And we wonder why so many Americans associate Hussein with WMD, 9-11 and Al Qaeda? In September 2003, 70 percent of Americans believed there was a link between Saddam Hussein and 9-11. In February 2005, almost 50 percent believed "Saddam Hussein helped plan and support the hijackers who attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001 (up six percentage points from November)." And in July 2006, 64 percent believed Hussein had strong links with al Qaeda.
Traditional US media have no record of this admission -- or the President's continued rhetorical linkage of Hussein with the events of 9-11 -- in today's stories about Iraq, which focus on polling data. Surprise, the White House has not published the transcript. Fortunately, others have. (tip)
In this press conference, Bush asks us to imagine a world that did not exist: "a world in which you had a Saddam Hussein who had the capacity to make a weapon of mass destruction... who had relations with (al Qaeda)." There has been no evidence found to support either claim.
QUESTION: A quick follow-up. A lot of the consequences you mention for pulling out seem like maybe they never would have been there if we hadn't gone in. How do you square all of that?
BUSH: I square it because imagine a world in which you had a Saddam Hussein who had the capacity to make a weapon of mass destruction, who was paying suiciders to kill innocent life, who would -- who had relations with Zarqawi. Imagine what the world would be like with him in power. The idea is to try to help change the Middle East.
Now, look, I -- part of the reason we went into Iraq: was -- the main reason we went into Iraq: at the time was we thought he had weapons of mass destruction. It turns out he didn't, but he had the capacity to make weapons of mass destruction.
But I also talked about the human suffering in Iraq, and I also talked the need to advance a freedom agenda. And so my question -- my answer to your question is, is that imagine a world in which Saddam Hussein was there, stirring up even more trouble in a part of a world that had so much resentment and so much hatred that people came and killed 3,000 of our citizens.
You know, I've heard this theory about, you know, everything was just fine until we arrived and, you know, kind of -- the "stir up the hornet's nest" theory. It just doesn't hold water as far as I'm concerned. The terrorists attacked us and killed 3,000 of our citizens before we started the freedom agenda in the Middle East. They were --
QUESTION: What did Iraq: have to do with that?
BUSH: What did Iraq: have to do with what?
QUESTION: The attack on the World Trade Center.
BUSH: Nothing, except for it's part of -- and nobody's ever suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack. Iraq: was a -- Iraq: -- the lesson of September the 11th is take threats before they fully materialize, Ken.
Nobody's ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq. I have suggested, however, that resentment and the lack of hope create the breeding grounds for terrorists who are willing to use suiciders to kill to achieve an objective. I have made that case. And one way to defeat that -- you know, defeat resentment, is with hope. And the best way to do hope is through a form of government.
Now, I said going into Iraq: we got to take these threats seriously before they fully materialized. I saw a threat. I fully believe it was the right decision to remove Saddam Hussein, and I fully believe the world was better off without him. Now, the question is, how do we succeed in Iraq? And you don't succeed by leaving before the mission is complete, like some in this political process are suggesting.