August 12, 2004 | Broadcast
Here to help answer that question are Claudia Rosett from the Foundation For the Democracy of Democracies. Her articles in “The Wall Street Journal” helped expose the U.N. scandal. And Stephen Hayes of “The Weekly Standard, he’s the author of “The Connection: How al Qaeda’s Collaboration with Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America”
Claudia, I want to read something for the folks, what you wrote, if I could here, about the oil-for-food program. This is what you wrote: “From about 1998 on, oil-for-food became Saddam’s financial network, a system he gamed to produce huge amounts of illicit income” — for him, I guess — “in partnership with folks who helped him hide and spend it. If some of that money was going to al Qaeda while Saddam was in power, it may still be serving as a terrorist resource today. “
Now, you use the word “if.” Is there any hard evidence that you have that Saddam Hussein was financing al Qaeda?
CLAUDIA ROSETT, “THE WALL STREET JOURNAL”: There is not hard evidence, but there is an extremely interesting pattern, which needs I think — badly needs looking into by people who have access to the internal U.N. records and to this enormous stash of documents squirreled away in Baghdad right now, shrink-wrapped, I hear.
But what there is, is, in that same year, when the oil-for-food program effectively really came together, when Kofi Annan at the U.N. consolidated it into a department, rather than an ad hoc, temporary program, that was the same year that Osama bin Laden, who was broke when he was kicked out of Sudan in 1996, was back on his feet in Afghanistan enough to issue in a declaration in a London newspaper referred to as a fatwa, although it really wasn’t.
ROSETT: And the interesting thing about this so-called fatwa is, that was the document in which bin Laden declared war on America.
BUCHANAN: Right. I’m familiar with it.
ROSETT: Yes, exactly, the kill-all-the-Americans document.
ROSETT: And the interesting thing about that document — and it caused some discussion soon afterward — is, Iraq was extremely prominent in that document, which had not been the case in Osama bin Laden’s previous rantings. Iraq gets four mentions. Sanctions are specifically mentioned, the protracted blockade.
ROSETT: Now, remember, the rest of the document is devoted to bin Laden’s ranting about religious grievances, not the part on Iraq.
BUCHANAN: Yes, it’s about the Americans and the holy sites and the Americans in Saudi Arabia and the Jewish folks in Jerusalem.
BUCHANAN: But it takes up that question of Iraq.
Now let me take that question to Steve Hayes.
But, Steve, the way I saw that — now maybe I’m wrong — is, Osama, who is obviously an Islamic fanatic, he is trying to identify himself with the causes of Arab nationalism and hook into those. But is there any hard evidence that you have found that Saddam was aiding, directly funding Osama bin Laden?
STEPHEN HAYES, “THE WEEKLY STANDARD”: Well, Pat, I think you’re right.
I think one of the things we saw was that Osama bin Laden used Arab nationalistic language when it suited his purposes. Saddam Hussein used fundamentalist language when it suited his purposes. But I do think that we can see a pattern of support from Saddam to Osama bin Laden. I interviewed for my book Stanley Bedlington, who was a senior analyst in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center.
And one of the things that he said to me was that it was basically a known fact by the CIA that Saddam was pushing money to a variety of al Qaeda-linked fundamentalist groups, including the GIA, basically to hide his money, to pass it around, to play a shell game. And then, as late as 2003, at the start of the Iraq war, we have firsthand accounts from people involved with the Ansar al-Islam, the al Qaeda affiliate that operated in northern Iraq, saying, look, I was the conduit. I’m the one who passed the money from Saddam Hussein’s regime to al Qaeda to Ansar al-Islam.
Now, it may be that those people aren’t credible, but we have got a number of different people who are telling us the same things. And if they are not credible, I think we need to learn why they are not credible, because, certainly, there are numerous firsthand accounts about Saddam Hussein providing not only funding, but arms for al Qaeda and al Qaeda-linked groups.
BUCHANAN: All right, both, hold on here.
When we come back, we’re going to take up the question, if there was a link between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, why did the 9/11 Commission not highlight it and not explain it or not find it? That question when we come back.
BUCHANAN: Tomorrow night in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, another passenger from Flight 327 steps forward with disturbing new details about the actions of 14 Middle Eastern men on that flight. We’ll bring you the very latest tomorrow night at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.
But stay tuned for more SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY straight ahead.
BUCHANAN: We’re back with Claudia Rosett and Stephen Hayes.
Claudia, let me start with you.
If there is a connection between Saddam Hussein passing money to al Qaeda for a tax on the United States and especially 9/11, why did the 9/11 Commission find — or report nothing? As a matter of fact, they had a staff report that seemed to throw cold water on the idea.
ROSETT: Probably because the United Nations kept the oil-for-food program so secret in most of its details, and to this day has kept some of it secret even from Congress, that they had no easy access. It is not a direction anyone has looked from. They tracked it backwards from the al Qaeda end. What I’m saying is, someone should go look at it from the oil-for-food end.
BUCHANAN: How about Volcker? How about Volcker?
ROSETT: Well, it would be terrific if he would. But he is focused on U.N. personnel, as far as I can tell.
No one is looking at the program as what it really was, Saddam’s little black book of finance. Saddam had, as of 1988, expectation of being able to make enormous amounts of graft money through the U.N. oil-for-food program. That’s the same year that bin Laden airs what sounds like a message from a sponsor, in which he includes a plug for the grievances of Saddam Hussein in his declaration of war on America. That’s the kind of pattern the 9/11 Commission is saying, I think, we should be watching for.
Stephen Hayes, you have been writing about this connection for a long time and somewhat of a lonely time. Why did — the 9/11 Commission, which presumably bipartisan, all these people looking in-depth, why did they basically come up with nada, with nothing?
HAYES: Well, I don’t think they did, Pat.
What they laid out was a series, a history of what they called friendly contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda, including high-level meetings between bin Laden confidants and senior Iraqi intelligence officers. What’s astonishing to me is that so few people in the media appear to be interested in what happened at those meetings.
There was a meeting that the September 11 Commission report was the first one to report on in July of 1998. I had never heard about this. We know nothing about the meeting. We know that these were important people. Why don’t we want — why don’t people want to know more about this? It seems to me that that’s something that should pique everyone’s curiosity. And, as a reporter, it certainly piques mine.
BUCHANAN: Well, let me say this.
I think that most people say, look, the Saudis — clearly, there are some corrupt Saudis behind him. The Paks were aiding the Taliban. The Taliban were aiding him. But they look at Saddam and they look at Uday and Qusay and they say, these guys are into porn and black label. And Saddam would never risk handing a franchise to these crazy characters to do something to the United States if it would result in him being smashed.
HAYES: But I think — I think you’re right. I think they wouldn’t hand the franchise, as you say.
But they certainly wouldn’t be opposed to exploiting one another. And I don’t think — I think, if you look at the history of the relationship, you can see that they both attempted on numerous occasions to exploit one another, whether it was bin Laden requesting weaponry and funding from Saddam, or whether it was Saddam offering bin Laden asylum.
HAYES: Clearly, these were people who were not opposed to working closely together.
BUCHANAN: OK, Claudia Rosett, Stephen Hayes, thank you both for joining us.
And thanks to all of you out there for watching SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. See you tomorrow night.