Evidence for what the Left have constantly denied

Documents seized in Iraq immediately after the US invasion in 2003 point to the presence of al-Qa'ida members in the country before the war, and show there had been moves to hide traces of "chemical or biological materials" from UN weapons inspectors. The documents have been posted on the internet as part of a rolling program by the US Government to make public the contents of 48,000 boxes of untranslated papers and tapes relating to the workings of Saddam Hussein's regime. Saddam is said to have routinely taped talks with cabinet members and intelligence chiefs.

US director of national intelligence John Negroponte was ordered by President George W. Bush to release the material. Hundreds of thousands of previously unseen documents and hundreds of hours of tapes will be placed on the web in the coming weeks. The first documents to be released offer tantalising clues to possible Iraqi contacts with al-Qa'ida. An Iraqi intelligence report dated September 15, 2001 -- four days after the attacks on the US -- says Osama bin Laden and the Taliban were in contact with Iraq, and al-Qa'ida members had visited the country. It claims the US had proof that the Iraqi government and "bin Laden's group" had agreed to co-operate to attack targets in the US and that the Americans might strike Iraq and Afghanistan in retaliation.

However, the information comes from an unidentified Afghan informant who states merely that he heard it from an Afghan consul, also unnamed. According to ABC News, which translated the tapes, the claims are "sensational" but the sourcing is "questionable". Another document from a "trustworthy" source and dated August 2002 claims people with links to al-Qa'ida were in Iraq. There is a picture a few pages later of the Jordanian terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. But the papers suggest Saddam's agents were trying to verify the presence of al-Qa'ida rather than colluding with it.

Documents from 1997 confirm that Saddam was giving UN weapons inspectors the runaround by removing correspondence concerned with "prohibited weapons" and clearing "labs and storages of any traces of chemical or biological materials". The transcript of one tape recording shows an official named as Comrade Husayn expressing concern to Saddam that outsiders would find out about imported material, including some from the US, apparently for chemical weapons. "They have a bigger problem with the chemical program than the biological program," he tells Saddam. "We have not told them that we used it on Iran, nor have we told them about the size or kind of chemical weapons that we produced and we have not told them the truth about the imported material."

In another taped conversation from the mid-1990s, a man called al-Sahhaf -- possibly a former information minister -- says: "On the nuclear file, sir, are we saying we disclosed everything? No, we have uncleared problems in the nuclear field." Apparently confirming that the nuclear program had been abandoned, he adds: "Everything is over. but did they know? No, sir, they did not know, not all the methods, not all the means, not all the scientists and not all the places."

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