Intelligence: The Myth of Containing Saddam


April 7, 2006: "I thought the containment worked remarkably well, and it was a tribute to our troops and how they handled it." Gen. Anthony Zinni, USMC (ret.) Meet The Press, April 2,2006

One of the biggest claims from opponents of the liberation of Iraq is that Saddam Hussein was "contained" as a result of sanctions, the no-fly zones, and other measures. However, this is a myth that has continued despite the presence of documents suggesting that Saddam Hussein was actively working with al Qaeda - a terrorist organization that had proven it could attack American interests, as well as other actions.

The first such action was the 1993 assassination attempt on former President George H. W. Bush. This was probably the first real effort by Saddam to break out of the containment that had been established in the wake of the 1990 invasion of Kuwait and the 1991 cease-fire that ended Operation Desert Storm. More would come.

Prior to the liberation of Iraq in 2003, and in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, there were indications that Saddam's regime was at least talking with al Qaeda. The most publicized (and hotly debated) were reports from the Czech government that Mohammed Atta, the ringleader of the 911 hijackers, met with an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague in April, 2001. Less publicized, and far more damning, is the case of Ahmed Hikmat Shakir. Shakir was an attendee at the January, 2000 al-Qaeda summit in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, after escorting at least one of the 911 hijackers through Malaysian customs while working as a greeter for Malaysian Airlines. Shakir got that job through the Iraqi embassy, which also controlled his work schedule. Six days after 911, Shakir was caught with information pertaining to the 1993 World Trade Center attack and a 1995 al Qaeda plan to destroy multiple airliners over the Pacific Ocean. In November, 2001, the London Observer reported the presence of a terrorist training camp in Salman Pak, which is about 15 miles southeast of Baghdad. There, men were trained in how to hijacking airliners, using knives and the bare hands. This is similar to the methods used in the attacks as well. The coincidences were clearly piling up.

The liberation of Iraq, however, adds more information to the mix. The first of these documents was unearthed in April, 2003, by Toronto Star reporter Mitch Potter. This 1998 document discussed bringing an envoy from Osama bin Laden to Baghdad to discuss "the future of our relationship with him". This is the first evidence from inside the regime backing the long-running suspicions of a connection. In October, 2004, published additional documents. These not only showed that Saddam Hussein was looking to hit at America (including looking into methods to attack American forces in Somalia), but he also started providing support to a group led by Ayman al-Zawahiri (Al-Jehad al-Islamy). Saddam's regime was also attempting to acquire mustard gas and anthrax.

In 2005, even more information leaked. This time, it was an evidence summary for an al-Qaeda operative being held at Guantanamo Bay. This summary indicated that the al Qaeda operative traveled to Pakistan with an Iraqi intelligence officer as part of an abortive plan to attack the American and British embassies with chemical mortar shells. This was not only a joint operation between the terrorist group and Iraqi intelligence, it involved a weapon of mass destruction.

The present document releases from the Director of National Intelligence add even more. One of the damning documents was Document CMPC-2003-001488, (possibly changed to ISGP-2003-00014127), a letter detailing a report from a source in Afghanistan discussing a meeting with a Taliban consul. This letter indicates that not only did Saddam's regime have a relationship with al Qaeda, but that the relationship lasted through at least September 15, 2001.

This review of the evidence shows that the containment was limited to conventional military efforts at best. Saddam Hussein was not only seeking a means to attack American interests around the world, his regime had already worked with al Qaeda in an effort to launch a terrorist attack using weapons of mass destruction. If this is containment that is "working well", what would containment that was failing look like? - Harold C. Hutchison (


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