On MSNBC, Don Imus failed to challenge White House press secretary Tony Snow's false claim that President Bush never linked the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the regime of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. In fact, both Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have done so.
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On the June 14 edition of MSNBC's Imus in the Morning, host Don Imus failed to challenge White House press secretary Tony Snow's false claim that President Bush has never linked the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the regime of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Snow claimed that Bush told him and NBC's Tim Russert that "there's no demonstrated link between Saddam [Hussein] and 9-11, and we're never going to make that argument." Snow then asserted that Bush "never has" claimed such a link. But both Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have, in fact, explicitly linked Iraq to 9-11.
Bush did so in a March 21, 2003, letter to the speaker of the House of Representatives and president pro tempore of the Senate notifying them of the use of military force in Iraq after the failure of diplomacy, as Media Matters for America has previously noted. In the letter, Bush stated that "the use of armed force against Iraq is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001."
In addition, Cheney also linked Iraq to 9-11 during two appearances on Russert's NBC program Meet the Press, as Media Matters for America has also noted. On the December 9, 2001, edition of Meet the Press, Russert asked Cheney if he "still believe[s] there is no evidence that Iraq was involved in September 11," and the vice president responded falsely that it was "pretty well confirmed" that an Iraqi intelligence officer met with September 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta shortly before the attacks. Then, on the September 14, 2003, edition of the NBC program, Cheney repeated his claim that Iraq and 9-11 are linked, saying: "If we're successful in Iraq ... we will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9-11."
Moreover, the 9-11 Commission found that Bush asked his staff to explore possible links between Iraq and 9-11 as early as September 12, 2001. The 9-11 Commission's report noted that, according to former national counterterrorism coordinator Richard A. Clarke, Bush asked him on the evening of September 12 to investigate possible Iraqi links to the previous day's attacks:
Clarke has written that on the evening of September 12, President Bush told him and some of his staff to explore possible Iraqi links to 9/11. "See if Sad-dam did this," Clarke recalls the President telling them. "See if he's linked in any way." While he believed the details of Clarke's account to be incorrect, President Bush acknowledged [in an April 29, 2004, interview with the commission] that he might well have spoken to Clarke at some point, asking him about Iraq.
The commission noted that, on September 18, 2001, Clarke's office sent then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice a response memo on the subject. It "found no 'compelling case' that Iraq had either planned or perpetrated the attacks." A March 29, 2004, New York Times article reported that "The White House acknowledged ... that on the day after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush asked his top counterterrorism adviser, Richard A. Clarke, to find out whether Iraq was involved." The Times also noted Clarke's recollection -- disputed by the White House -- of his response to the president:
Mr. Clarke was incredulous, he said in [his] book [Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror (Free Press, March 2004)]. "But, Mr. President, Al Qaeda did this," he said he responded.
Mr. Bush answered: "I know, I know, but ... see if Saddam was involved. Just look. I want to know any shred," according to Mr. Clarke's account.
From the June 14 edition of MSNBC's Imus in the Morning:
IMUS: You mentioned Al Qaeda and 9-11. You guys are not still suggesting there was some link there, are you?
SNOW: Between Al Qaeda and 9-11? The president's never -- of course there's a link between Al Qaeda and 9-11. Osama bin Laden's the head of Al Qaeda.
IMUS: Well, yeah, I understand that, but --
SNOW: You're, you're, you're -- what you're trying to say is Iraq --
IMUS: What I meant is Iraq, yeah.
SNOW: No, Iraq's a front of the war on terror. [Al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-] Zarqawi clearly was in Iraq when it started. But, I mean, I've been around. And Russert and I were both in a meeting with the president before that first day -- even after September 11. The president back then said there's no demonstrated link between Saddam and 9-11, and we're never going to make that argument, and he never has.