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The missing link

By Robert S. Sargent, Jr.
web posted July 28, 2003

Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, think-tank analysts and authors of "The Age of Sacred Terror," wrote an article in the New York Times on July 20, titled "The Next Debate: A Qaeda Link." In the long article, they summarize: "In the 14 weeks since the fall of Baghdad, coalition forces have not brought to light any significant evidence demonstrating the bond between Iraq and Al Qaeda." They ask, "Where is the proof that Iraq supported terror?" Read on dear reader!

First, a little background. Gilbert Merritt is a federal appellate judge who lives in Nashville, Tennessee. Judge Merritt is a liberal Democrat, highly respected by Democrats and Republicans, and was on President Clinton's short list for Supreme Court nominee. (We got Ruth Bader Ginsberg instead.) Earlier this year, the U.S. Justice Dept. selected 13 experts to go to Iraq and help them rebuild their judicial system, and Judge Merritt is one of the 13. From May 18 to June 28, Merritt wrote 8 articles exclusive to the Tennessean, Nashville's daily paper. His comments are quite interesting.

In his first article he says, "Calm is slowly returning but families are still afraid… Most of all they are afraid of an unknown future, afraid that Saddam will return or that the country will dissolve in anarchy because the Americans won't stay the course." He goes on to say, "I spent the day today talking to Iraqi lawyers. They explained in detail how their court system was designed to operate before Saddam, and how he had made a perfectly reasonable judicial system into an instrument of injustice." He goes on to explain the system and what Saddam did to it.

In his second article, dated May 22, he tells of the poor post-war planning. "Why, after five weeks had little been done to alleviate the suffering of these people?…(The Iraqis) are unlucky that we are so ineffective at rebuilding what we destroyed and giving them a life worth living."

In his third article, he talks about meeting a Judge Dara, who was jailed by Saddam. He talks about Dara's experiences and hopes. "He (Dara) explained how Iraq had ‘something to build on,' because in the 1950s it had the best judiciary in the Arab world – ‘better than Egypt's or Jordan's.'" He says that Judge Dara, "has agreed to help us put together an independent judiciary in Iraq."

The next article dated June 4, speaks about the separation of church and state, and how Islam will influence Iraq's judicial system.

The next article is an interesting story summed up by his observation that, "it is the instincts and ingenuity of people like the bus drivers of Baghdad who are slowly making order out of chaos."

In his last article dated June 28, Judge Merritt bitterly objects to the issuing of a "gag" order by L. Paul Bremer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority. "I have been informed that this includes any article I may write…to any members of the press, including my hometown newspaper." This was his last article.

It is the second to last article dated June 26 that has the bombshell. It is titled: "Document links Saddam, bin Laden." Merritt writes: "Through an unusual set of circumstances, I have been given documentary evidence of the names and positions of the 600 closest people in Iraq to Saddam Hussein, as well as his ongoing relationship with Osama bin Laden." Evidently, Uday, who controlled all media outlets, printed a paper with the 600 names, and with other information. Saddam, furious that it revealed information that should remain secret, had all the papers destroyed. A lawyer named Samir, who was working with Judge Merritt, told him about the document, and said he had a copy that was overlooked, and would Judge Merritt like to see it?

Merritt wrote: "The document shows that an Iraqi intelligence officer, Abid Al-Kaim Muhamed Aswod, assigned to the Iraq embassy in Pakistan, is ‘responsible for the coordination of activities with the Osama bin Laden group.' The document shows that it was written over the signature of Uday Saddam Hussein…It seems to me to be strong proof that the two (Osama and Saddam) were in contact and conspiring to perform terrorist acts. Up until this time, I have been skeptical about these claims. Now I have changed my mind…I believe that President Bush was right when he alleged that Saddam was in cahoots with Osama and was coordinating activities with him (my emphasis)."

Remember, this is coming from a liberal Democrat.

I have found only two references to this article: An article on July 11 by Stephen Hayes in the Weekly Standard, and a mere mention of it in the Washington Times about a week ago. This doesn't mean that I see or hear all of the media outlets, but I think I can safely say that it hasn't been reported by any of the major media outlets. It certainly wasn't mentioned in the N.Y. Times article. I realize, because of the "gag" order, Judge Merritt can't be interviewed, but the articles themselves are news! What's going on?

Robert S. Sargent, Jr. is a senior writer for Enter Stage Right and he can be reached at rssjr@citcom.net.

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