T Nation

Realpolitik

This was posted in another forum by a guy who goes by “Wazier”… It seemed to touch on many of the discussions we have had in here, so I am throwing it out there for you guys.

[quote]In this posting I place before anyone who might be interested in an argument. I take a stand on the facts as I know them, and I rely on the understanding of the members of this forum that it is an argument and not intended as an attack on anyone. It is, in my view, an invitation to reason.

Although few politicians rise to the brilliance of Henry Kissinger, there are shades of Richelieu and Bismarck in who I believe are the individuals that have, along with the President Bush, have succumbed to a species of ideological Groupthink. These individuals, the presidents primary advisors on the issue of the war in Iraq, incude Vice President Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and, by implication, Karl Rove, who I claim manipulated events hidden by orchestrated images of the Presidential intended to influence the public. There may be others, but these advisors have received the most attention in the media. Mentioning them in the context of the most notable figures in the pantheon of the ruthless, the most obscene example of this kind of calculated behavior in recent American history was Henry Kissinger?s treasonous meeting with South Vietnamese leaders to guarantee them a better deal if they walked from the Geneva peace negotiations in 1968. Of course, as we now know, he did succeed and the election of Hubert Humphrey fell to a coup. Five years later and after tens of thousands American deaths, Kissinger made the same deal that was on the table in 1968, and American involvement came to an end. Efforts to bring Kissinger before The Hague War Crimes Tribunal in recent years somehow continues to fail, and his crimes have yet to appear on the radar screens of the American psyche. In the same election that was influenced by Kissinger, the event of the Watergate break in, an event that was consistent with the norms in terms of the politics of the day, took place. When it first appeared in the press, almost everyone shrugged it off. However, the incident did eventually lead to the impeachment of President Richard Nixon, but it was not for the break in itself; it was for the offence of attempting to cover it up and not the actions of the perpetrators who were part of his campaign organization. Some of his subordinates were convicted of participating in the cover up, none were charged for the felony of the break in itself except for those arrested for the act itself.

In lieu of the current scandal of abuse of Iraqis by the American military, the issue I want to argue is the lack of accountability, most often for both the perpetrator of the misconduct in the same fashion as Henry Kissinger, and for the person directly responsible for these abuses, the President of the United States. In terms of these historical examples, it is the question ?why do leaders consistently escape accountability for the misconduct of their followers, and why are subordinates seldom held accountable as well?? The reason for this question is to bring light the same issue as it relates to the abuses of torture and murder of prisoners in Iraq. President Bush has condemned these abhorrent acts and promised that the people who did them will be held accountable. Demands for accountability have made it upstream to Donald Rumsfeld, but, in terms of public awareness, the most that has been said about Bush?s personal responsibility is John Kerry?s promise that he will put himself on the line for what happens when he is elected.

The ultimate defense of leaders for misconduct that occurs under their authority is that no one can have knowledge of every incident down the chain of command unless someone brings it to his attention. This obvious defense surfaced as a political weapon in the Reagan administration under the rubric of ?plausible deniability.? The remarkable result of this maneuver was that no one was ever held accountable for the constitutional crimes committed in the Iran-Contra scandal. Organizational research shows the when things go awry, followers are more likely to attack the leader?s subordinates with the highest profiles of power leaving the leader empowered to protect subordinates. The outcomes of this psychological tendency are escape from accountability or the occasional sacrifice of a few subordinates whom, if not directly culpable, had the misfortune of having the incident take place ?on their watch.? Researchers speculate that there are deep insecurities and emotional loyalties that to a high degree insulate leaders from direct examination by their followers. Observing that the President is the leader of every citizen in the Republic, this fact may be an explanation for the absence of a universal demand to hold President Bush accountable.

A great number of those who objected to the proposed invasion of Iraq made the case that opening the gates of hell would have unpredictable consequences. Some even said that, since everyone knew full well that there were reasonable doubts about WMDs, President Bush was rolling the dice on his electability. In face of these uncertainties, there is evidence, as was revealed in leaked memoranda from the 2002 campaign, that Republicans deliberately inflamed the passions of war with full knowledge that these manipulations would influence the outcome of the 2002 elections. It goes without saying that the outcome was favorable to their efforts. John Madison wrote in the Federalist Papers that when any party controls all three branches of government it is by definition tyranny; but an even greater tyranny is the oppression of war itself. The failure of the opposition was to stand up to a Republican majority that would have their way with what everyone knew would be the authorization for Bush to go to war. The practical and moral obligations to almost all doctrines of just war (except for those proffered by the Bush administration) were swept away by the rallying cry of the monstrosity of Saddam Hussein. The attempts to curtail the powers given to Bush by the Congress were a weak and finally ineffective compromise that ostensibly constrained Bush from making a unilateral decision. Democrats submitted to the majority and jumped on the bandwagon for war because of legitimate fears that they would be branded unpatriotic and defeated in future elections. There was a whiff of Realpolik in their decision; it seemed predictable if they did not succumb, they would not live to fight another day.

In face of all of this, better than half of the electorate today believes that Bush is doing his job well, although their confidence is slipping. Yet the media and detractors of president Bush have taken a docile stance. Given what has been made public, it is incontrovertible that there were intentions to redirect the war on Al Qaida to an invasion of Iraq and that the advisors closest to Bush were unconditionally committed to this action long before they became the President?s advisors. It is incontrovertible that the President was informed that there was insufficient evidence of WMDs in Iraq and that there was insufficient evidence to prove the presence of a clear and present to danger to the nation. President Bush himself has since publicly and quietly announced that there were no WMDs in Iraq and that there was no connection between Iraq and Al Qaida. However, he has not followed an active and consistent path to correct his misstatements which suggests that he continues to capitalize on the trust of those who believed the incessant pronouncements of these alleged facts before the war. It is probable, given the noticeable surprise at the lack of WMDs, that the belief that there were WMDs was based on defective reasoning and an apparent avoidance of facts that were presented to him. There is no doubt, given their public statements, that his advisors used sources of information that were blatantly untrustworthy and, using this information, they devised flawed strategies and policies that led directly to the current crisis. It has also been shown that President Bush and his staff used the information provided by these advisors to influence the American public to support his reasons for going to war. Furthermore, there can be no doubt that competent staff brought or attempted to bring alternatives to war to his attention.

Arguably, these conclusions have been sufficiently substantiated that, absent convincing proof otherwise, it would be disingenuous to ignore them. Despite the contributions of Bush?s advisors, they fail to provide deniability for the act is the cause of the current crisis. It is incontrovertible that the descent into the horrors of torture and wanton murder has stained our nation and each one of us with dishonor, and it has enraged the nations of the earth. It is incontrovertible that these events are a direct consequence of the decision to invade Iraq, a decision made by a single person: the President of the United States. It is therefore, an incontrovertible conclusion that responsible citizens should pierce the veil of silence to demand that the person who brought these events upon must be held accountable for the decision he made.
[/quote]

I’ve said once so how bout one more time: The Bush administration is filled with secretive, arrogant fools who have bungled this war so badly as to dispel any goodwill towards America throughout the world, not to mention divide this society.

Democrats submitted to the majority and jumped on the bandwagon for war because of legitimate fears that they would be branded unpatriotic and defeated in future elections. There was a whiff of Realpolik in their decision; it seemed predictable if they did not succumb, they would not live to fight another day.

The above is what angers me most, that people who knew better were afraid to say anything due to the propaganda and fervor that was whipped up by this administration!

Acting in one’s own political interests is not a correct use of the term “realpolitik.”

Henry Kissinger, our country’s dean of realpolitik, was AGAINST the war in Iraq. Realpolitik prefers stable, dictatorial regimes over reform toward representative governments which may or may not move a country toward democracy.

Did the Democrats as a whole support the war against Iraq because they were afraid they’d be voted out? I don’t think so. Perhaps it is significant that they were not on-the-ball enough to press Bush to change his primary case from WMD to material breach and human rights violations.

John Kerry, however, has the reputation in Massachussettes of doing whatever is in his political interests. I have a feeling that Kerry did place his vote for the war (with one of his ponderous speeches, that he can cite if things don’t go in his favor) very carefully for his own political interests.

Kerry, Bob Graham and Carl Levin were on the committee which saw the DISSENTING report about WMD. Graham and Levin voted against the war, but Kerry actually accused Bush of suppressing the report! You have to give it up for Carl Levin, who opposed the War, but now pushes diligently and sincerely for its successful prosecution and the goal of a democratic Arab state, now that we are in Iraq.

Republicans certainly used their candidates’ exuberance for military action in Iraq to win seats in Congress.

I am not re-hashing this again. Please refer to all my posts on all other Iraq-related threads, as there is nothing new here.

Why do you guys hate America???
Why do you hate the troops???

Just kidding. But I bet you’ll get some responses like that which arent kidding.

Democrats voted for the war because they believed in the President, Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, etc about the urgent need to stop the flow of Iraqi WMDs.

Gee, I guess the Democrats should have known the Republicans were distorting the evidence, and planned to do Iraq from Day 1, and were just looking for an excuse, which 9-11 provided?

I guess hindsight is 20-20…

Lumpy, Kuri, Elkhrtn1,

I was curious to hear if you three had any specific alternatives to fighting in Iraq?

What would you three had done differently?

If you voted for Bill Clinton, did you realize that his administration also knew that Saddam had WMD?

I’m interested in some specific alternatives. It’s not enough to criticize, let’s hear some other options. Opening a sincere discussion where people exchange ideas is much more satisfying than pointing fingers (at least I think so).

Jeff

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that eventually Saddam would have collapsed under his own weight.

Compare how the first Gulf War and this Gulf War were fought under Bush 1 and Bush 2, and you will have an easy example of a better way to fight this war (costs to US taxpayers, coalition, troop strength, number of casualties), for starters.

Gee, maybe there was a good reason Bush 1 didn’t invade Iraq the first time…

We have potentially destablized the entire region. If we are just trying to bring Democracy to the world, there are a whole bunch of other countries where it would have been easier to do that. Gee, maybe invading Iraq has a whole lot to do with oil and big fat reconstruction contracts after all.

JeffR
I will share my viewpoint with you regarding the current situation with the war on terror and how I feel Iraq should have been handled.

As far as Al Qaeda after 9/11, I fully supported our Presidents decision to invade Afgahnistan the heart of terrorist operations. I feel our resources should have remained there 100% percent, insuring the objective was completed.

As far as terrorist or Al Qaeda cells throughout the world, scattered in different country’s, ally and enemy country’s alike, we have SEAL Team Six we have Delta Force lets use these resources to go in and covertly wipe these cells out. They will always exist to some extent like cockroaches and when they pop up, call up the exterminators.

Now to Iraq, do I believe they were a threat to us that warranted an invasion, definitely no! After the first Gulf war Saddam was for all intents and purposes castrated. Sure, he still had the power to rule Iraq, but as far as being a world threat don’t believe the hype. Saddam knew we could kick his ass and the key to him remaining in power was not offending us to a great degree. Do I think they were offering training and resources to Al Qaeda, No! There was not a connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Remember the great majority of hijackers on 9/11 were SAUDI ARABIAN not one was IRAQI!

Now let me ask you JeffR can you concieve of other reasons this administration may have wanted to invade Iraq? Besides WMD, besides terrorist connections, besides liberating people. Do you think that the current administration wanted to invade Iraq before 9/11 ever happened? Do you think they may have used 9/11 to influence and manipulate the people of our fine country to support their agenda?

Don’t you think it is odd that Haliburton who Cheney worked for and still recieves money from has the lions share of lucrative contracts in Iraq? Don’t you think the its odd that corporations are getting richer from these contracts while middle and lower class Americans are paying for it with their blood and lives?

JeffR those are my honest feelings regarding this war and I am glad that I have a forum like this to express it! I do not want to offend anybody that is just the way feel and I welcome your response.

JeffR: I consider myself fairly conservative, have generally voted either Republican or Libertarian, and–by past and present professions–have acted to minimize the terrorist threat to Americans both here and abroad.

My vote would’ve certainly been to invade Afghanistan, preferably on Sep 12th, because I believe that the proper response to violence must be both terrible and awesome…let them never again believe that there’s a chance that those who attack America can escape our wrath.

Where we differ, I believe, is what should’ve been done after Afghanistan. Firstly, I believed we erred in not attacking Syria, Iran, or Saudi Arabia next, for those are–beyond debate–the true hotbeds/breeding grounds for terrorism. My analogy here would be a barroom brawl…if you’re threatened by a bunch of punks, ya gotta take out the big guy first. Eliminate the greatest threat, then worry about the rest. We did the opposite, and now are bogged down fighting a two-front war while the big terrorist factories still operate. Which leads to my second point…

I also blame Bush for having the stones to attack Iraq, but not the stones to go in and do it right. We tried too hard to do it “gently:” minimizing civilian casualties, not using our MOABs to take out the worst concentrations of combatants, etc. If you truly believe the war is justified, then you’re justified to do all it takes to win the war while keeping your own troops alive. And leave the peacemaking/democracy-building to the Iraqis…we should wipe out the resistance and leave them with a warning that we’ll be back if any foolishness arises again.

Then again, sentiments like the above are why I’ll never have a career in politics…

Lumpy,

Thank you very much for responding. I have spent a great deal of time trying to see your point of view. I’m open minded enough to discuss it with you.

“There is plenty of evidence to suggest that eventually Saddam would have collapsed under his own weight”

I’m sorry but I don’t know of any such evidence. George Senior thought he would collapse after being humiliated in 1991. Unfortunately, he went on to try to assassinate George Senior, bribe the U.N., attack his own people, and shoot at our airplanes on a daily basis. Not to mention harboring terrorists and supporting Palestinian terrorists. Again, I’m sorry, I don’t see how anything but old age(or Gulf War II) would have removed him.

“We have potentially destablized the entire region”

Again, when was the area stable? How many wars over how long of a period? How many caused by Saddam (one eight year conflict with Iran an another unprovoked invasion of Kuwait)

Please remember that when the Continental Army forced the surrender of Lord Cornwallis in 1781, the English band played, “The World Turned Upside Down.” Destabilizing brutual dictatorships (and monarchies) is progress in my book.

Again, please tell me exactly what you would have done with Iraq after 9/11.

Elkhntr1,

Thank you for your thoughtful approach. I’m trying to see things from your perspective. Please allow me to make a few observations about your plan.

You suggested that covert operations could have removed many of the terrorist threats. Unfortunately, the Syrians, Iranians, Iraqis, Libyans, believe in sovereignty. We would have had to have been totally invisible. One sighting of our troops, and the game is up. Please remember that many of these groups are state sponsored.

“Do I think they were offering training and resources to Al Qaeda, No! There was not a connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda.”

Actually, it appears that link was much stronger than originally believed. We have found a number of Al Qaeda training manuals throughout Iraq. Not to mention the speed by which Al Qaeda sponsored attacks on our troops began suggests their presence all along.

You mentioned that Saddam had been “castrated” by the First Gulf War. I agree, to an extent. He was under very close supervision for the first six years post-war. Then he kicked out the U.N. and God knows what he was up to. Please remember that a trully castrated man doesn’t try to assassinate the former President of the United States. He doesn’t move his troops to the Kuwait border on several occassions. He doesn’t target coalition airplanes daily.

Finally, you implied that the war may have been fought for financial gain. In particular you mentioned Halliburton. It is part of the public record that Richard Cheney sold all his public stock at the outset of his Vice Presidency. He gets an annual salary (fixed) from Halliburton as part of that settlement. If Halliburton triples it’s net worth, he doesn’t get a dime extra. Where is the incentive?Please remember that he was making upward of 1 million dollars annually at Halliburton. He took a massive paycut to be Vice President. Please also take into account what kind of intellect Richard Cheney possesses. Not even his most vociferous critic would (in their wildest dreams) accuse Richard Cheney of being a simpleton. Cheney knew full well that people would try to make this connection. He knew that people would accuse him of favoring Halliburton. Sorry, I think Halliburton got the job because they had the tools and the know-how. I’ve researched Halliburton and they are the one company that has the experience to get the job done. If you do a search on that company, you can see bi-partisan support for them throughout the past twenty years.

In summary, I’m trying to see things from your perspective. I’ve spent many hours thinking about this from a million different angles. Unfortunately, I have yet to come across a superior plan of action. I encourage you to present one.

Boscobarbell,

Your post presents several valid points. I’m in agreement with you on several issues.

“I also blame Bush for having the stones to attack Iraq, but not the stones to go in and do it right. We tried too hard to do it “gently:” minimizing civilian casualties, not using our MOABs to take out the worst concentrations of combatants, etc. If you truly believe the war is justified, then you’re justified to do all it takes to win the war while keeping your own troops alive. And leave the peacemaking/democracy-building to the Iraqis…we should wipe out the resistance and leave them with a warning that we’ll be back if any foolishness arises again.”

Your criticism has merit. We are being gentle. HOWEVER, the beheading of one of our citizens and the dragging of our dead civilians through the streets may lead to a hardening of our attitude. If you think about it, I know what George Bush is trying to avoid. He knows that the media/liberals would send pictures of mass Iraqi casualities to our homes every night.
He knows that he is fighting a diplomatic as well as a military war. He seems to be extremely sensitive to the criticism of the Americans as mere conquerors. By spending over 1 billion dollars and not using any Iraqi oil to fund the reconstruction, he is trying to apply the Marshall/Truman Plan approach to the area.
Again, I think our benevolence has it’s limits. I saw the pictures of Mr. Berg’s father weeping today. It affected me greatly. I’ll say one thing for President Bush, he won’t back down from this sort of barbarism.
One more point, I think it is incumbent upon us to show the Iraqi’s how Democracy functions. Remember the various ethnic/religious groups in Iraq are not exactly a harmonious bunch. I can’t see a better approach than the one the Administration is pursuing. We are going to do a phased withdrawl.
Thanks for your post.

Jeff

Jeff, Even dubya himself has admitted on numerous occassions that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and no real evidence of Al-Quaida connections.

All knowledgeble journalists I’ve read such as John Burns, Sy Hersh etc… acknowledge that there has been no evidence of an Iraq - Al Quaida connection.

This view still persists on Fox and Limbaugh’s show perhaps, but not in reality.

Cheney still holds some 118,000 Halliburton stock options that he claims he will “donate” (to his wife?).
That said I think there are various other ideological reasons for the rush to war in Iraq, not necessarily the enrichment of Halliburton and others that was predominant.

Jeff: Thanks for the response. While I agree in theory with your idea of planting the seeds of democracy in a land like Iraq, I don’t believe it’s a position allowed by our Constitution.

The President is empowered to utilize the military to engage “clear and present dangers” to the U.S. Even if I grant your position that he truly believed that WMDs existed in Iraq pre-invasion–I would beg to differ, but let’s say I agree–I’m not willing to allow that going in to get them justifies us staying once the regime is toppled and no weapons are found. It’s like police with a search warrant: you go in to find the stash of heroin, based on probable cause. If you look around and the stuff isn’t there, you don’t get to stay and make renovations to the apartment.

The same with Iraq. No interpretation of the Constitution as I see it allows our military to be used for nation-building or ideology training. Let the Iraqis do what they will, as long as they don’t mess with us. Just don’t get our sons and daughters killed trying to bring the 21st century to a group of people who evidently despise us for merely being there.

Kuri,

Please read this. This is from CNN Money.
September 16, 2003: 5:01 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Vice President Dick Cheney’s office Tuesday dismissed as “a political cheap shot” new Democratic questions about his financial stake in the energy services company Halliburton, which has received lucrative contracts in post-war Iraq.

“He doesn’t have a financial interest in the company,” a top Cheney aide said in a telephone conversation with CNN,

Cheney’s office said that to avoid any such questions and any suggestion that Cheney would have a stake in Halliburton’s continued success, he bought an insurance policy before he was sworn in as vice president in 2001 – at a cost to him of $15,000 – to guarantee that he would receive his deferred salary regardless of whether Halliburton (HAL: Research, Estimates) stayed in business.

Cheney is expected to receive three more installments of his deferred salary – in 2003, 2004 and 2005.

Over the past two years his deferred payments totaled roughly $368,000. The aide said the insurance policy would pay Cheney $140,000 a year for five years if Halliburton went insolvent and was unable to pay Cheney’s deferred salary.

The aide said Cheney elected in 1998 – two years before he became the head of the Bush campaign’s vice presidential search committee – to defer his 1999 salary. Cheney had to choose then whether to take it in one lump payment or in a series of annual payments – and he elected to receive it over a period of years.

“Once you make the election you cannot change it,” the Cheney aide said. “He had no knowledge at the time he would be a vice presidential candidate or that he might be going back into the government.”

The Cheney aide said that on January 18, 2001 – just before being sworn in as vice president – Cheney assigned all of his Halliburton stock options to a charitable trust.

“He legally and irrevocably assigned them and he receives no tax benefit from them,” the Cheney aide said. This aide said the trustee of the trust decides when to sell them.

Key Points.

  1. Insurance policy to insure payments regardless of insolvency.

  2. All stocks in charitable trust (not his wife).

  3. Absence of: “If it does better, Cheney gets more.”

I’m looking for a viable alternative to our Iraq policy. I’m not particularly interested in slandering public officials. If you oppose the war, please explain and clarify your point of view.

Jeff

Kuri,

This is from smh.com.au/articles:

Al-Qaeda killing manual found
April 29 2003
The six-centimetre-thick manual on killing, found in an abandoned bomb laboratory here early this month, offers instruction in al-Qaeda’s array of lethal demolition skills.

With a text in Arabic complemented by diagrams from United States military manuals, the document offers lessons for rigging explosives, setting and concealing booby traps, and wiring an alarm clock to detonate a bomb.

The book is a photocopy of one volume of the Jihad Encyclopedia, the technical manual that US officials have said is used by al-Qaeda in its war against the West.

The copy was found in this valley in the Kurdish enclave in northern Iraq. It was recovered by Kurdish security officials accompanied by a reporter in a training centre operated by Ansar al-Islam, a local armed party.

US military officials say the materials are significant because they show that al-Qaeda can now export its training lessons.

Interviews with prisoners and translations of documents and computer disks show Ansar possessed manuals from al-Qaeda in printed and digital form, ran two training bases with curriculums strikingly similar to those taught in Afghan camps, and managed its affairs much as al-Qaeda did.

Moreover, al-Qaeda seeded it with seasoned fighters who helped organise its training and administration, US and Kurdish officials said. They also said Ansar ran a factory that made the poison ricin and a cyanide poison, and kept up links with Saddam Hussein.

The New York Times, The Guardian

In summary, I will try not to post comments that I cannot back up. The link is clear. Al Qaeda brought members to these camps along with information on terrorism.
By the way, it is hard for anyone to call the New York Times anything but ultra-liberal.

Again, Saddam supported terrorists. It was and is a hotbed of terrorism. Now please give an alternative to our current actions.

Thanks,

Jeff

Boscobarbell,

You are a thinker. I appreciate that. Again, you are making what I consider valid arguments.

We have already found banned weapons. These are weapons that Saddam didn’t reveal to the U.N. Please do your own search because I don’t want to repost another link. Doesn’t this strongly suggest more to come?

I contend that rooting out terrorism at it’s source is allowable under the Constitution. Further, in the absence of a better plan, I’ve begun to think that Iraq is central to our future security. I think the Administration is thinking long-term with this one. As you can see by my previous posts, it is easy to swat away the partisan arguments that are based mostly on innuendo and emotion. What is more gratifying to me is an Administration that is looking beyond the election of 2004. I know, some will accuse me of being naiive in our post-Nixon/Clinton world. However, I don’t automatically ascribe the worst motives to our current politicians. I think, at the core of our policy, is the determination to combat terrorism at it’s source. Possibly to deter other states (Libya and Saudi Arabia) from supporting terrorists. I’m heartened by the fact that we are asking for none of the $125,000,000,000 back from Afghanistan and Iraq. This speaks volumes to me and gives me hope that fighting for something beyond our pocketbook is possible. Call me an idealist, but I think we are showing the world that our ideals matter. We will fight for them.

I apologize for the length of this post. However, this is where I stand at this moment in time. However, as you can see, I’m practically begging the Anti-Iraq war posters to give me an alternate scenario that takes into account the geo-political realities of 2004. Thanks for your sincerity,

Jeff

Kuri writes:

“Jeff, Even dubya himself has admitted on numerous occassions that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and no real evidence of Al-Quaida connections.”

George Bush did not “admit” that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. He said that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. However, Bush has not disputed a possible Iraq-Al Quaeda relationship, and one that would have developed if Saddam had not been overthrown.

“All knowledgeble journalists I’ve read such as John Burns, Sy Hersh etc… acknowledge that there has been no evidence of an Iraq - Al Quaida connection.”

That’s not correct. There is no evidence of Iraq-Al Quaida joint plotting that had taken place. But there was well-known evidence for a connection between Saddam’s government and Al-Quaida, which was open to future operations. From another thread:

Saddam did financially support suicide terrorists in Israel, and had declared himself on the side of any Muslim who would attack the U.S.

He gave succor to terrorists who had acted against the U.S., and his government had amicable meetings over time with individuals connected to al-Quaeda (out of which no concrete plans are known to have developed).

Before 9/11, Richard Clarke even thought there was going to be a connection between Saddam and al-Quaeda. Christopher Hitchens writes in Slate:

"Abdul Rahman Yasin, one of the makers of the bomb that exploded at the World Trade Center, was picked up by the FBI, questioned, and incredibly enough released pending further interrogation as a “cooperative witness.” He went straight to Amman and thence to Baghdad, where he remained under Saddam Hussein’s protection until last year. As Clarke told the Sept. 11 commission last week: “The Iraqi government didn’t cooperate in turning him over and gave him sanctuary, as it did give sanctuary to other terrorists.” That’s putting it mildly, when you recall that Abu Nidal’s organization was a wing of the Baath Party, and that the late Abu Abbas of Klinghoffer fame was traveling on an Iraqi diplomatic passport. But, hold on a moment?doesn’t every smart person know that there’s no connection between Saddam Hussein and the world of terror?

Ah, we meant to say no connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden. Well, in that case, how do you explain the conviction, shared by Clarke and Benjamin and Simon, that Iraq was behind Bin Laden’s deadly operation in Sudan? The Age of Sacred Terror justifies the Clinton strike on Khartoum on the grounds that “Iraqi weapons-scientists” were linked to Bin Laden’s factory and that the suggestive chemical EMPTA, detected at the site, was used only by Iraq to make VX nerve gas. At the time, Clarke defended the bombing in almost the same words, telling the press that he was “sure” that “intelligence existed linking bin Laden to Al Shifa’s current and past operators, the Iraqi nerve gas experts and the National Islamic Front in Sudan.”

–from http://slate.msn.com/id/2097901/

Iraq has nothing to do with 9/11. What is so hard to see here? There were never any WMD, they knew it, but they did this anyway. Its another Vietnam. Only time will tell.

As far as the killing manual, sounds like the Anarchist’s Cookbook. Big deal.