Sarah Palin Links Iraq to 9/11
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When everyone's attention was focusing on Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's less-than-reassuring interview about foreign policy with ABC News anchor Charlie Gibson, the Republican nominee for vice president was off delivering a speech in which she suggested a dramatically greater ignorance of recent history and international affairs than was on display in the interview.
Speaking at Alaska's Fort Wainwright on Thursday, where she hailed the combat deployment of her son's Army unit to Iraq as a "righteous cause," Palin explicitly and repeatedly renewed the discredited claim that the invasion and occupation of Iraq was initiated as a necessary and credible response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
"You'll be there to defend the innocent from the enemies who planned and carried out and rejoiced in the deaths of thousands of Americans," Palin told the departing soldiers.
Palin's assessment directly contradicts that of President Bush and key members of his national security team.
After his administration got called out for trying to suggest an Iraq-terrorism connection -- following an over-the-top appearance by conspiracy-theorist-in-chief Dick Cheney on NBC's "Meet the Press," in which the vice president made the false claim that Iraq had been the "geographic base" for the 9/11 attacks -- Bush acknowledged on September 17, 2003, that, "We have no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the 11 September attacks."
Then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld agreed. At a Pentagon briefing on the same day Bush spoke, Rumsfeld was asked if Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein or those around him were personally involved in the September 11 attacks. Rumsfeld replied, "I've not seen any indication that would lead me to believe that I could say that."
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was serving then as White House National Security Adviser, went even further. In an ABC "Nightline" interview, she insisted that, "We have never claimed that Saddam Hussein had either direction or control of 9/11."
Of course, that was a stretch, especially considering some of Cheney's comments.
But there is no question that, a full five years ago, the Bush administration had explicitly rejected any suggestion that it was appropriate to link the Iraq mission to September 11.
Yet, on the seventh anniversary of attacks on New York and Washington that were never legitimately linked to Saddam Hussein or Iraq, Sarah Palin was telling soldiers headed for Iraq that they are part of "the broad conflict that began seven years ago today."
Palin also told the troops: "America can never go back to that false sense of security that came before September 11, 2001."
But isn't Palin creating a "false sense of security" by suggesting that the Iraq fight is an appropriate or meaningful response to 9/11? And isn't it unsettling that, as the United States prepares to see off a vice president who got in trouble for peddling fantasies regarding Saddam and terrorism, the Republican nominee to replace Dick Cheney sounds an awfully lot like, er, Dick Cheney?
John Nichols is The Nation's Washington correspondent.