In order to judge whether Iraq stood out as some heinous partner of Al Qaeda, we need to have some metrics.
Let's use money and Logistic support as our measures.
Let’s compare what we know about the Iraqi funding of Al Qaeda to the funding it received from other states.
We have, according to a cache of docs recovered from the Taliban government, a money trail that leads to the Saudis.
Newsweek reported that there is documentation, for instance, of a bin Laden associate,
Jon Juma Namagani, receiving two million dollars in Saudi “aids” on Nov. 21, 1999.
According to testimony before the house by Matthew Epstein and Stephen Kohlman, the flow of funds to Al Qaeda went through many channels that have been associated, in the past, with Saudi Arabia. One should remember that charities, in Saudi Arabia, have traditionally had a strong government direction. It would be unlikely, for instance, that a charity directed at helping Israeli victims of suicide bombings would endure the House of Saud's disapproval. In an authoritarian theocracy that has officially embraced an interpretation of Islam as its doctrine, the distinction between private religious charities and public expenditures is narrowed. Often the distinction exists in order to establish deniability rather than as an expression of the origin of the charitable impulse. The U.S. government has used that distinction itself, running money to the anti-Soviet fighters in Afghanistan through the jihadi networks in the eighties, and then -- after the defeat of the jihad -- leaving those networks be. However, we feel comfortable in supposing that if there were charities headquartered in Baghdad in 1999 running money to bin Laden, it would have provoked massive U.S. directed uproar.
Epstein’s list includes the Muslim league and The BIF. I urge the reader to take these testimonies with some caution – terrorism “experts” rely on facts that often reduce into assertions from unnamed sources in newspaper stories which often suffer the further diminishment of having been propounded, in the first place, by the terrorism experts themselves. It is that vicious circle in which proof is replaced by punditry, and proof by the journalistic version of “truth” - a hook or a scoop. Given their prejudices, the testimony seems pretty unexaggerated. The Muslim League, according to Epstein and Kohlman, opened a branch in Peshawar, Pakistan, in the eighties to support the jihadis in Afghanistan. The office was subsidized by Usama bin. The Muslim League evolved something called the Rabita Trust in Pakistan. According to the U.S. Government post 9/11, it provided financial and logistic support for bin Laden and was designated as an illegal corporation.
Another organization, hq-ed in Jeddah, the International Islamic Relief Organization, maintained a military training camp in Afghanistan in 2000.
The Jamestown Foundation, which has shined the kind of unblinking eye on Putin’s insalubrious record in Chechnya that, in another context, would drive a typical Poe character to murder, has a nice interview with Jonathan Winer on the situation in Yemen. Winer mentions that the Afghanistan vets embedded themselves in the Yemen security
force. This is interesting in itself, since it shows us the vehicle by which Al Qaeda sympathizers can escape surveillance.
TM: Could you comment on terrorist financing as it relates specifically to Yemen, including any links with government officials?
JW: There are three or four main strands when it comes to this subject. One is the honey trade, with Abu Zubaidah and Khalil al Deek - both al-Qaeda members - who have been linked to the honey business. This is one sector.
The second sector involves the entities Osama bin Laden got going a decade ago in Yemen, including companies dealing with electrical appliances, ceramics, and publishing. These were operated through middle men and were linked to certain tribes: the Sana'a, the Sa'dah, and the Abayan. It is difficult to know a decade later to what extent these operations still exist.
There is also a huge amount of activity related to the Palestinians, especially Hamas, with the president of the country openly encouraging Yemenis to send arms and money to that group as recently as 2003. Charities and religious institutions have also been linked to support for terrorism. [...] Another aspect of the problem is the hawala dars [informal network for money transfer], who are tied to narcotics traffickers. They also have links to money launderers in the US, especially in New York.
TM: Were there strong ties to Afghanistan prior to September 11?
JW: Yes, with the most prominent and important links being those involving Sheikh Abdul Majid al-Zindani, who has been very close to Osama bin Laden. Zindani is a major player in Yemeni politics and has likely been as significant a threat as has existed to Salih's control of the country. He was the central figure sending Yemenis to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban and the central figure training and recruiting them as well. Zindani was designated as a global terrorist by the U.S. Treasury this February, and Yemen was asked to freeze all of his assets. Treasury has charged him with actively recruiting for al-Qaeda training camps and purchasing weapons on behalf of al-Qaeda and other terrorists. He was a leader of the Islamic Front, formed to channel Yemeni volunteers to the Afghan Jihad while enhancing Riyadh's influence in Yemen. The Islamic Front in turn evolved into the Islah party. Although Islah is part of the current government, it and Zindani also represent a major source of covert and overt opposition to Salih's government .
TM: Were there strong ties between members of the Yemeni government and Al Qaeda prior to September 11?
JW: Yemen was a prime location for the building of al-Qaeda in the early 1990's with Zindani and his Al-Iman University playing a substantial role in recruitment. Yemen also housed a number of Osama bin Laden's business interests. It's difficult to determine from the outside how governmental and private business interests relating to al-Qaeda were intertwined in Yemen prior to September 11. The government of Yemen has been largely run by and for a small group close to the president of the country. Corruption is rampant in the private and public sector, extending to the higher levels and exemplified by government conferred monopolies and contracting and licensing abuses. So to the extent that bin Laden had businesses in Yemen, senior officials or friends of the government of Yemen likely played some facilitation role at least. Separately, it is also pretty clear that there was senior support for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda in Yemen's police, security and military services prior to September 11.”
Douglas Farah, the Washington Post reporter whose book on the Blood Diamonds is sitting on my desk, the victim of an interview project that never got off the ground, had this to say about the intermediaries between the money al q.’s auxiliaries were making in Africa and the use of that money by Al Qaeda:
"Since it is exempt from international reporting requirements for financial transactions, gold is a favored commodity in laundering money from drug trafficking, organized crime and terrorist activities, U.S. officials said. In addition, Dubai, one of seven sheikhdoms that make up the United Arab Emirates, has one of the world's largest and least regulated gold markets, making it an ideal place to hide.
"Dubai is also one of the region's most open banking centers and is the commercial capital of the United Arab Emirates, one of three countries that maintained diplomatic relations with the Taliban until shortly after Sept. 11. Sitting at a strategic crossroad of the Gulf, South Asia and Africa, Dubai has long been a financial hub for Islamic militant groups. Much of the $500,000 used to fund the Sept. 11 attacks came through Dubai, investigators believe.
' "All roads lead to Dubai when it comes to money," said Patrick Jost, who until last year was a senior financial enforcement officer in the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. "Everyone did business there." When the U.S. bombs began pounding Taliban and Al Qaeda targets last autumn, the rush of gold and money out of Afghanistan intensified.
The Pakistani financial authorities said that $2 million to $3 million a day is usually hand-carried by couriers from Karachi to Dubai, mostly to buy gold. Late last year that amount increased significantly as money was moved out of Afghanistan, they said."
Let’s do this Donald Rumsfeld style.
Were there any charities in Iraq funneling money to Al Qaeda? No. No charities have popped up equivalent to the Muslim League, et al, which functioned in Saudi Arabia.
Did the government of Iraq send money or arms to Al Qaeda? Here is a nice line from the 9/11 commission : “The September 11th commission report said that a senior Iraqi intelligence official reportedly met with bin Laden in 1994 in Sudan, and bin Laden "is said to have requested space to establish training camps, as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but Iraq apparently never responded."
Have any news reporters asked this simple question of Dick Cheney? No.
Will any news reporters ask this question of Cheney or Bush? No.
Why? Reporters have one parameter above all others: never embarrass the powerful unless you are sure they are absolutely unable to get revenge. There is a pretence in the press that there is a difference between celebrity journalism and hard journalism. There isn't.
Support for Al Qaeda can be financial, moral, or logistical. Logistical support is rather mixed with financial support – the two can’t be completely separated. But for LI’s purposes, we will take logistics to be about training or any kind of military or intelligence cooperation with Al Qaeda.
Since so much has been made of the supposed contact between some Iraqi official and Mohammed Atta, a contact that the FBI has pretty much scotched – to believe it, one has to believe that Atta somehow had such foreknowledge of his posthumous reputation that he deliberately seeded a cut out in the U.S. to cover his connection to the Iraqis, which is standard logical procedure for Kennedy assassination conspiracy freaks – lets look at a connection for which the administration has supplied much less publicity – that between the chief of the Pakistan ISI, Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmad, who by coincidence was in the U.S. on 9/11, and Atta, who was also, as we know, in the U.S. that day – no cutouts need apply.
Here’s the story that the Times of India broke in the wake of 9/11:
“NEW DELHI: While the Pakistani Inter Services Public Relations claimed that former ISI director-general Lt-Gen Mahmud Ahmad sought retirement after being superseded on Monday, the truth is more shocking.
Top sources confirmed here on Tuesday, that the general lost his job because of the "evidence" India produced to show his links to one of the suicide bombers that wrecked the World Trade Centre. The US authorities sought his removal after confirming the fact that $100,000 were wired to WTC hijacker Mohammed Atta from Pakistan by Ahmad Umar Sheikh at the instance of Gen Mahumd.”
This is aid with a vengeance. Ahmad Umar Sheikh at that time was pretty much unknown to Americans. However, he’s become known since, as the organizer of the murder of Daniel Pearl. In fact, he is in captivity in Pakistan. Apparently, the U.S. government is superbly uninterested in whether the Indian secret service story is correct. One would think that the war on terrorism, or the 9/11 commission, or someone might be interested in a man who, it is claimed, sent money to Atta in the pre 9/11 period. Especially as we are willing to go to war on the claim that Atta might have met an Iraqi agent, if he had the power of supernatural co-location and could have existed in Virginia and Prague at the same time.
Here’s a recent story about the Sheikh:
“ISLAMABAD, January 19 (Online): Authorities plan to interrogate a convicted man in the murder plot of US journalist Daniel Pearl over his group’s possible involvement in an assassination attempt on President General Pervez Musharraf, security officials said on Sunday.
The British-born, Ahmad Saeed Umar Sheikh is to be shifted to Rawalpindi "soon", the official said on condition of anonymity. Investigators probing the Christmas day attempt on Musharraf’s life believe one of the suicide bombers identified as Muhammad Jamil, from Rawlakot in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, belonged to the Harkat Jihad-e-Islami, which is blamed in Pearl’s murder, he added.”
The connection between the Pearl murder and 9/11 is Bernard Henri-Levy’s obsession – which is perhaps why the assertion is better known in France than in the U.S.
The question is, what would give that accusation credibility? And, more importantly, if the Iraq connection to Al Qaeda turns out to be much less significant than the Pakistan connection – down to a possible financing of the feat – why don’t we ask questions of the Cheney’s and Bush’s about the matter?
We will do another post soon on the ISI.