Pentagon: Saddam Hussein Had No al-Qaida Ties

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Saddam Hussein

Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was tried for genocide in 2006. hide caption

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Contradicting the Bush administration's main case for the war in Iraq, the Defense Department for the first time has formally concluded that Saddam Hussein had no direct ties to al-Qaida. The Pentagon now says the former Iraqi president's regime sheltered and supported terrorist groups, but Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida was not among them.

The report is significant because it is based on the Pentagon's own review of 600,000 pages of original documents seized in Iraq after the United States-led coalition invaded the country in 2003, says Warren Strobel, a foreign affairs reporter for McClatchy newspapers.

Strobel says the report is not the first to state definitively that there was no operational link between Saddam and al-Qaida — a 2005 C.I.A. report came to a similar conclusion. But Strobel stresses that the Pentagon's own reporting probed giant Iraqi treasure trove of source material. He says that after years of statements by influential military leaders — including former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who once suggested there was "bulletproof evidence" for an Iraq-al-Qaeda link — the military apparatus has discredited the thinking that helped lead America into war.

"It's there in black and white," Strobel says. "If there was [a connection], they would have found a hint of it in 600,000 pages."

In other Pentagon news this week, Admiral William Fallon, the top commander in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and head of Central Command, resigned. Strobel says Fallon's bowing out is a result of an Esquire magazine profile in which the admiral was quoted as saying that without his input, President George Bush's policy on Iran could lead to war. "The worst thing in the world is that you say you're the one thing standing between Bush and war in Iran," Strobel says. "Bush likes to say they listen to their generals, but they really only listen when they like what they hear."

Strobel says there had long been a bull's-eye on Fallon, who despite his official capacities, wasn't considered the top military commander in Iraq. That had been General David Petraeus, "Bush's favorite." Strobel says there was dancing in the general's Baghdad base after the news that Fallon — technically Petraeus' boss — had tendered his resignation.

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