Tracing the Box-Cutters 
January 30, 2003 

by Joe Sobran

     President Bush is now promising -- again -- to 
present evidence not only that Iraq possesses weapons of 
mass destruction, but also has links to terrorists, 
specifically al-Qaeda, which is generally assumed to have 
mounted the extraordinary attacks of September 11, 2001. 

     The American public is skeptical. So are Europeans. 
So are most other countries. Bush has already had plenty 
of time to back up his charges, and he just hasn't done 
it. He insists that Iraq has the prohibited weapons, 
whether or not UN inspectors find any proof one way or 
the other. If no such weapons are found, that will only 
"prove" that the Iraqis have successfully hidden them. 
Perish the thought that the weapons don't exist, and that 
Saddam Hussein, for once in his life, is telling the 

     It's well known that Saddam and al-Qaeda hate each 
other. He regards them as fanatics and loose cannons; 
they regard him and other Arab rulers like him as 
traitors to Islam. Why should he share deadly weapons 
with them? That would put him at their mercy, since the 
United States would certainly blame him if they were used 
on American soil. Instant devastation would follow -- not 
against al-Qaeda, which presents no targets, but against 
Baghdad. Saddam Hussein isn't crazy enough to make 
himself a hostage to the whims of Osama bin Laden, or 
whoever al-Qaeda's current CEO is. 

     Less than a week after September 11, according to 
Bob Woodward's new book, BUSH AT WAR, Bush told his 
aides, "I believe Iraq was involved, but I'm not going to 
strike them now. I don't have the evidence at this 
point." Many of those aides had been hoping for war with 
Iraq for years, and now their dream was coming true. But 
where was the evidence to justify it? That was the 
problem. What if there was no evidence? 

     If only Iraq could be "linked" to al-Qaeda ... if 
not by facts, then by rhetoric ... perhaps by phrases 
like "axis of evil" ... by speculation that Iraq might 
supply terrorists with its supposed nuclear, chemical, or 
biological weapons ... That was the ticket! All those 
evil guys stick together, right? 

     But somehow the connection remained vague and 
tenuous. The public kept wondering how a "war on 
terrorism" had turned so quickly into a war on Iraq. 

     The question in the back of everyone's mind was, and 
is, this: If Saddam Hussein had helped mount the 9/11 
attacks, why didn't he furnish some real high-tech 
weapons? Nukes, poison gas, anthrax ... but *box-

     Try to imagine the conversation amongst the 
conspirators. Saddam Hussein: "Can I help you fellows 
out? We have some really nasty weapons you can use -- 
nuclear, chemical, germs -- " Muhammad Atta: "Gee, 
thanks. Do you have any box-cutters?" Saddam: "Great 
idea! How many do you need?" Atta: "Oh, about 20, if 
it's not asking too much." Saddam: "Twenty it is! Are 
you sure that's enough? By the way, we also carry a line 
of exploding shoes, if you need any." 

     Or maybe it went like this. Atta: "We want to give 
those Americans a real shock. May we use a couple of your 
nukes?" Saddam: "Sorry, no can do. The Americans would 
be sure to blame me. But I'd be glad to pitch in a few 
box-cutters, as many as you need." Atta (sighing): "Well, 
I guess we'll just have to make do with those." Saddam: 
"Just try to make sure they can't be traced back to us." 

     But it didn't work. Apparently the Bush 
administration saw through the plot and did indeed trace 
the box-cutters back to Iraq. Or maybe it just wanted an 
excuse for war with Iraq and is hoping the public will 
forget that the 9/11 operation had nothing to do with the 
sort of weapons it accuses Saddam Hussein of hiding up 
his sleeve. 

     Bush says he's sick of games and deceptions. He's 
not the only one. The "war on terrorism" has turned into 
an endless shell game that has little to do with the 
horrors of 9/11 and everything to do with manipulating 
Americans, and Europeans, into supporting the war the 
administration has wanted all along. 


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