Thursday, July 22, 2004

After reading the first two chapters of the exhaustively researched 9-11 Commission final report (see below for the link to it in its entirety), I commend the bipartisan committee for its excellent, objective work at piecing together, almost on a minute-by-minute basis, the circumstances and actions surrounding what happened on that terrible day.

The second chapter deals with the broader, historical context regarding the rise of Islamist radicalism and, particularly, Osama bin Laden's brand of it, al Qaeda, whose history is meticulously dissected and recorded. Although I am only up to page 71 of the report, I do not see any political bias at all, regardless of what, say, Fox News Channel may say about the Commission or its Report.

Also, concerning one of the more controversial findings of the Commission -- the one that flatly rejected the notion that al Qaeda and Iraq had solid ties -- is not entirely represented by the mainstream.

Here's the full story on the relationship between the state of Iraq and al Qaeda, according to the findings of the Commission (emphases added): "There is also evidence that around this time Bin Ladin sent out a number of feelers to the Iraqi regime, offering some cooperation. None are reported to have received a significant response. According to one report, Saddam Hussein’s efforts at this time to rebuild relations with the Saudis and other Middle Eastern regimes led him to stay clear of Bin Ladin" (p. 66).

However, "In March 1998, ... two al Qaeda members reportedly went to Iraq to meet with Iraqi intelligence. In July, an Iraqi delegation traveled to Afghanistan to meet first with the Taliban and then with Bin Ladin. Sources reported that one, or perhaps both, of these meetings was apparently arranged through Bin Ladin’s Egyptian deputy, Zawahiri, who had ties of his own to the Iraqis. ... According to the reporting, Iraqi officials offered Bin Ladin a safe haven in Iraq. Bin Ladin declined, apparently judging that his circumstances in Afghanistan remained more favorable than the Iraqi alternative. The reports describe friendly contacts and indicate some common themes in both sides’ hatred of the United States." In light of all this, the Report concludes that "to date we have seen no evidence that these or the earlier contacts ever developed into a collaborative operational relationship." Furthermore, no evidence was found by the Commission "indicating that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States" (id.)

The very well-documented Report, complete with 1,742 endnotes (pp. 451-567), is not to pass unnoticed. At least I can reserve my final judgment until I finish reading it. But, at 585 pages, it is quite lengthy, although the actual text of the Report does not begin until page 17, which puts the length of the actual Report at an easier-to-digest 568 pages (3% less).

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