ANTHRAX - The elephant in the room: It's fatuous not to regard Saddamn as the chief suspect : LUSENET : Current News - Homefront Preparations : One Thread


Anthrax: The Elephant in the Room It's fatuous not to regard Saddam as the chief anthrax suspect.

BY ROBERT L. BARTLEY Monday, October 29, 2001 12:01 a.m. EST

Despite the earlier official denials, the anthrax in the mail turns out to be weapons-grade, finely ground and with electrostatic charges eliminated to facilitate aerial spread. After weeks of official denials, similarly, the Czech interior minister confirms that Mohamed Atta met with a ranking Iraqi spy on his route to the United States.

This should be a scales-from-the-eyes moment, but our government is back at the old stand, stressing that any Ph.D. microbiologist can whomp up weapons-grade anthrax and leaking that the FBI and CIA suspect domestic cranks. Perhaps this time it's true, but I for one am not reassured. Yes, other scenarios are conceivable, but why ignore the elephant standing in the corner of the room? To wit, Saddam Hussein. Consider:

Saddam has the anthrax. After his defeat in the Gulf War, U.N. inspectors found he'd deployed missiles and artillery shells loaded with anthrax, botulism toxin and nerve gas. We do not need to speculate; we know that he's capable of milling anthrax to military grade and eliminating its electrostatic charge.

Saddam has no compunction about using such weapons. He used poison gas in his war with Iran. He also used it to suppress Kurdish Iraqis; an attack in the town of Halabja in 1988 killed some 5,000. Chief U.N. inspector Richard Butler recently wrote in the New York Times, "I concluded that biological weapons are closest to President Hussein's heart because it was in this area that his resistance to our work reached its height. He seemed to think killing with germs has a lot to recommend it."

Saddam has a record of terrorism against Americans. In particular, he mounted an assassination plot against former President Bush when he visited Kuwait in 1993. The CIA said it was "highly confident" that the car-bomb attempt had been ordered by "Iraqi government, at the highest levels."

In a Prague press conference, Interior Minister Stanislav Gross said that apparent September 11 ringleader Atta "did have a contact with an officer of the Iraqi intelligence, Mr. Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani." The Iraqi was expelled shortly afterwards.

Iraqi defector Sabah Khalifa Khodada Alami says he was a member of a unit training airline hijackers at Salman Pak south of Baghdad, where Iraqi biological facilities are also located. The potential hijackers, he says, trained on a Boeing 707 parked at the facility. Espionage author Edward Jay Epstein notes that while cabin crews and passengers reported the September 11 hijackings, none of the eight pilots got off a warning.

The man in the street knows an elephant when he sees it. A Reuters/Zogby poll found last week that some 74% of respondents are ready to expand the war to include Saddam. But at official levels there's a history of denying evidence of unpleasant truths such as arms control violations, Soviet-era missile buildups and assassination plots on the Pope. As the authors of the New York Times story on the Prague news conference delicately put it, "it seemed possible that American officials, concerned about the political implications of Iraqi involvement in terror attacks, had put pressure on the Czechs to keep quiet."

Even the Bush administration has to rely on bureaucracies at State, Defense and the CIA. In a recent article for us, former CIA chief James Woolsey cited plenty of reasons, ranging from bureaucratic lethargy to eight years of Clinton spinning, that the spy agency he tried to run might slough off the Saddam connection. Even before the confirmation of weapons-grade anthrax, indeed, he was warning in the New Republic of the need to plumb the possibility that "the attacks--whether perpetrated by bin Laden and his associates or by others--were sponsored, supported, and perhaps even ordered by Saddam Hussein."

Mr. Woolsey cites the work of Laurie Mylroie, author of "Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein's Unfinished War Against America." She's assembled evidence that Saddam was behind the original bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. She centers on the bombing mastermind, who entered the country on an Iraqi passport for Ramzi Yousef, and fled the night of the bombing on a Pakistani passport bearing the name Abdul Basit Karim. He was later implicated in another bomb plot in the Philippines and arrested in Pakistan; he was extradited and convicted of the bombing and is now in federal prison.

The point is that Kuwaiti police files do show an Abdul Basit Karim, whose fingerprints match Yousef's. However, Yousef is six feet tall, while Abdul Basit was only 5-foot-8; other discrepancies abound. The real Abdul Basit and his family vanished with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, when Iraqi occupiers also had control of the police files and could have created a fake identity for one of their agents. If so, the 1993 bombing mastermind was an obvious Saddam agent. Miss Mylroie says the government has refused to take people who knew Abdul Basit to witness Yousef in prison to confirm his identity.

James Fox, the initial FBI investigator of the 1993 bombing, suspected an Iraqi connection. Instead, the case became the genesis of the notion of "loose networks" of Islamic militants now used to explain the September 11 attacks. But as widely reported at the time, in 1998 Farouk Hijazi, Iraq's ambassador to Turkey and one of its top intelligence officials, traveled to meet Osama bin Laden at his Afghan camps near Kandahar.

The government's responsibility here is not to make a criminal case beyond any reasonable (let alone any conceivable) doubt. It is to protect American lives, some 5,000 of which have just been lost in an act of war. Saddam Hussein has the motive, means and opportunity to mount terrorism, and the anthrax attacks fit his modus operandi. There is plenty of reason to presume he's behind the current attacks, with bin Laden and his al Qaeda network as a front or ally. In any event, given his capabilities and intentions, he remains a threat to American lives as long as he's at large.

Saddam's involvement would have several implications. First, the attacks are not likely to stop easily. Second, he has the capability of escalating, for example releasing biological weapons or nerve gas as aerosols rather than in letters. And third, our troops may be bogged down in the snows of Afghanistan while the main enemy goes untouched.

-- Anonymous, October 29, 2001

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