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 Tracing the Box-Cutters 

January 30, 2003

President Bush is now promising — again — to present evidence not only that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction, but also has links to terrorists, specifically al-Qaeda, which is generally assumed to have mounted the extraordinary attacks of September 11, 2001.

The American public is skeptical. So are Europeans. So are most other countries. Bush has already had plenty of time to back up his charges, and he just hasn’t done it. He insists that Iraq has the prohibited weapons, whether or not UN inspectors find any proof one way or the other. If no such weapons are found, that will only “prove” that the Iraqis have successfully hidden them. Perish the thought that the weapons don’t exist, and that Saddam Hussein, for once in his life, is telling the truth.

It’s well known that Saddam and al-Qaeda hate each other. He regards them as fanatics and loose cannons; they regard him and other Arab rulers like him as traitors to Islam. Why should he share deadly weapons with them? That would put him at their mercy, since the United States would certainly blame him if they were used on American soil. Instant devastation would follow — not against al-Qaeda, which presents no targets, but against Baghdad. Saddam Hussein isn’t crazy enough to make himself a hostage to the whims of Osama bin Laden, or whoever al-Qaeda’s current CEO is.

Less than a week after September 11, according to Bob Woodward’s new book, Bush at War, Bush told his aides, “I believe Iraq was involved, but I’m not going to strike them now. I don’t have the evidence at this point.” Many of those aides had been hoping for war with Iraq for years, and now their dream was coming true. But where was the evidence to justify it? That was the problem. What if there was no evidence?

If only Iraq could be “linked” to al-Qaeda ... if not by facts, then by rhetoric ... perhaps by phrases like “axis of evil” ... by speculation that Iraq might supply terrorists with its supposed nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons ... That was the ticket! All those evil guys stick together, right?

[Breaker quote: The absence of evidence]But somehow the connection remained vague and tenuous. The public kept wondering how a “war on terrorism” had turned so quickly into a war on Iraq.

The question in the back of everyone’s mind was, and is, this: If Saddam Hussein had helped mount the 9/11 attacks, why didn’t he furnish some real high-tech weapons? Nukes, poison gas, anthrax ... but box-cutters?

Try to imagine the conversation amongst the conspirators. Saddam Hussein: “Can I help you fellows out? We have some really nasty weapons you can use — nuclear, chemical, germs — ” Muhammad Atta: “Gee, thanks. Do you have any box-cutters?” Saddam: “Great idea! How many do you need?” Atta: “Oh, about 20, if it’s not asking too much.” Saddam: “Twenty it is! Are you sure that’s enough? By the way, we also carry a line of exploding shoes, if you need any.”

Or maybe it went like this. Atta: “We want to give those Americans a real shock. May we use a couple of your nukes?” Saddam: “Sorry, no can do. The Americans would be sure to blame me. But I’d be glad to pitch in a few box-cutters, as many as you need.” Atta (sighing): “Well, I guess we’ll just have to make do with those.” Saddam: “Just try to make sure they can’t be traced back to us.”

But it didn’t work. Apparently the Bush administration saw through the plot and did indeed trace the box-cutters back to Iraq. Or maybe it just wanted an excuse for war with Iraq and is hoping the public will forget that the 9/11 operation had nothing to do with the sort of weapons it accuses Saddam Hussein of hiding up his sleeve.

Bush says he’s sick of games and deceptions. He’s not the only one. The “war on terrorism” has turned into an endless shell game that has little to do with the horrors of 9/11 and everything to do with manipulating Americans, and Europeans, into supporting the war the administration has wanted all along.

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2003 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
a division of Griffin Communications
This column may not be reprinted in print or
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of Griffin Internet Syndicate

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