8/18/2003

 

More Iraq/terrorism stories that weren't covered

 

The list of stories the press didn't cover well about the Iraq mess and terrorism has grown.

 

One is the killing of Saddam's sons. There were some objections raised that we should have taken them alive. It would have been better for the Iraqi people and for fighting terrorism to show these two brought to justice for their crimes against Iraqis, not to mention that we might have gotten clues about where to find Saddam.

 

The objections were dismissed because there was small arms fire from the house the sons were holed up in. Soldiers should certainly defend themselves, but couldn't they take cover, settle in and wait them out, much as the police do in a standoff?

 

They had specific information that Saddam's sons were there. Weren't they given orders to take them alive if at all possible? That is the unasked question. What orders were they given? If not to take them alive, why not? Has this error been corrected so we don't make the same mistake if we finally corner Saddam?

 

Another good question a friend brought up: Who forged the documents claiming Iraq was trying to buy nuclear material from Niger? What was their motivation?

 

I'm not suggesting a conspiracy theory that the White House instigated it. They haven't been that clever about deception, e.g., those aluminum tubes Bush continued to say were evidence of a nuclear program long after it was reported they weren't appropriate for that use. But surely we all need to know who did forge it, and why. Was it just an informant trying to sell information?

 

It was evidently given, not sold, to a reporter by an anonymous source whom the reporter doesn't want to reveal. Was that source the originator of the document or just another dupe in the chain? Surely U. S. intelligence could find this out. It would be another scandal if they have been directed not to, or they couldn't, or haven't thought to. So have they?

 

The next story is the congressional report on how we missed stopping the 9/11 attackers. It begs the question, why do we need all these expanded police powers of the "Patriot Act"?

 

There certainly was a failure to "connect the dots" but we sure had all the right "dots." Various police and intelligence groups knew: that some of the attackers had previous terrorist connections; that they were in the country; that they were at flight schools; that terrorists had already plotted to fly a small, bomb-laden plane into the Eiffel Tower; that terrorists had considered hijacking commercial flights for similar attacks; that the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were likely targets.

 

The idea of using commercial flights as weapons had been known for over a decade before 9/11, which raises the question, why didn't we beef up cockpit doors years ago?

 

Even before the focus on terrorism that 9/11 brought, that much information had been gathered. So why do we need all this expansion of secret wiretaps and searches, data mining of every American's private information, holding of citizens without due process? What is the rationale for all these compromises of the very virtues that make us strong just when we most need to stick to those virtues and strengths? Where are the press and politicians following up on this aspect of the report?

 

The final story is a positive one, and it deserves more than a paragraph, so it will still have to wait until next time. Until then, have any of these missed stories piqued your curiosity too? Do you know if your representatives have any good answers? Or have they, also, been too accepting of the information that's given them and haven't asked the tough questions? Maybe if enough people ask them, one will smell the opportunity for publicity and follow up.

 

Tom Cantlonís column appears every other Monday. www.tomcantlon.com