And Then There Was Woolsey…

A propos yesterday’s “Tenet v. Perle” post, it might be useful to note that James Woolsey, Perle’s colleague on the Defense Policy Board (DPB) and fellow-board member of any number of neo-conservative groups, was virtually ubiquitous on television and in the print media in the week that followed the 9/11 attacks, suggesting to anyone who would listen that Saddam was not only linked to al Qaeda, but may very well have played a role in the attacks themselves.

Given close and multiple associations with Perle, Woolsey’s remarks in the immediate wake of the 9/11 attacks make completely implausible Perle’s statement in his recent and controversial “The Case for War” production on PBS that, “I didn’t hear statements to the effect that Iraq was responsible for 9/11.”

In any event, here are some examples of Woolsey’s wisdom on the subject of Iraq’s possible complicity in the 9/11 attacks over the ensuing couple of day. I suspect he repeated that wisdom in the DPB meetings chaired by Perle a few days later.

Sep 11, “The Newshour with Jim Lehrer”, ‘Day of Terror’:

“But I think the key thing is what David said earlier about nation states — because Iraq has a lot of incentives to damage the United States heavily. There was an FBI agent in charge of the early investigation of the World Trade Center bombing in 1993, Jim Fox, who had the view that there may well have been Iraqi government involvement in that. The Clinton administration, Justice Department, brushed that aside after the time but some of the information that came out at trial that had been under grand jury secrecy during the investigation looks as if there may well have been Iraqi government involvement. And this time this administration, I hope and trust, will not brush aside the idea that there might be state involvement. We may well find that Osama bin Laden or some other terrorist group in the MidEast or elsewhere, probably the MidEast, is behind this. But they may well be a subcontractor or a junior partner. There conceivably could be a state behind this.”

Sep 11, “ABC News”, ‘Special Report ‘America Under Attack’:

“But there is at least a plausible case that there was Iraqi government involvement in the World Trade Center bombing back in 1993. This all has to do with the identity, the true identity of Ramsey Yousef, who was the mastermind, who’s in prison out in Colorado now. At his sentencing the judge said, ‘We still don’t really know who you are.’ And if there was a chance that there was Iraqi government involvement in that, since Yousef was the mastermind of the World Trade Center and of a bombing plot in the Pacific which he was working on when he was caught, to have a lot of American Airlines in the Pacific blown up, what happened today is a sort of amalgam of the earlier two Ramsey Yousef plots. It’s at least, I think, interesting that that’s the case. And–and if some of the observers, Laurie Mylroie and others, are correct that there’s a reasonable chance that he was, in fact, involved with the Iraqi government, there could also be a chance the Iraqi government is involved here, even if bin Laden or other terrorist groups are as well.”

“But it’s not impossible that terrorist groups could work together with the government, that–the Iraqi government has been quite closely involved with a number of Sunni terrorist groups and–and on some matters has had contact with bin Laden.”

Sep 12 , “NBC News”, ‘Attack on America’:

“And one thing, again, coming back to Iraq, you need to realize is that a number of these fundamentalist groups and individuals, have increasingly close relationships with Iraq. The Bath Party, Saddam’s party, historically was like the Communist Party, was an anti-religious party. But a decade or so ago, that began to change, and Saddam has gone out of his way to make common cause with some of these fundamentalist terrorist groups, and they with him. It’s a–it’s a very unhappy alliance.”

“And one final point here, Tom, we may not in this case be dealing solely with autonomous terrorist organizations. There are a number of indicia that bin Laden’s group was involved–that may well turn out to be true, indeed they may have been the central operators, but that doesn’t mean that there can’t be some state sponsorship or guidance or assistance behind them. And one candidate for that, one possible candidate, is the government of Iraq.”

Sep 12, “CNN”, ‘America Under Attack’:

“It may be all over these attacks. And I think that might make us a bit suspicious that is something else might be up. Certainly Bin Laden may well have been deeply involved and may have been the operational figure and his people in this, but that doesn’t mean that he acted alone.

When I see Bin Laden issuing fatwahs, religious edicts, putting out videotapes, issuing poems, having his subordinates talk about how they’re taking part in terrorism against the United States, I begin to think that maybe we’re supposed to focus solely on Bin Laden. And there might be something else in train.

My suspicion — it’s no more than that at this point — is that there could be some government action involved together with Bin Laden or a major terrorist group. And one strong suspect there I think would be the government of Iraq.”

“But he (Bush) used a word, “harbor,” which he used last night. A harbor for terrorists might be, say, the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. But there may be more involved than harbors here, there may be a government other than a harbor, such as the Iraqi government, that is orchestrating this to some extent, funding it, working closely on it behind bin Laden or some other terrorist group. I very much hope the Bush administration, unlike Clinton administration, will not set aside this possibility and assume that everything is just a terrorist group, even a terrorist group as major as bin Laden’s. It really need to look carefully at the possibility there may be state sponsorship here, and I think the most likely, certainly not the only possibility is Iraq.”

Sep 12, “LA Times’, “Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold” (op-ed coauthored by Woolsey and Mansoor Ijaz):

“The planning, coordination and access to information required to carry out the virtually simultaneous attacks in New York and Washington point significantly to the involvement of state sponsorship. The diplomatic cover, intelligence data and financial resources needed to conduct this war against the United States can only be offered by a regime whose track record against U.S. interests is proven, and Iraq comes immediately to mind.”

Jim Lobe

Jim Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington DC bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement.