A Senate report on prewar intelligence on Iraq finds no evidence that Saddam Hussein had a relationship with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his Al Qaeda. Specifically, the CIA found in 2005 that Saddam "did not have a relationship, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi and his associates."
This is the latest blow to the adminstration's (remarkably successful) 5-year effort to conflate Al Qaeda and Saddam in the public mind. Recall -- with the aid of our handy timeline of prewar intel -- the following:
- The day after the 9/11 attacks, according to Richard Clarke's book, "Against All Enemies," Bush collared Clarke and and said, "I know you have a lot to do and all, but I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything, everything. See if Saddam did this. See if he's linked in any way." Clarke responds, "But, Mr. President, Al Qaeda did this." Bush tells him, "I know, I know, but -- see if Saddam was involved. Just look. I want to know any shred...."
- On September 19, 2001, President Bush, according to Ron Suskind, told CIA chief George Tenet, "I want to know about links between Saddam and al Qaeda. The Vice President knows some things that might be helpful." Vice President Cheney tells Tenet about a report that one of the hijackers, Mohammed Atta, met with senior Iraqi intelligence officials in Prague. Tenet promises to investigate. Two days later, Tenet reports back: CIA's Prague office thinks the Atta story "doesn't add up." Moreover, the intelligence community knows that Atta's credit card and phone were used in Virginia during the period in question. Cheney, however, will continue to cite the alleged meeting in public appearances.
- On September 21, 2001, President Bush was informed in a highly classified briefing that the US intelligence community could not link Saddam Hussein to the 9/11 attacks and that there is little evidence pointing to collaborative ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda.
- On September 25, 2005, President Bush told journalists, "You can't distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror."
- On September 27, 2002, Donald Rumsfeld called the link between Iraq and al Qaeda "accurate and not debatable."
The report confirms (reconfirms, I'd say), in the words of the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, that "the Bush administration's case for war in Iraq was fundamentally misleading."
Full Senate report here. (PDF)