Laurie Mylroie: Is Iraq involved with U.S. terror attacks?
Laurie Mylroie is the author of "Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein's Unfinished War," which outlines her case that Iraq had a central role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. She served as an adviser on Iraq to the 1992 Clinton presidential campaign. Mylroie is currently vice-president of "Information for Democracy," and the publisher of "Iraq News."
CNN: Thank you for joining us today, Laurie Mylroie, and welcome.
LAURIE MYLROIE: Hi, and thank you all for coming to the chat room.
CNN: You believe that Saddam Hussein was involved in both attacks the 1993 and September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Why?
MYLROIE: You can demonstrate to the high legal standard of beyond a reasonable doubt, which is used for criminal conviction, that Iraq was behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, by showing that Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of that bomb, was an Iraqi intelligence agent. I do that in "Study of Revenge." That bomb, in 1993, aimed to topple the north tower onto the south tower. Eight years later, someone came back and finished the job. Since Iraq was behind the first attack, it is suggestive of the point that Iraq was behind the second attack.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: Is there any proof at all that Hussein is involved in the anthrax scares?
MYLROIE: There is no proof that Saddam is involved in the anthrax scares, but proof is different from evidence. Proof, according to the dictionary, is conclusive demonstration. Evidence is something that indicates, like your smile is evident of your affection for me. There is evidence that Iraq is behind the anthrax scares. First, it takes a highly sophisticated agency to produce anthrax in the lethal form that was in the letter sent to Senator Daschle. Not many parties can do that. Second, there is an additive in that anthrax, bentonite, which is used to cause the anthrax to not stick together, and float in the air. Iraq is the only party known to have produced anthrax with bentonite.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: Should the U.S.take action against Iraq?
MYLROIE: Yes. It is necessary for the United States to take action against Iraq. The 1991 Gulf War never ended. We continue it in the form of an economic siege whose origins lie in the Gulf War. And also, we bomb Iraq on a regular basis, and Saddam continues his part of the war in the form of terrorism. It is unlikely that that anthrax will remain in letters. It is likely that it will be used at some point, for example, in the subway of a city, or in the ventilation system of a U.S. building. Saddam wants revenge against us. He wants to do to the U.S. what we've done to Iraq. One way he can do that is terrorism, particularly biological terrorism.
CHAT PARTICPANT: What is the connection between bin Ladden and Saddam?
MYLROIE: Bin Laden and Hussein work together. The contact between the two was made in the 1990s when bin Laden was based in Sudan. Iraq intelligence also had a major presence in Sudan then. There were other widely reported contacts between bin Laden and Iraq intelligence, such as in December, 1998 when Farook Hajazi traveled to Afghanistan to meet with bin Laden. Hajazi is a senior intelligence officer. Bin Laden provides the ideology, he recruits the foot soldiers, and he provides a smokescreen. Iraqi intelligence provides the direction and training for the terrorism.
CNN: You hold the Clinton administration responsible for Hussein's involvement in all of these attacks. Why?
MYLROIE: Iraq is a difficult problem, and has been since the Gulf War. Many mistakes have been made, because it's inevitable that in human endeavor there are mistakes. Under the Clinton administration, specifically in February 1993 with the first attack on the Trade Center, Clinton dealt with the issue dishonestly. New York FBI believed in 1993 that Iraq was behind the Trade Center bombing. That was accepted by the White House, that New York FBI might well be right. In June, 1993, Clinton attacked Iraqi intelligence headquarters. He said that that was punishment for Saddam's attempt to kill George Bush when Bush visited Kuwait in April, but Clinton also believed that it would deter Saddam from all future attacks of terrorism, and that it would address the WTC bombing, too, so that Saddam would not think to carry out further attacks against the U.S.
And then the Clinton administration put out a false and fraudulent explanation for terrorism, saying that terrorism was no longer state-sponsored, but carried out by individuals. That false and fraudulent explanation was accepted and allowed Saddam to continue to attack the U.S. The reason Clinton dealt with terrorism in that fashion was because he did not understand the kind of threat that Saddam could pose, and by taking care of the terrorism in New York in that fashion, he avoided riling American public opinion, which might have demanded then, back in 1993, that he do a great deal more.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: Do you believe this will eventually escalate into a much broader conflict as other states are identified as helping terrorist organizations?
MYLROIE: I believe that it is necessary to shift the war to Iraq and to do so as soon as possible, because Iraq is a primary threat, the primary terrorist threat to the United States, and as the anthrax shows, that threat can become very, very great. It's necessary to get rid of Saddam.
CNN: The George W. Bush administration publicly focuses on Osama bin Laden and remains internally at odds over whether to implicate Hussein and Iraq in the current war. Is that a mistake?
MYLROIE: Yes, it is a mistake to avoid implicating Iraq, or to be unable to reach a decision about that. If we do not say that we suspect Iraq in the anthrax attacks, then Saddam will have no reason not to escalate to the next step. The next step could be that anthrax used in another fashion which is more deadly, or it could be anthrax that is resistant to antibiotics. We won't be able to treat it, as we can now.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: Have you spoken with officials about this information?
MYLROIE: Yes I have spoken with officials, in particular in the Pentagon. The Pentagon shares this view.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: You mentioned the bentonite in the anthrax, and yet we hear that the CIA and FBI are looking at home sources of that anthrax? Why are they not also viewing that as from Iraq rather than a U.S. source?
MYLROIE: That is a good question. Bob Bartley in the Wall Street Journal takes on that question. While one might say it is not impossible that an individual who is very knowledgeable, with access to a good lab, could have produced that in the U.S., it is also extremely unlikely. Iraq is a much more likely candidate. Bartley compares it to the situation of the elephant in the room that some people just don't want to see, including, apparently, the FBI and the CIA. But the American people can see the elephant in the room, and Iraq is a much more likely suspect than an individual in the U.S.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: Is it possible that perhaps Iraq is waiting for us to accuse them and then take anthrax to the next level?
MYLROIE: We are in a very, very difficult situation. If we say clearly that it is Iraq, and we're going to get Saddam, then it is likely that he will do his best to bring his enemies down with him. It is true that we face the danger then of more deadly attacks, including anthrax attacks. If we do not say it is Saddam, we will also face the danger of more deadly attacks. This is a terrible situation. Yet I prefer to deal with the losses that will come by taking on Saddam than to be subject to the losses that will occur if we remain sitting ducks. It would seem that some ambiguity in the beginning is the best thing. If we shift the focus from Afghanistan to Iraq, we are indeed at war, and during war, extreme measures may have to be taken. For example, we might think to get children and all non-essential personnel out of U.S. cities while this war goes on, which we will carry out very quickly, or to have people remaining in U.S. cities where they are a target, wearing masks pretty much all the time, in order to deal with this problem which we should address quickly rather than slowly.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: Is the reason behind the government not admitting to Iraq's involvement over the oil situation?
MYLROIE: I don't think that the oil situation is a factor. I think that at least two things are at work. First, there is a great confusion because for eight years Clinton treated terrorism as a law enforcement issue, with the emphasis on arresting individuals and bringing them to justice, trying and convicting them. That had the effect of obscuring the role of states in terrorism, particularly Iraq. But in addition, those who went along with his view of terrorism are now personally invested in it, and they are reluctant to give up that view. That would include George Tenet, a Clinton appointee who still heads the CIA, and I believe, the intelligence coming from the CIA is skewed. It may also be that there is an influence of former President Bush and Bush's top advisors from the 1991 Gulf War on President Bush. Some of those people, including former President Bush, Brent Scocroft, his national security advisor, Colin Powell, have not acknowledged that it was an error to end the war in 1991 with Saddam in power, and that may color their judgment now.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: Laurie, is your book still in print? I have been trying to find it in book stores without success.
MYLROIE: The book is still in print. It is now available in hardcover as "Study of Revenge," and it will soon be available in paperback as "The War Against America." Both are listed on Amazon now.
CNN: Do you have any closing comments to share with us?
MYLROIE: I would like to thank everyone for participating in this discussion today, to remind you to emphasize that we face a very, very serious problem. We must deal correctly with it, or the loss of American lives may be very large. And again, I'd like to let people know about my book. It's currently out as "Study of Revenge," and will be available shortly as "The War Against America," published by Regan Books.
CNN: Thank you for joining us today.
MYLROIE: My pleasure. Thank you.
Laurie Mylroie joined the chat via telephone from Washington DC. CNN provided a typist for her. This is an edited transcript of the interview, which took place on Monday, October 29, 2001.
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