June 20, 2004

The Iraq-Qaeda Link: A Short History

MULTIMEDIA

What the Bush Administration Said
Graphic: What the Bush Administration Said
What the Polls Said
Graphic: What the Polls Said
By TOM ZELLER
For nearly three years, murky speculation, innuendo and inaccurate information have kept a connection between Saddam Hussein and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 alive in the American mind. Even as late as April, as the 9/11 Commission marched toward its ultimate conclusion, announced last Thursday, that no such connection could be found, 40 percent of the American population still believed in the link such a link.

That’s down considerably from two years ago, and new surveys, taken in light of the commission’s assertion, may undercut support for the idea even further.

But the more immediate result of the panel’s findings was a flurry of fingerpointing from both sides. Some took aim at the news media, which critics argued made mush out of the intelligence coming out of the war on terror. Others pointed to what opponents of the Bush administration have called a deliberate campaign to implicate Iraq, however tangentially, in the Sept. 11 attacks, as a means of gaining support for the war. The administration countered that it never claimed a link between Iraq and 9/11, but rather a “relationship” between Iraq and the more generalized comings and goings of Al Qaeda.

Just what that relationship may have been, at what official levels it may have flourished, or, indeed, whether any real relationship ever existed, has never been conclusively laid out. Given the shadowy nature of international terror, it may well never be — which, strangely, should provide safe harbor to all sides and confuse the minds of Americans for decades to come.


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