- President George Bush, 1 May 2003 "The liberation
of Iraq removed... an ally of al-Qa'ida."
- Vice-President Cheney, 22 January 2004 "There's
overwhelming evidence... of a connection between al-Qa'ida and Iraq."
- Donald Rumsfeld, 14 November 2002 "Within a week,
or a month, Saddam could give his WMD to al-Qa'ida."
- Condoleezza Rice, 17 September 2003 "Saddam was
a danger in the region where the 9/11 threat emerged."
- The Bush administration's credibility was dealt a devastating
blow yesterday when the commission investigating the attacks of 11 September
said there was no credible evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime had assisted
al-Qa'ida - something repeatedly suggested by the President and his senior
officials and held up as a reason for the invasion of Iraq.
- A report by the independent commission said while there
were contacts between Iraq and al-Qa'ida operatives in the 1990s, it appeared
Osama bin Laden's requests for a partnership were rebuffed. "We have
no credible evidence that Iraq and al-Qa'ida co-operated on attacks against
the United States," the commission said. It also discounted widespread
claims that Mohamed Atta, the hijackers' ringleader, met an Iraqi intelligence
official in Prague.
- The report forced the Bush administration on to the defensive,
as it appeared to undermine one of its key justifications for the invasion
- While Mr Bush has been forced to admit there was no specific
evidence to link Saddam to 11 September, his deputy, Dick Cheney, claimed
on Monday that the former Iraqi leader was "a patron of terrorism
[with] long-established ties with al-Qa'ida''.
- Last autumn Mr Cheney referred to the disputed meeting
between Atta and an Iraqi official in the Czech Republic.
- Critics of the White House say there was a deliberate
policy to manipulate public opinion and create an association between Saddam
and the attacks on New York and Washington. If true, such a plan has certainly
been successful: a poll taken last September by the Washington Post newspaper
found 69 per cent of Americans believed that Saddam was involved in the
11 September attacks.
- The Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry seized
on the commission's report last night. "The administration misled
America and the administration reached too far," he told Michigan
National Public Radio.
- The commission's report - issued at the start of its
final two days of public hearings into the circumstances surrounding the
attacks - confirmed that in the early Nineties al-Qa'ida and Saddam's regime
had made overtures to each other.
- In 1994, for instance, Saddam had dispatched a senior
intelligence official to Sudan to meet Bin Laden, making three visits before
he finally met the al-Qa'ida leader.
- Bin Laden requested help to procure weapons and establish
training camps but Iraq did not respond, the report said. There were also
reports of contact with Bin Laden once he moved to Afghanistan in 1996
but these "do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship".
It added: "Two senior Bin Laden associates have adamantly denied that
any ties existed between al-Qa'ida and Iraq." The commission's report
also revealed that the initial plan for the attack on the US - drawn up
by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a senior al-Qa'ida operative who is now in US
custody - envisioned a much broader assault, simultaneously targeting 10
different US cities on both the east and west coasts.
- That expanded target list included the FBI headquarters
in the plot was to have been the 10th plane - on which he which personally
have flown. Rather than attacking a building, Mohammed would have killed
all of the male passengers on board, before contacting media and landing
at an airport where he would have released women and children. He then
was to make a speech denouncing the US. That ambitious plan was rejected
by Bin Laden, who gave his approval to a scaled-back mission involving
four planes and costing as little as between $4-500,000. Mohammed had wanted
to use more hijackers for those planes - 25 or 26, instead of 19. It said
at least 10 other al-Qa'ida operatives who were initially due to participate
in the attacks had been identified. They did not take part in the mission
for a variety of reasons including visa problems and suspicions by airport
officials in the US.
- The report also revealed that the plot was riven by internal
dissent, including over whether to target the White House or the Capitol
building that were apparently not resolved prior to the attacks. Bin Laden
also had to overcome opposition to attacking the US from Mullah Omar, leader
of the former Taliban regime, who was under pressure from Pakistan to keep
- The commission confirmed that al-Qa'ida, though drastically
changed and decentralised since 9-11, retained regional networks that were
seeking to attack the US.
- "Al-Qa'ida remains extremely interested in conducting
chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear attacks," said the report.
It said that its ability to conduct an anthrax attack is one of the most
immediate threats. The network may also try to attack a chemical plant
or shipment of hazardous materials, or to use industrial chemicals as a
- The report said the CIA estimated the network spent $30m
a year before September 11 on training camps and terrorist operations.
The money was also used to support the Taliban.
- © 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd http://news.independent.co.uk/world/americas/story.jsp?story=532341