Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The Real "Iraq-al Qaeda Connection"

by Sherry Eros , Steven Eros

Foreign and domestic opponents of the war in Iraq claimed (and continue to claim) that it merely distracted America from what should have been an exclusive concentration on the War on Terrorism, arguing that there was
no compelling proof of Saddam Hussein’s complicity in the September 11 attacks or involvement with Osama bin Laden.


In response to the latter claim, Walter Russell Mead, senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, asserted a direct causal link between Saddam Hussein and the September 11 attacks, in the March 12, 2003, issue of the Washington Post. Mead correctly observed that Saddam Hussein’s noncompliance compelled U.S. forces to stay in Saudi Arabia ever since the 1991 Gulf War in order to maintain the sanctions regime and related restrictions imposed by the United Nations (UN). Saddam Hussein’s persistent cheating and mistreatment of his own people, coupled with his unrelenting threat to his highly vulnerable oil-rich neighbors, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, made it impossible for America to extricate itself from its military bases in Saudi Arabia.

Mead noted further that it was principally in order to expel the U.S. forces from Saudi Arabia that Osama bin Laden created the al Qaeda terrorist network. Saudi Arabia is the home of the two most important Islamic holy sites in the world and is the birthplace of the Prophet Mohammed. As such, bin Laden considered it unacceptable for military forces of an “infidel” nation to be stationed there.
Hence, Mead argues, “The existence of al Qaeda, and the attacks of September 11, 2001, are part of the price the United States has paid to contain Saddam Hussein.” He concludes, “This is the link between Saddam Hussein’s defiance of international law and the events of September 11; it is clear and compelling. No Iraqi violations, no September 11.”

By this logic, however, one could also lay blame for September 11 directly on the United States, for if the American presence had anything to do with bringing on the attack, the United States certainly had ultimate control over the decision to deploy its forces in Saudi Arabia. (“No American interventionism, no September 11.”) One could equally blame Kuwait’s political and military weakness for its needing American intervention against Iraq in the first place. (“No Kuwaiti weakness, no September 11.”) The UN itself might be indicted for instituting unworkable sanctions, the violation of which by Saddam Hussein led to the U.S. intervention. (“No UN sanctions, no September 11.”) Or one could hold Britain accountable, for failing to draw effective borders in fashioning the Iraqi state decades ago. (“No Iraq, no September 11.”) This won’t do. Basic logic teaches that such “counterfactual conditionals” are insufficient to establish either causality or criminal responsibility.

In spite of this, it is possible to establish positively that Saddam Hussein is legally and morally responsible for the September 11 attacks. The key is to combine two tools of criminology: forensic timeline analysis, and basic principles of legal criminal responsibility.

One longstanding legal principle applies the felony murder statute to criminal behavior that causes “accidental” death or harm. If I commit a serious crime and in doing so accidentally cause an innocent person to die, then I may be held guilty of murder—even if his death was not my direct intention. For instance, if I set an arson fire in a building I believe vacant, and an unseen occupant dies, then I am responsible for his murder even if his death was “unintentional.”

This is where forensic timeline analysis proves Saddam Hussein’s responsibility for the September 11 attacks. In the case at hand, we know that, in violation of international law, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and threatened to attack Saudi Arabia. Having been expelled by coalition forces during the Gulf War, as Mead notes, Saddam knew that his continuous flouting of the Gulf War cease-fire agreements, UN-imposed sanctions, and the continuing threat of conquest he posed to his Kuwaiti and Saudi neighbors were compelling American forces to remain in Saudi Arabia.

To establish Saddam’s complicity in the September 11 attacks requires demonstrating the additional proposition that Saddam could not plausibly claim ignorance concerning Osama bin Laden’s terrorist response to our Saudi presence—in the form of al Qaeda attacks over the course of the succeeding years. This is easily done. Every national leader in the region, including Saddam, was well aware of bin Laden’s rage over America’s status in Saudi Arabia. It cannot have escaped Saddam’s attention that in the decade after the Gulf War the United States was subjected to a series of terrorist attacks for this very reason. Accordingly, if we add to the timeline the series of al Qaeda terrorist attacks on the United States, what this in effect amounts to is a continuous state of war or threat of war, in which Saddam Hussein and bin Laden are equally complicit, with Saddam’s recurrent sanctions violations and threats to world oil supplies all the while obligating America to keep troops in Saudi Arabia, thereby provoking bin Laden to attack the United States repeatedly for the perceived outrage against his religion.

Given that his behavior both during the Gulf War and after was a criminal violation of international law, the legal principle regarding felony murder applies. This felony murder analysis, of course, requires that Saddam Hussein be held responsible for all the reasonably anticipated results of his criminal behavior, not just those he directly intended. Those consequences included every one of al Qaeda’s terrorist attacks on the United States and its interests throughout the world, ranging from the first bombing of the World Trade Center to the suicide hijacking attacks of September 11, and from the bombing of the Khobar Towers military complex and the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania to the USS Cole attack in the port of Aden, Yemen.

Saddam Hussein had the ability and the opportunity to prevent all of these atrocities, but instead he continuously, knowingly, and criminally placed the United States in a position of vulnerability to al Qaeda’s terrorist attacks. For this reason, he is legally and morally responsible for all of them, including September 11. This, in turn, demonstrates that the recent Iraq war was an inseparable part of the War on Terrorism.

This article appeared in the Spring 2003 issue of American Outlook.



Blogger Aakash said...

I just found your blog, via the front page of Human Events. Unfortunately, I do have time to look through much of this information, and to respond, since the election is coming up, and we (or I, as it will most likely turn out) still need to execute "Operation Great Pumpkin," a College Republicans special project, which will hopefully reach a few people in time for the elections. This looks like a nice site; keep up the good work.

10:15 PM  

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