And here’s another view (Haitham’s):

[As posted on Sabbah’s Blog by Haitham at 10:11 pm]

“I couldn’t digest how you simplified the issue, and why you should feel ashamed! I really feel sorry when Arab (of all backgrounds and religions) fall under the bogus claims of U.S. “Terror Links”.

Let us follow the links!

It would be so much more convenient for the Bush Administration if all of the post-war woes of Iraq could be blamed on outside agitators. But the facts are that Iraqis continue to be “disappeared” and to die at the hands of trigger happy American occupiers, that infrastructure and institutions have not been restored, that unemployment and squalor are prevalent, and that tensions are rising among the indigenous Sunni, Shia, Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmen.

This is where the game of links start!

“Link” is among the vaguest and most dangerously useful of words. The War on Terror deploys it constantly. The first group, other than al-Qaeda and the Taliban, targeted by U.S. military forces after 9-11 was the “al-Qaeda-linked” Abu Sayyaf bandit group in the Philippines. Never mind that the Philippines president herself declared that there had been no ties between al-Qaeda and Abu Sayyaf in five or six years. The linkage however facilitated the U.S. military’s reentrance into the Philippines, so positing some link, which needn’t be close or substantial or even explained at all, served a policy goal.

Syria has been linked to al-Qaeda; so has Iran, and of course, Iraq under Saddam. This can mean simply that an al-Qaeda operative has visited one of these countries, or that there have been low-level, inconclusive contacts between security officials and al-Qaeda. The neocons have excelled in linking 9-11 to a broad array of projects; the establishment of these links is for them a kind of Straussian game in which the Noble Lie is argued through the most creatively effective stringing of links. (Assignment to Defense Department staff: how can we use 9-11 to win popular support for our plans to topple Assad? Palestinian in whole (not Hamas only)? Jordanian national security and economical development? The Iranian mullahs? Castro? Kim Jong-il? Let us link, link, link, lie nobly and conquer.)

If Iraq becomes increasingly unstable, it will be more and more necessary (and useful) to link its instability to some of these other targets. Opposition to occupation, potentially a setback for the ambitious neocon world-transforming plan, can be placed in the latter’s service if it can, for example, be linked to Syrian “interference” and complicity in the passage of foreign jihadis into Iraq, and provide some justification for regime change in Damascus (an obsessive neocon goal).

Having said all that, a fact remains that the weakest part of the whole U.S. presentation, and the most important, was the claims trying to link Iraq with al-Qaeda operations. In the past, the link depended on the claims about one man, Mohammed Atta, meeting with Iraqi intelligence in Prague (we’ve since found out that he was almost certainly in the United States at the time of the alleged meeting); now it depends on one man, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

So, who is Al-Zarqawi?

Recall that in his address to the United Nations in February 2003, Colin Powell, having detailed evidence for Iraq’s huge arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, proceeded to argue for an attack on Iraq using the additional allegation of long-standing ties between Baghdad and al-Qaeda. The cornerstone of his case was that “Iraq today harbors a deadly terrorist network headed by Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi an associate and collaborator of Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda lieutenants.”

“Zarqawi,” Powell continued, a “Palestinian born in Jordan, fought in the Afghan war more than a decade ago.” (Note 1: Powell had just accused Saddam of supporting what so called “Palestinian terrorism” and raised a flag on Jordan national security. Some sources, including Jane’s Intelligence Digest and the Christian Science Monitor, call Zarqawi a Jordanian Bedouin. The discrepancy in identification/linkage may be important. Note 2: Powell might have expanded the sentence: “fought in the Afghan war more than a decade ago, a war against a Soviet-backed regime, in which he was fighting on the same side as the U.S., along with thousands of other foreign jihadis recruited by the CIA and Pakistan’s ISI.”) Powell continued: “Returning to Afghanistan in 2000, he oversaw a terrorist training camp. One of his specialties, and one of the specialties of this camp, is poisons. When our coalition ousted the Taliban, the Zarqawi network helped establish another poison and explosive training center camp, and this camp is located in northeastern Iraq.” (Note 3: currently an autonomous region with a provisional Kurdish government that is aligned with the United States.)

Powell went on to describe a camp producing ricin and other poisons, operated by the “radical organization Ansar al-Islam that controls this corner of Iraq.” He was apparently relying on the New Yorker journalism of Jeffrey Goldberg. The nature of the “camp” (obliterated in the opening stage of the war, leaving no evidence of anything) and of the Ansar organization itself remain unclear. Ansar has been variously described as a Kurdish organization, and as a group of mostly Arab al-Qaeda exiles living among Kurds. Goldberg alleged that Saddam’s regime and al-Qaeda jointly sponsored the group, a charge heatedly denied by Baghdad (and not specifically echoed in Powell’s speech). (Note 4: There is no attempt to link Ansar itself to the 9/11 attacks. In fact, while apparently the mere presence of al-Zarqawi, a subordinate in Ansar, in Iraq is sufficient reason for war, the head of Ansar, known as Mullah Krekar, is living unmolested in Norway, and the United States has not even made an extradition request. Krekar denies any connection of Ansar with al-Qaeda.)

Zarqawi, Powell continued, “traveled to Baghdad in May of 2002 for medical treatment, staying in the capital of Iraq for two months while he recuperated to fight another day.” (Note 5: The story widely circulated is that he had his leg amputated, but Newsweek currently reports, “The stark fact is that we don’t even know for sure how many legs Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi has”) “During his stay, nearly two dozen extremists converged on Baghdad and established a base of operations there. These al-Qaida affiliates based in Baghdad now coordinate the movement of people, money and supplies into and throughout Iraq for his network, and they have now been operating freely in the capital for more than eight months. Iraqi officials deny accusations of ties with al-Qaida. These denials are simply not credible. We know these affiliates are connected to Zarqawi because they remain, even today, in regular contact with his direct subordinates, include the poison cell plotters. And they are involved in moving more than money and materiel.”

There seems to be much unclarity about this Zarqawi fellow. Is he a close al-Qaeda associate? German intelligence suggests that he is rather a rival of bin Laden, with ideological differences. His organization, al-Tawhid, is separate from al-Qaeda. Asia Times reported March 2 that “according to official US sources, Zarqawi’s relationship to bin Laden is ‘uncertain,’ and a recent report by the intelligence branch of the US Department of State stressed that al-Qaeda and Ansar appear quite unrelated and independent of each other”.

According to some reports, Zarqawi is presently under arrest in Iran; Jordan has requested his extradition to face trial but the Iranians say he carries a Syrian passport. An AP report states that a leaflet circulated in Iraq by a coalition of resistance groups says he was killed by an American bombing attack in the Sulaimaniya Mountains in Iraq. Since the real story’s so unclear, those accustomed to making things up can do so unrestrained by a lot of cumbersome facts.

Anyway, having linked Zarqawi to al-Qaeda and to Iraq (specifically, to “his terrorist network in Iraq” responsible for the killing of Agency for International Development operative Laurence Foley in Amman in 2002, a network plotting “terrorist actions against countries including France, Britain, Spain, Italy, Germany and Russia,” and linked to terror in Georgia and Chechnya), Powell sought to persuade the world and his fellow Americans that Iraq was part of the general Evil requiring aggressive U.S. attention in the post-9-11 world.

Lets just observe facts here. If things go very badly for the U.S. in Iraq (as I think they will), and if civil war erupts (as I think it may), then whatever administration’s in power will need to say: “This mess isn’t our responsibility, not our fault. It’s Zarqawi, linked to al-Qaeda, linked to Ansar al-Islam, linked to Iran, linked to Syria, and linked to Saddam. All those evil people who started this by attacking us on 9-11. All those now trying to thwart our efforts to achieve main reason now justifying our war: to bestow democracy and our universally applicable values on Iraq.”

Democracy in this case means, of course, democracy in any shape and form chosen by the sovereign Iraqi people—just so long as it allows U.S. control over the flow of Iraqi oil, guarantees massive profits to U.S. corporations receiving contracts for reconstruction, permits the establishment of permanent U.S. military bases, abets Israeli security, and rules out any prospect of a Sharia-based legal system that might enhance the strength of anti-American religious fundamentalism (a phenomenon actually encouraged daily by U.S. policies towards Muslim peoples). The 60% of Iraqis who are Shiites must make a choice. Doesn’t the Zarqawi “letter” make it clear? Stand with the Americans against terror, or by resisting U.S. forces make common cause with a man who wrote to bin Laden describing Shiites as “vermin.” We’re good, they’re bad. You’re for us or against us. And if you’re against us, you’re with Zarqawi. Make sense?

Real links? I’d suggest the following. Capital accumulates and concentrates and assumes the form of empire, requiring for its maintenance and expansion “full spectrum dominance,” control of energy supply, establishment of military bases everywhere, alliances with brutal tyrants, and endlessly proliferating officially-generated falsehoods. All these can be causally linked to rage, to terror, and to death. Those understanding these links, can, if they link up effectively, “pluck the imaginary flowers from the chain without fantasy,” demanding and creating conditions that reject all the lies.”