Someone else gave a speech last week. As far as I know, President Bush’s speech on the fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war has received no comment on this blog yet. It also did not make a big splash in the news, in part because it said nothing new. The President repeated that we are fighting terrorists or al Qaeda in Iraq so we won’t have to fight them here. A short time before the speech, a review of 600,000 documents captured in Iraq appeared, concluding that Saddam’s regime had links to regional and global terrorism but that there was no direct connection between Iraq and al Qaeda.
I happen to be reading the memoir of a CIA case officer and high-ranking CIA official published in 1997 who reports a visit he made to Baghdad in 1986. The purpose of his visit was to get Saddam to live up to his part of the bargain he had made with the United States. We were giving him intelligence to help him in his war with Iran. In return, he was to sever his contacts with terrorists and expel them or turn them over to us. The former case officer lists many of the groups that have shown up in the recently published review of captured Iraqi documents. He mentions in particular that we wanted Abu Abbas who had been the mastermind, as they say, behind the hijacking of the Achille Lauro (1985), which resulted in the death of an American. Abbas was still in Iraq at the time of the 2003 invasion. By the way, the case officer, who by 1986 had about 30 years experience in the Middle East and South Asia, reported in his 1997 memoir that Iraq was known to be riven with factions and competing tribes and sects and that Iraqis were known throughout the Arab world as thugs.