Caplis again misled about purported pre-war link between Iraq and Al Qaeda

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

On his July 12 show, Dan Caplis of 630 KHOW-AM reiterated misleading comments he had made days earlier about the 9-11 Commission report's conclusions regarding the supposed link between Al Qaeda and Iraq prior to the 2003 U.S. invasion. Caplis claimed the report found that "prior to 9-11 apparently Saddam Hussein was trying to lure Osama bin Laden to Iraq to run his operations from Iraq," but Colorado Media Matters found no such conclusion in the report and a 2006 Senate Intelligence Committee report contradicts Caplis' claim.

For the second time in three days, 630 KHOW-AM co-host Dan Caplis misled on a supposed pre-war link between Iraq and Al Qaeda, claiming on July 12 that "according to the 9-11 Commission report, and maybe they're wrong -- prior to 9-11 apparently Saddam Hussein was trying to lure Osama bin Laden to Iraq to run his operations from Iraq." Caplis later referred to his assertion as a "critical fact[] that you can't rebut and contradict." Caplis made a similar claim on the July 10 broadcast of The Caplis & Silverman Show when he said it was a "specific, absolute fact[] from the 9-11 report" that "Iraq was inviting Al Qaeda, inviting bin Laden to set up operations in Iraq."

While the 2004 9-11 Commission report does state that "meetings between Iraqi officials and Bin Ladin or his aides may have occurred in 1999" and that "[a]ccording to the reporting, Iraqi officials offered Bin Ladin a safe haven in Iraq," Colorado Media Matters found nothing in the report about Saddam Hussein trying to "lure" bin Laden "to Iraq to run his operations from Iraq." Furthermore, a 2006 Senate Intelligence Committee report contradicted Caplis' assertion regarding a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq, concluding that Saddam was "distrustful" of Al Qaeda and repeatedly rebuffed Al Qaeda's requests for support.

From the July 12 broadcast of 630 KHOW-AM's The Caplis & Silverman Show:

CAPLIS: When you promise that you will not abandon a people after you've entered their country and deposed their government, and you then abandon them and you leave them to slaughter and you leave their country to be run by terrorist warlords, guess what? Then you've lost all credibility and all ability to deter governments from supporting terrorists. But hey, let's squeeze some sense in.

SILVERMAN: Sounds like what we did in Vietnam.

CAPLIS: Yeah -- well, OK, let's go back to that. "Sounds like what we did in Vietnam." OK. First of all, did the Vietnamese strike us here in America before we entered Vietnam?

SILVERMAN: No.

CAPLIS: Did, did the Viet --

SILVERMAN: But neither did the Iraqis.

CAPLIS: OK. Did, did the Viet Cong, did the Viet Cong -- well first of all, Craig, prior to 9-11, prior -- according to the 9-11 Commission report, and maybe they're wrong -- prior to 9-11 apparently Saddam Hussein was trying to lure Osama bin Laden to Iraq to run his operations from Iraq.

SILVERMAN: I'm --

CAPLIS: That's significant.

SILVERMAN: I'm just basing it on what George W. Bush has said and acknowledged. That Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9-11.

CAPLIS: OK. So you don't want to address my facts; I respect it.

SILVERMAN: You don't want to address George W. Bush's obvious statement. You know, Vietnam is more similar 'cause it was a civil war. It's hard to step into the middle of a civil war. And we made some bad decisions in Vietnam and, and it hurt the country. But it's not going to destroy the country forever; we have to live to fight another day. And Lord knows there will be further battles to fight.

CAPLIS: Listen, if you want to avoid my questions, just say so. I'm asking you a logical, chronological series of questions and then you try to blow smoke by diverting to something else. First of all, prior to 9-11, according to the 9-11 Commission, Saddam Hussein was trying to lure bin Laden to Iraq to set up operations. Prior to 9-11, according to the 9-11 Commission report, Iraqi agents were working with Al Qaeda outside of the airport in Kandahar to develop nerve gas to be used to attack the United States of America. You cannot come up with comparisons to the Viet Cong that match that. In addition, obviously on 9-11 we were hit here in the United States by Al Qaeda. We are now fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq. If we lose in Iraq, Al Qaeda is gonna have Iraq as a base.

[...]

CAPLIS: These are critical facts that you can't rebut and contradict your opinion on this. So, you can try to make light of it any way you want to, but, but the facts are the facts.

It is not clear what Caplis was referring to, but the 9-11 Commission report states that "meetings between Iraqi officials and Bin Ladin or his aides may have occurred in 1999" and that "[a]ccording to the reporting, Iraqi officials offered Bin Ladin a safe haven in Iraq":

There is also evidence that around this time [1997] Bin Ladin sent out a number of feelers to the Iraqi regime, offering some cooperation. None are reported to have received a significant response. According to one report, Saddam Hussein's efforts at this time to rebuild relations with the Saudis and other Middle Eastern regimes led him to stay clear of Bin Ladin.

In mid-1998, the situation reversed; it was Iraq that reportedly took the initiative. In March 1998, after Bin Ladin's public fatwa against the United States, two al Qaeda members reportedly went to Iraq to meet with Iraqi intelligence. In July, an Iraqi delegation traveled to Afghanistan to meet first with the Taliban and then with Bin Ladin. Sources reported that one, or perhaps both, of these meetings was apparently arranged through Bin Ladin's Egyptian deputy, Zawahiri, who had ties of his own to the Iraqis. In 1998, Iraq was under intensifying U.S. pressure, which culminated in a series of large air attacks in December.

Similar meetings between Iraqi officials and Bin Ladin or his aides may have occurred in 1999 during a period of some reported strains with the Taliban. According to the reporting, Iraqi officials offered Bin Ladin a safe haven in Iraq. Bin Ladin declined, apparently judging that his circumstances in Afghanistan remained more favorable than the Iraqi alternative. The reports describe friendly contacts and indicate some common themes in both sides' hatred of the United States. But to date we have seen no evidence that these or the earlier contacts ever developed into a collaborative operational relationship. Nor have we seen evidence indicating that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States. [emphasis added]

Caplis did not inform his listeners that according to the September 8, 2006, Senate Intelligence Committee report, "Postwar findings indicate that Saddam Hussein was distrustful of al-Qa'ida and viewed Islamic extremists as a threat to his regime, refusing all requests from al-Qa'ida to provide material or operational support."

Similar to the 9-11 Commission, the Senate committee concluded that there were instances "in which al-Qa'ida communicated with representatives of Saddam's regime," including a meeting between an Iraqi intelligence officer and bin Laden in 1995, in which the officer reportedly rebuffed the Al Qaeda leader's request for support. Moreover, the committee also noted intelligence indicating that an Al Qaeda operative traveled to Iraq in 1998 and 2002 to request a meeting with Saddam, but was refused in both cases. The Senate committee concluded:

Postwar findings have identified only one meeting between representatives of al-Qa'ida and Saddam Hussein's regime reported in prewar intelligence assessments. Postwar findings have identified two occasions, not reported prior to the war, in which Saddam Hussein rebuffed meeting requests from an al-Qa'ida operative. The Intelligence Community has not found any other evidence of meetings between al-Qa'ida and Iraq. Postwar information indicates there were three instances in which al-Qa'ida communicated with representatives of Saddam's regime, one of which had been identified by the Intelligence Community prior to the war. All of the contacts were initiated by al-Qa'ida. [emphasis in original]

As The Washington Post reported in a September 9, 2006, article about the Senate report, "Far from aligning himself with al-Qaeda and Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Hussein repeatedly rebuffed al-Qaeda's overtures and tried to capture Zarqawi, the report said. Tariq Aziz, the detained former deputy prime minister, has told the FBI that Hussein 'only expressed negative sentiments about [Osama] bin Laden.' "

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