The Democrats are claiming that that there were no ties between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda based on a Senate Intelligence Committee report. (The text of which can be read here in searchable form.)
I haven’t full read through all the conclusions, and the various minority reports, but the argumentation here seems weak and the gaps have been filled in with the Democrats politicized conclusions. Saddam Hussein did regard Islamic fundamentalism as a threat to his regime, which is why he was trying to buy them off rather than suppress them. We know that officials from al-Qaeda tried to meet with Iraqi officials, and that Iraqi intelligence agent Faruq Hijazi did meet with bin Laden and other al-Qaeda members. This intelligence is not disputed by the report — only by the Democratic member’s response to it.
It does seem that Saddam Hussein did have some contact with al-Qaeda, and that there are still a few unanswered questions involving just to what extent there were connections — however, there was no operational connection between the former Iraqi regime and al-Qaeda — and there have not been any claims that such a thing actually happened.
What the report indicates is the same thing that every report has indicated — the intelligence community was trying to piece together partial information into a coherent whole. The Democrats who are trying to politicize the intelligence process should ask themselves if policymakers should ignore evidence if it’s fragmentary or incomplete. If so, we should shut down the CIA and stop collecting intelligence, as intelligence is always fragmentary and frequently contradictory. Just because two pieces of evidence say different things, it’s hardly sensible for the intelligence community to adopt the evidence that’s most favorable to our enemies. The price of getting things wrong is simply too great.
The intelligence community took the fragmentary evidence they had on Iraq’s WMD programs and terrorist connections and put together the most accurate picture they could at the time. There is no evidence that analysts were pressured into accepting one conclusion or another. There was nothing that made their conclusions out of line — the Clinton Administration had already used a bin Laden-Hussein connection as a justification for a military act against a sovereign country. The idea that the CIA wouldn’t take a look at what they had and come to the same conclusions that they did requires one to assume that the CIA should have had godlike powers over space and time and seen a picture that was completely obscured by the secrecy of the Hussein regime and the fog of war.
The Democrats wish to politicize the intelligence process, and the Republican response to the report makes it clear exactly how much they tried to manipulate the report’s conclusions to favor their political narrative. However, such a standard of proof is dangerous as it will force the intelligence community to become even more risk-averse than they had been previously, and the result of that will be more failures of intelligence and more American lives lost.
Then again, the Democrats have already decided that they’re more interested in playing politics than in defending this country — which is why if they’re allowed to take power the consequences to this nation will be dire.