Dick Cheney- Corporate Criminal

Cheney Won't Back Down on Saddam-Qaeda Links -Aides

Wed Jun 16
By Adam Entous

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Vice President Dick Cheney (news - web sites), who took the lead in pushing the idea of long-standing links between Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) and al Qaeda, has no intention of backing down despite a finding to the contrary by the Sept. 11 commission, aides said on Wednesday.

Administration officials stood by Cheney, who critics accuse of using faulty intelligence about alleged weapons of mass destruction and Iraqi links to al Qaeda to push the nation to war.

A White House official said Cheney's assertion, which he repeated this week, that the ousted Iraqi leader had long-established ties to al Qaeda, were based on "facts."

"Hell no!" another administration official said when asked if Cheney would retract his statements after the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks found no evidence that Iraq (news - web sites) aided al Qaeda attempts to strike the United States.

According to the commission's staff report, al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden (news - web sites) had met with a senior Iraqi intelligence officer in 1994 and had explored the possibility of cooperation, but the plans apparently never came to fruition.

"We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States," the report said.

Administration officials disputed suggestions that Cheney's comments conflicted with the report's findings.

Officials said Cheney asserted on Monday that there were links between Saddam and al Qaeda, not that Saddam helped al Qaeda carry out attacks against the United States, although critics say Cheney and other officials at times created the impression that Saddam was involved in the Sept. 11 attacks.

"It's not surprising people make that connection," Cheney said at one point as polls showed most Americans believed Iraq was involved.

"The administration's statements rest on a solid foundation of history and facts. The record of links between Iraq and al Qaeda is clear to anyone who has open eyes and an open mind," a White House official said on Wednesday.

Administration officials also disputed suggestions that Cheney was the most outspoken official about the links.

To make that case, his office provided reporters with a list of U.S. officials and lawmakers who made similar statements about Saddam's alleged ties to al Qaeda.

The list compiled by the vice president's office included outgoing CIA (news - web sites) Director George Tenet, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice (news - web sites) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (news - web sites), the New York Democrat and former first lady.

"We have solid evidence of the presence in Iraq of al Qaeda members, including some that have been in Baghdad," Tenet said in an Oct. 7, 2002 letter to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Sen. Clinton was quoted as saying three days later: "He (Saddam) has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members," according to the list compiled by Cheney's office.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declared in September 2002: "We know that al-Qaeda is operating in Iraq today."

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