot, but didn't exist before the start of the war.
LIZ CHENEY: That's actually not true.
No, Liz, it actually is true, the testimony of "George Tenet himself" (I gather the "himself" is added to imply we should revere this historic bungler) notwithstanding.
"We have seen no evidence that these or the earlier contacts ever developed into a collaborative operational relationship. Nor have we seen evidence indicating that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States."
At around the same time, the Senate Intelligence Committee agreed with these findings:
The Senate Intelligence Committee's report said CIA analysts were reasonable in their conclusion that there was no "established, formal" relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda, nor proof that the two had collaborated in attacks. The committee noted that no new information had emerged since the CIA's key reports to suggest otherwise.
And if you are interested, at their worst, the al Qaeda franchise known as "al Qaeda in Iraq," who filled the post-Saddam vacuum, never amounted to very much:
How big, then, is AQI? The most persuasive estimate I've heard comes from Malcolm Nance, the author of The Terrorists of Iraq and a twenty-year intelligence veteran and Arabic speaker who has worked with military and intelligence units tracking al-Qaeda inside Iraq. He believes AQI includes about 850 full-time fighters, comprising 2 percent to 5 percent of the Sunni insurgency. "Al-Qaeda in Iraq," according to Nance, "is a microscopic terrorist organization."
Liz Cheney went on to disingenuously assert that the presence of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq, prior to the war, was evidence of an Iraq/al Qaeda link. Once again, Liz Cheney is wrong. Zarqawi operated in an area of Iraq that was outside of Saddam's control, and independently of al Qaeda:
Zarqawi was widely regarded to be the "leader" of Ansar al-Islam prior to the war against Iraq. However, according to the AP, "Ansar al-Islam operated in a region of northern Iraq that was outside of Saddam's control before the war. It was bombed by U.S. warplanes during the fighting."
In a statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee in March 2004, "CIA Director George J. Tenet described Zarqawi's network among other groups having 'links' to al Qaeda but with its own 'autonomous leadership, own targets [and] they plan their own attacks.' Although Zarqawi may have cooperated with al Qaeda in the past, U.S. officials say it is increasingly clear he had been operating independently of Osama bin Laden's organization."
It honestly baffles the mind that one has to keep going over these facts, again and again.