DANIEL PIPES, DIRECTOR, MIDDLE EAST FORUM: I agree with Steve and Coleen that it‘s a good report but I‘ve got two other issues on my mind, not so much the technicalities of it but two other things. One is the fact that in the political environment, we see that there is a real move now to go back to the way things were pre-9/11. The Democratic Party in general is against fighting a war and instead of looking at this as a police action.
ABRAMS: But I don‘t want to get into the politics of this. I only just focus on the 9 -- let me take a quick break here. I‘m going to ask you all to stick around. The reason I chose these three people is for a reason and that‘s because when we come back, I‘m going to talk to them about what it was like at times for all of them, to be ignored before 9/11, when each one of them in their own way were warning about the danger of al Qaeda. ...
The discussion that followed, and I recommend reading it, actually managed to be informative. He closed the show with a fact that's become a major political football:
ABRAMS: ...The one I‘ve talked about is the nonsense about—quote—“long-established ties between al Qaeda and Iraq” and I think misleading statements from the vice president, who continues to perpetuate a myth about some longstanding relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda that helped somehow justify the war. As I have said before, there were other good-faith reasons to believe Iraq was a real threat, but this supposed relationship with al Qaeda, never one of them.
The commission found, while there were some—quote—“friendly contacts” between Iraq and al Qaeda, none of them ever—quote—“developed into a collaborative relationship.” And so the issue should now become moot, but, of course, it will not, because a few hard-core partisans will continue to ignore the evidence. Some have already chimed in, offering Clintonesque legalistic defenses.
For Cheney, the issue is not, were there any contacts between the two? It is, was their relationship significant enough that one justification for war against Iraq is the extent of that relationship? Of course not. Bottom line, the U.S. had—quote—“friendly contacts” with Iraq before the 1991 war. In fact, you could easily argue we had a collaborative relationship.
It is not a justification for anything. Hopefully, this report will focus everyone back on the real issues, how to make things better now rather than trying to justifying old mistakes. The fact that five distinguished Democrats, five distinguished Republicans were able to unanimously agree on everything in this report means that we should listen, we should act, we should regain focus on al Qaeda and the immediate danger we face. ...
This is what the media should do, in my opinion. Facilitate reasoned discussion, get your own facts straight, don't be afraid to say that someone is wrong when they are blatantly in contradiction of well known facts. It's a high bar, I know. But Abrams, at least, gets a high mark for Thursday's show.