'If anything, Mr. Bush in recent times has not stressed Saddam's ties to al Qaeda nearly enough. More than ever, as we now discuss the bombings in London, or, to name a few others, Madrid, Casablanca, Bali, Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, or the many bombings in Israel--as well as the attacks on the World Trade Center in both 1993 and 2001--it is important to understand that terrorist connections can be real, and lethal, and portend yet more murder, even when they are shadowy, shifting and complex. And it is vital to send the message to regimes in such places as Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran that in matters of terrorist ties, the Free World is not interested in epistemological debates over what constitutes a connection. We are not engaged in a court case, or a classroom debate. We are fighting a war.
But in the debates over Iraq, that part of the communication has become far too muddied. Documents found in Iraq are doubted; confessions by detainees are received as universally suspect; reports of meetings between officials of the former Iraqi regime and al Qaeda operatives are discounted as having been nothing more than empty formalities, with such characters shuttling between places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan, perhaps to share tea and cookies. Any conclusions or even inferences about contacts between Saddam's regime and al Qaeda are subjected these days to the kind of metaphysical test in which existence itself becomes a highly dubious philosophical problem, mired in the difficulty of ever really being certain about anything at all.'
'The difficulty lies in piecing together the picture, which is indeed murky (that being part of the aim in covert dealings between tyrants and terrorist groups)--but rich enough in depth and documented detail so that the basic shape is clear. By the time Mr. Hayes is done tabulating the cross-connections, meetings, Iraqi Intelligence memos unearthed after the fall of Saddam, and information obtained from detained terrorist suspects, you have to believe there was significant collaboration between Iraq and al Qaeda. Or you have to inhabit a universe in which there will never be a demonstrable connection between any of the terrorist attacks the world has suffered over the past dozen years, or any tyrant and any aspiring terrorist. In that fantasyland, all such phenomena are independent events.
Mr. Bush, in calling attention to the Iraq-al Qaeda connection in the first place, did the right thing. For the U.S. president to confirm that clearly and directly at this stage, with some of the abundant supporting evidence now available, might seem highly controversial. But reviving that controversy would help settle it more squarely in line with the truth.'