Saddam's Real WMD Was Terrorism
David Kay, the former US weapons inspector, reported recently that despite the fact that every major Western intelligence agency and the UN believed Saddam Hussein still possessed them, his team has found no significant stockpiles of chemical, biological or nuclear Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. Yet, while there is still much more to say about that story, it may turn out that one of Saddam's greatest weapons of mass destruction was terror.
Contrary to the claims of prominent American Democrat politicians, such as Senator Ted Kennedy who flatly stated in October 2003 that: “Iraq was not a breeding ground for terrorism..." we have uncovered significant evidence tying Saddam Hussein to terrorism for over a decade. Considering the importance of these clear links, it is surprising that the Bush administration has not publicized them further.
Deroy Murdock, a Senior Fellow with the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, published Saddam Hussein's Philanthropy of Terror, (http://www.hudson.org/files/publications/murdocksaddamarticle.pdf ) a well documented report highlighting Saddam's ties to Islamic terrorism, in the Hudson Institute's American Outlook magazine's fall 2003 edition. In it he states: “Many critics of the war in Iraq belittle claims of Saddam Hussein's ties to terrorism. In fact, for years, he was militant Islam's Benefactor-in Chief.”
Murdock then describes in detail numerous high-profile Islamic terrorists who were captured or killed in Iraq prior to or after the US invasion. Others terrorists had Iraqi passports and some linked to Al Qaeda were given safe haven in Iraq or were observed being aided by Iraqi officials overseas.
Among the rabid, anti-American killers found in Iraq was Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal, whose gang murdered 407 people (including ten Americans) and maimed 788 more in attacks in 20 countries; he reportedly “committed suicide” in August 2002 in Baghdad by shooting himself in the head four times. He had taken refuge in Iraq since 1999. Experts speculate that Saddam may have been cleaning up loose ends as the American government probed his terror links.
One of Abu Nidal Organization's attacks included the bombing over the Ionian Sea of a TWA airliner flying from Israel to Greece in 1974 which killed all 88 people on board. His group was also famous for attacking a TWA ticket counter at Rome's Leonardo Da Vinci airport in 1986 and targeting Lt. Col. Oliver North for death in the mid-1980s.
Khala Khadar al Salahat, a member of ANO, surrendered to the First Marine Division in Baghdad on April 18, 2003. According to an August 25, 2002 report in the Sunday Times of London, a Palestinian source claimed that Salahat and Nidal had furnished Libyan agents the Semtex (plastic explosive) bomb that destroyed Pan American Flight 103 over Lockerbie Scotland in 1988. Among the 259 persons killed in the air and 11 killed on the ground were 35 American college students.
Another vicious terrorist found in Iraq was Abu Abbas, who was captured by US Special Forces just outside Baghdad on April 14, 2003. He had been living there under Iraqi protection since 2002. Abbas was the mastermind behind the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achilles Lauro in the Mediterranean.
We should recall that during that terrorist attack, Abbas's men shot Leon Klinghoffer, a retired 69-year old American, in cold blood before rolling him in his wheelchair into the sea. Importantly, Italian authorities had detained Abbas briefly at the time but released him because he held an Iraqi diplomatic passport.
Ramzi Yousef, the Iraqi architect of the 1993 World Trade Center (WTC) bombing which killed six persons and wounded 1,042 others, entered America on an Iraqi passport before fleeing after the attack on Pakistani papers.
Abdul Rahman Yasin, indicted for mixing the chemicals in that WTC bombing, and still on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists list, fled to Baghdad after the attack and lived there for years afterwards.
Murdock adds that according Richard Miniter, author of this year's bestselling book, Losing Bin Laden, documents discovered by US forces in Tikrit, Saddam's hometown, showed that the Iraqi government gave Yasin both a house and a salary.
Saddam's terror links were most recently and openly on display in conjunction with Palestinian terror groups. In March 2002, Iraq's former deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz announced publicly at a meeting in Baghdad that Saddam Hussein would raise the reward given to the families of Palestinian “martyrs' (i.e.; suicide bomb terrorists) from $10,000 per family to $25,000.
On March 12, 2003, just eight days prior to the US-led assault on Iraq, Knight-Ridder reported from Gaza City that at a ceremony organized by the Saddam-backed Arab Liberation Front, “the families of 22 Palestinians killed fighting the Israelis each received checks for $10,000 or more, certificates of appreciation and a kiss on each cheek—compliments of Saddam Hussein.”
Hussein's largesse proved increasingly deadly. According to Murdock, between March 2002 and March 2003 when the US forces closed own Saddam's "Terror, Inc.," 28 Palestinian homicide bombers killed 223 innocent people including 12 Americans, and injured 1,209 others.
And while Bill Clinton's former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright boldly declared in October 2003 that: she “never believed the link between Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden. Al Qaeda, and Islamic terrorism,” clues to those links too have been confirmed.
Murdock shows that Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who previously ran an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan and is currently at large, fled to Iraq and received medical care in Baghdad shortly after the Taliban fell. He then opened an Ansar al-Islam terrorist camp in northern Iraq and reportedly arranged the October 2002 assassination of US diplomat Lawrence Foley in Jordan. He has since been liinked to terror attacks against American troops in Iraq.
Back in January of 2002 Nawaz al-Hamzi and Khalid al-Midhar (9-11 hijackers who slammed American Airlines flight 77 into the Pentagon, killing 216 people) reportedly met Iraqi diplomat and VIP airport greeter Ahmed Hikmat Shakir in Kula Lampur, Malaysia. Shakir reportedly then escorted them to an al Qaeda 9-11 planning meeting. Shakir was arrested in Qatar six days after 9-11. Authorities then discovered documents linking him to the 1993 WTC bombing and al Qaeda's plot to blow up 12 American jets over the Pacific Ocean.
Significantly, a Clinton-appointed Manhattan federal judge, Harold Baer, recently ordered Saddam Hussein, his ousted regime, Osama bin Laden, and others to pay $104 million in damages to the families of the 2,750 victims of the 9-11 attacks on the Twin Towers. He found “by evidence satisfactory to the court, that Iraq provided material support to bin Laden and al Qaeda.”
There is therefore more than sufficient evidence pointing to Saddam Hussein as an important international terror-monger who aided in the murder and maiming of thousands of innocent civilians outside Iraq.
As Deroy Murdock notes: “The President and his National Security team should devote entire speeches and publications…to remind Americans and the world that Baathist Iraq was a general store for terrorists, complete with cash, training, lodging, and medical attention.” The sooner we all understand this, the better.
Paul Crespo is a former US Marine Corps officer and military attaché. Previously a member of The Miami Herald editorial board, he is now an occasional editorial contributor to the paper. An adjunct faculty member of politics at the University of Miami, he is also a Senior Fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. (www.defenddemocracy.org). This article appears this week in Tiempos del Mundo.