It's old news to those who've been paying attention, and it will probably never sink in for those who haven't: The Senate Intelligence Committee announced today that there's no evidence that Saddam Hussein had ties to al-Qaida or to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi before the United States invaded Iraq.
The revelation, such as it is, comes in a nearly 400-page report on a portion of the Intelligence Committee's investigation into prewar intelligence and the manipulation thereof. As the length of the report suggests, there is a good deal of new detail here. Among other things, the report reveals for the first time that a CIA assessment in October 2005 concluded that Saddam "did not have a relationship, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi and his associates."
Dick Cheney and George W. Bush repeatedly argued that there was linkage between Saddam and Zarqawi; indeed, Bush said in October 2004 that "Zarqawi's the best evidence of a connection to al-Qaida affiliates and al-Qaida." The president continued to invoke Zarqawi's name in suggesting a Saddam-9/11 linkage as late as March 2006 -- which is to say, six months after the CIA had concluded that Zarqawi had no relationship with Saddam.
Sen. John Rockefeller, the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, says the new report shows how the Bush administration "exploited the deep sense of insecurity among Americans in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, leading a large majority of Americans to believe -- contrary to the intelligence assessments at the time -- that Iraq had a role in the 9/11 attacks."
The committee's Republican chairman, Sen. Pat Roberts, dismissed interpretations like those as "little more than a vehicle to advance election-year political charges," and he accused Democrats of trying "to use the committee to try and rewrite history, insisting that they were deliberately duped into supporting the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime." But you can't "rewrite" history if it hasn't been written yet, and -- as we noted earlier this week -- Roberts and his Republican colleagues continue to delay the part of the probe that would shed further light on just how much of the Bush administration's "duping" was, in fact, "deliberate."