Cheney ties Iraq, al-Qaeda again after fielding question from his own official biographer
Vice President Dick Cheney, in a press conference during a surprise visit to Iraq, again stated that it was "pretty clear" there was a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda before Sep. 11.
Reminded of the release last week of an exhaustive Pentagon report which concluded that there were no ties between Saddam Hussein and the terror network, Cheney answered, "Well, it says no operational link. But there was, as I recall from looking at it, extensive links with Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Egyptian Islamic Jihad was the organization headed by Zawahiri, and he merged EIJ with al-Qaeda when he became the deputy director of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden's number two.
"Now, was that a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda?" Cheney asked rhetorically. "Seems to me pretty clear that there was."
When someone else asked him to reiterate his specific claim, Cheney replied, "You heard what I said. I was very precise."
The person who first prompted Cheney at the press conference about the link was Stephen Hayes, according to the White House's own transcript. Hayes, a conservative columnist and, coincidentally, the official biographer of Cheney, wrote a book entitled 'The Connection: How al Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America' that made the same argument as the vice president's about a purported link between Saddam and al-Qaeda.
Additionally, Hayes concluded in a November 2003 article for the conservative Weekly Standard that "there can no longer be any serious argument about whether Saddam Hussein's Iraq worked with Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda to plot against Americans."
Last week, after the release of the Pentagon report, Hayes wrote another piece for the Standard which insisted that the report actually underscored Cheney's case rather than undermined it.
As the watchdog site Media Matters notes, Cheney has previously referenced the writing of Hayes as supporting evidence for his Iraq-Qaeda claim, and Hayes has been accused of being a longtime defender of the White House's Iraq policies.
In an August 2007 appearance on HBO's 'Real Time with Bill Maher,' a disgusted Timothy Robbins demanded to Hayes personally that he apologize for promoting Iraq propaganda on behalf of the Bush administration.
As for Cheney, his Baghdad visit, which was accompanied by a series of bombings around the still-dangerous area, marks the fifth anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, a conflict which has claimed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives and nearly 4,000 US troops at a financial cost of nearly half a trillion dollars.