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A slightly more conservative reader has written in to take me to task for my seeming credulity over the New York Times’ headline: Panel Find No Qaeda-Iraq Tie: Describes a Wider Plot for 9/11

I’m disappointed in you. Since you have been in the media, I would assume that you also would know better than to link to stories and just show them as proof to make your point.
The commission stated there was no proof (one way or the other) that Saddam was involved with 9/11. That may or may not be true, but the administration has never blamed Saddam for 9/11. Never. That’s just something critics made up. If you can pull up a quote from the President or anyone in the administration that specifically states that Saddam was in on the 9/11 planning, then I’ll change my mind.
The problem with that headline is that it makes people think that there has been no connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam at all, which is patently false. There have been contacts between Al Qaeda and Saddam over the years. And you’re telling me that this was simply a call between guys over drinks? Given that both have (or had) anti-American agendas, we have the right to be suspicious. To not be is to be really irresponsible and downright dangerous.
And this was in the testimony.
The NY Times was not doing anyone any favors by masking the truth in bold headlines. In this case, they are no better than the Yellow Journalism practiced by William Randolph Hearst.
Come on. I like reading your blog. But using this sort of support to make your case isn’t helping you.

Well, first of all, I’m still in the media. And expressing an opinion isn’t something that’s helpful or not helpful. It’s just that, an opinion and this ‘blog is based on mine.
Secondly, smarter commentators than me have already examined some of the President’s statements and added some insights about the use of language and Bush’s reputation as an in articulate bumbler (For more on this, please, oh, please see Jim Fallows’ timely, smart but not available on-line analysis, “When George Meets John,” in The Atlantic along with some telling excerpts at TalkingPointsMemo and this editorial that Brad DeLong has thoughtfully posted). Political parsing — the plague of our time.
Still, the argument being made in favor of the Iraq invasion is one that’s worth listening to. It’s a valid view of the world. Brushing aside all the rhetoric about the accuracy of the headline and what President Bush said and when he said it there’s one question at the heart of this long-overdue debate.
When does suspicion become certainty?
Essentially what the White House and those who support the invasion argue is that too much bad stuff was going on to risk letting a madman like Saddam Hussein run lose in the Middle East. They are certain that the madmen running Al Queda and other terrorist, anti-American groups will eventually find each other, join forces, cooperate and turn on the U.S. and the west to all of our detriment. It is better to strike now before more lives are lost, more skyscrapers burnt to the ground, more trains torn asunder by bombs.
I’m willing to accept that point of view. Grudgingly, that meant it was necessary to invade Afghanistan. But I’m not willing to accept the next step: That the pre-emptive invasion of Iraq was absolutely necessary to prevent the possibility of collaboration and cooperation by anti-American forces. Because even if there were cooperation and collaboration, there was (we now know) no existing Iraqi weapons program; even if there were an existing weapons program, the evidence of Al Qeuda-Hussien cooperation is not terribly solid. A meeting in Prague between Mohamed Atta, one of the 9/11 highjackers doesn’t seem to have taken place the way the White House has described. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who was in an around Baghdad trying to enlist support from Hussein might not have been working with Osama Bin Laden.
Those aren’t small doubts; not when you’re basing actions on suspicion.
I don’t think this administration saw the difference. So, counting up the costs of the war – financial and emotional, political and rhetorical – balancing them against the possible gains, I come up short. No one wants to live in a world with the ever-present threat of devastating attack. But we do. And I don’t see how that possibility has been removed. In a horrible, awful case of getting what you wish for, it may have been strengthened.
And this isn’t entirely partisan. A few months ago, a long-time friend of mine, a staunch Republican, wrote and asked me if I’d gone soft in the head over the Iraqi War. He asked if I thought the Democrats would do any better and if I thought so, he warned, he was really worried about me. I said, no, that’s precisely the problem. This isn’t a situation that erupted one fine September morning three years ago. It’s been building for a long time and the Democrats’ unwillingness – specifically the unwillingness of President Bill Clinton – to think, talk, and act about the increasing threat that free-floating terrorism poses, network terrorism, if you will – was as irresponsible and short-sighted as the current administration’s.
UPDATE: Matt Stoller over at Blogging of the President, writes in to chastise me.
“Clinton did a fair amount on terrorism. Not as much as he should have, but substantially more than Bush did when he took office.”
Stoller has a point; Clinton, unlike the Bush folks, understood the threat and he did more about it. But that’s something compared to nothing.

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