Just Friends, Lovers No More


As Mickey Kaus and others have noted, the blockbuster memo written about in the London Telegraph allegedly detailing Mohammed Atta's tight connections to Saddam Hussein is starting to look like a fake.

As Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball write,

U.S. officials and a leading Iraqi document expert tell NEWSWEEK that the document is most likely a forgery?part of a thriving new trade in dubious Iraqi documents that has cropped up in the wake of the collapse of Saddam's regime.

The Telegraph story was apparently written with a political purpose: to bolster Bush administration claims of a connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam's regime. The paper described a "handwritten memo" that was supposedly sent to Saddam Hussein by Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti, chief of Iraqi intelligence at the time. It describes a three-day "work program" that Atta had undertaken in Baghdad under the tutelage of notorious Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal, who lived in the Iraqi capital until his death under suspicious circumstances in August 2002.

If the memo is legit, it would certainly–though retroactively–help justify the invasion of Iraq. After all, very few war opponents were against invading Afghanistan once it became clear that the Taliban was hiding Bin Laden. That is to say, most war protesters are not pacifists per se.

Yet what's interesting is that the memo, whether real or fake, shouldn't really change the debate over the legitimacy of the action, especially as a guide to similar actions in the future. After all, the Bush administration did not sell the invasion of Iraq based on a connection between Saddam and 9/11. In fact, it consistently downplayed such a link, emphasizing instead Saddam's refusal to comply with UN resolutions and the threat (imminent, gathering, future, whatever) that Iraq posed to the U.S.