Yes, that’s right: Iraq under Saddam sponsored terrorism

Another of Trump's favorite strongmen.

Another of Trump’s favorite strongmen.

In doing a fact-check on Donald Trump’s assertion that Saddam Hussein was “so good” at killing terrorists (and yes, he got four Pinocchios), The Washington Post reminded us of some history.

Namely, that rather than being some anti-terrorist scourge, Saddam was officially considered by the United States to be a state sponsor of terror.

Because, you know, he was.

What I remember knowing back before our invasion of 2003 was that he used to send $25,000 cash payments — bounties, if you will — to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers who killed Israelis.

Here’s the thing about Saddam, though: He was “so good” at killing terrorists (and he called all domestic opponents of his regime terrorists) inside Iraq. Just because he was “good” at killing anyone he saw as posing a challenge to his absolute control of the country. Frankly — just to stick up for Trump a bit here — I think they could have taken off one of the Pinocchios for that. Even though Saddam wasn’t killing them to make the world a safer place, but to hold onto dictatorial power.

But when it came to terrorists striking at the rest of the world — well, he was all for that.

Anyway, here’s an excerpt from the Post’s story:

Hussein’s regime was a long-standing supporter of international terrorism and was designated as a state sponsor of terrorism by the State Department before the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.

In 2007, the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), a think tank for national security agencies, published a five-volume report, “Saddam and Terrorism.” The report, compiled after hundreds of thousands of Iraqi documents became available after Iraq fell, highlighted relationships between Hussein’s regime and regional and global terrorism. The report details how Hussein nurtured relationships with terrorist groups, especially Palestinian ones. (We explored this issue in a 2014 fact-check.)

Among its major findings was that there was no direct connection between Hussein’s Iraq and al-Qaeda  calling attention to the premise of one of George W. Bush administration’s justifications for invading Iraq. But the report found that at times, their short-term goals overlapped….

One of the charges I used to get a lot from my antiwar friends was that we supposedly went to war on the erroneous belief that Saddam was responsible for 9/11. As I always had to explain, that wasn’t something I ever believed or tried to get anyone else to believe. But there was no question that outside his borders, he was often a friend to terrorists…


25 thoughts on “Yes, that’s right: Iraq under Saddam sponsored terrorism

  1. bud

    Given how utterly bankrupt your position is on Iraq I can’t believe you have the audacity to bring it up.

  2. Tex

    The question is, will you do any anti-Hillary articles before November. The anti-Trump articles are almost daily.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I am FASCINATED by such observations from Trumpkins. What is it that they’re looking for? Hardly a week goes by that I don’t say something about Hillary Clinton’s flaws. But of course, those comments occur against the background of this extraordinarily horrible election.

      Nothing I could ever possibly come up with to say about the problems that Hillary Clinton poses comes within light years of the awfulness, the sheer horror, the national nightmare that is Donald Trump.

      Our nation has never in my lifetime come anywhere near the danger that it now faces in the form of that supremely (and proudly) ignorant, aggressively malignant, neofascist Trump.

      And Hillary Clinton, as little as I like her, is all that stands in his way now.

      To any Republican who complains that I’m not sounding the alarm more about her faults, I have only this to say: You and the other members of your party had your chance. You had a number of fine candidates running for president this year who would have been better than Hillary Clinton. You rejected all of them, in favor of this caricature of awfulness, Donald Trump.

      Don’t look at me. Look in the mirror. I did my part. I voted in the SC GOP primary for John Kasich. What did you do? If you, like me, voted for a sane person with actual qualifications, then you have room to talk. But the people you should be talking to are those in the majority of your party, who voted to send our nation spiraling downward into madness…

      1. Bryan Caskey

        I wonder if South Carolina had been a closed primary – would Trump have won? I’m sure there was a non-zero number of Democrats who crossed over to vote for Trump in the SC GOP Primary. I think bud claimed he did so. This guy has a breakdown of the numbers where he claims it was a significant amount. I don’t know enough about it to say he’s conclusively right or wrong, but I would say that it’s certainly a non-zero number. If this guy is right, the crossover votes succeeded in their goal. Trump is the GOP nominee, and he’ll lose to Hillary in the general election.

        All’s fair in love and war and elections, I guess.

        Just something to think about before we heap all the blame on the GOP for Trump.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          “All’s fair in love and war and elections, I guess.”

          Absolutely not! Any Democrat who ever deliberately votes in a GOP primary for the purpose of choosing the worst candidate is performing a deeply contemptible, antisocial act. In this case, the act borders on criminality. I have often said before that even in the best of circumstances, I firmly believe anyone who did such a thing should lose his or her right to vote, if it can be proved. In a case such as this, some greater penalty should be devised.

          Why? It should be obvious why, and it astounds me that I find myself explaining it so often. Why? Because this is not a f___ing game.

          Because the person you’re voting for could win. I mean, why do I even have to point this out?

          When you vote for a grossly incompetent, malevolent nightmare of a candidate in a presidential primary, you are voting for that person to become President of the United States, with all the horrors that entails. Why is that? Because you do not control who wins the general election. An infinity of things can happen to cause anyone, no matter how grossly unqualified, to win an election, once he or she has a major-party nomination.

          What on Earth is so hard to see about this?

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          Yikes! I just followed that link you provided, and the guy asserting that Democrats threw the vote to Trump says that without that, Ted Cruz would have won!

          Not Jeb Bush. Not John Kasich. Not any actual thinkable alternative — Ted Cruz!

          As Lindsey Graham so rightly said, the choice between Cruz and Trump was, for the GOP, a choice between different methods of suicide. I’d have thrown in Ben Carson, who wasn’t as malevolent as Cruz or Trump, but was just as clueless as Trump.

          So if you mean to defend actual Republicans, save your breath. According to this guy with his conspiracy theory about Democrats, the true-blue Republicans would have given us Cruz…

        3. Doug Ross

          Bryan – I’m not saying Trump will win, but are you CERTAIN Trump will lose? I think you underestimate the level of hatred toward Hillary. There are states that she will never win. And she has laid low as long as possible to try and avoid any mistakes. We’re entering the crazy period of the election where anything might happen.

          How confident are you? Would you give me 2:1 odds? 5:1? 10:1?

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            No. No one can be certain that Trump will lose. Even if the Democrat was someone who was not so despised — say, Joe Biden — no one could be certain Trump would lose. There are always too many variables. Capturing the nomination of any major party puts ANY candidate, no matter how grossly unqualified, within reach of the Oval Office. Given the abominably partisan voting habits of the American voting public, any nominee starts out with a more-or-less guaranteed 40 percent, and only needs a few things to break his or her way to win.

            Which is why it is so grotesquely irresponsible for any Democrat to have crossed over and voted for Trump in a primary…

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    Lol. He ain’t gonna win, but I’ll drink a beer with you anyway.

                    You can toast Hillary and I’ll drink to…something else.

                    Have a good weekend, commentariat.

        4. Brad Warthen Post author

          But we need not ascribe any credibilty to this guy’s assertions, and not only because he’s one of those idiots who doesn’t understand that “Democrat” is a noun, and that the adjective is “Democratic.” We’ll forgive him that (to an extent), since he claims to be a numbers guy, and therefore not anyone with a clue about words.

          The trouble is, his interpretation of numbers is deeply illogical. First, he attributes the increase in turnout in 2012 and 2016 entirely to Democrats. What this tells us is that he is one of these hyperpartisans who believes there are only two kinds of voters, Democrats and Republicans — entirely counting out the other third of the electorate, independents.

          Reason would tell any fair-minded person that when there is a contested race on the Republican side and none to speak of on the Democratic side, the most likely result is that independents would flock to the Republican contest. And yet this guy assumes that we’re talking about Democrats.

          Here’s the second absurdity in his analysis: He assumes that those “extra” people flocking to the GOP primary voted for Trump. He presents no evidence to back up this highly questionable assertion. For all he knows, the “extra” vote, containing lots of independents and some Democrats, was evenly divided among Kasich, Rubio and other less-insane choices. (This guy’s actual cited numbers support this, as he repeatedly notes that “heavily Democrat counties — by which he means “heavily Democratic counties” — went for Rubio.)

          When you pointed me to this piece, I assumed I was going to be seeing an argument based in exit polling — the only possible reliable source for such assertions. But no — all I saw was unsupported nonsense based in this guy’s super-partisan assumptions…

          Oh, and if what I’ve said fails to convince you, riddle me this: Why did Trump win just as strongly in states that did NOT hold open primaries? This piece was written in February, when all we had to look at was New Hampshire and S.C. Subsequent events have completely thrown out this guy’s assumptions…

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Man, but that piece was hard to get through. The guy wrote “Democrat” when he meant “Democratic” SEVEN TIMES.

            Each time, for me, was like fingernails on a chalkboard.

            Not just because I’m such a pedant — I am — but because I recognize the partisan malevolence behind this tortured usage.

            After 40 years of Republicans regularly doing this, I’m sure there are SOME who actually do not know any better. They’ve heard it so much that they think it’s correct. That’s contemptible, but not as awful as doing it deliberately.

            But those who DO know better are just incredibly obnoxious. Because “democratic,” in a different sense, refers to something that most people in this country regard as good, these partisans absolutely refuse to use the term to refer to their opponents.

            The sheer pettiness of that is an ugly thing.

          2. Bryan Caskey

            Like I said, I don’t know enough to say that if his analysis is flawed or not. You make a compelling case that it is flawed.

            But for whatever it’s worth, I’d be interested to see the number of folks like bud who voted for Trump to pave the way for Hillary.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              I don’t know that Bud did that — I recall that he has DEFENDED doing that on multiple occasions, though.

              If Bud did, I don’t think I want to know…

        5. bud

          Full disclosure. I voted for Bernie but suggested after Hillary essentially clinched that it would be a wise choice for Democrats to crossover and vote for Trump. My view is that the defeat of the GOP is the most important consideration this time around. And Trump represented the best chance to eliminate as many “vermin” as possible. (Metaphorically speaking of course). The continued hearing mania by the GOP house confirms the soundness of that strategy.

  3. clark surratt

    So, Hussein murdered Jews, murdered his own people with poisonous gas, starved thousands more, invaded other nations and was an international terrorist, and there is near unanimous belief that it was a mistake for the U.S. to go in a depose this man who was easily as evil as Hitler and Stalin. Now, we are involved in about six shooting wars with not much protest. Is it only the money spent or the number of shots fired in killing people that sets the standard? Is a little war OK, but a larger one that takes out one of the world’s most evil dictators a big mistake?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I’m reminded of this Notable & Quotable item from the WSJ the other day. It was the late Christopher Hitchens writing about how tired he was, way back in 2005, of hearing about how “wrong” he’d been on Iraq:

      Christopher Hitchens, writing in the Sept. 5, 2005, issue of the Weekly Standard:

      “You said there were WMDs in Iraq and that Saddam had friends in al Qaeda. . . . Blah, blah, pants on fire.” I have had many opportunities to tire of this mantra. It takes ten seconds to intone the said mantra. It would take me, on my most eloquent C-SPAN day, at the very least five minutes to say that Abdul Rahman Yasin, who mixed the chemicals for the World Trade Center attack in 1993, subsequently sought and found refuge in Baghdad; that Dr. Mahdi Obeidi, Saddam’s senior physicist, was able to lead American soldiers to nuclear centrifuge parts and a blueprint for a complete centrifuge (the crown jewel of nuclear physics) buried on the orders of Qusay Hussein; that Saddam’s agents were in Damascus as late as February 2003, negotiating to purchase missiles off the shelf from North Korea; or that Rolf Ekeus, the great Swedish socialist who founded the inspection process in Iraq after 1991, has told me for the record that he was offered a $2 million bribe in a face-to-face meeting with Tariq Aziz. And these eye-catching examples would by no means exhaust my repertoire, or empty my quiver. Yes, it must be admitted that Bush and Blair made a hash of a good case, largely because they preferred to scare people rather than enlighten them or reason with them. Still, the only real strategy of deception has come from those who believe, or pretend, that Saddam Hussein was no problem.

  4. Phillip

    Hitchens—may he rest in peace—so brilliant, but still not above trotting out that tired old straw man, again: “those who believe, or pretend, that Saddam Hussein was no problem.” Would that mean that those who might think it unwise to attack North Korea more or less unilaterally would therefore be defining North Korea as “no problem” ? Were (and are) these the only choices—either you think a regime is “no problem,” or if it is a matter of concern, yes even grave concern, you attack?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I don’t think you think that. I do think a couple of my friends here think that way. Some of our more isolationist friends frequently express the notion that nobody in the world is a problem for us unless they’re crossing our borders or landing on our shores.

      That said, it’s true that when Hitchens was ready to make an argument, he took no prisoners.

      I’m glad you added “more or less” to “unilaterally.” Otherwise, I’d be upset, since we did not invade Iraq “unilaterally.”

      Yep, we committed the most troops by far, but hey — even in the most just war you can think of (assuming you can think of one), that would most likely be the case…

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