Pushing Another Left-Wing Anti-War Dud

Anti-Bush author Ron Suskind's anecdote about a "forged letter," allegedly used by Bush to establish a Saddam-9/11 link, is very likely a phony story in itself.

Wednesday Arts section unloads another left-wing dud of a bombshell about Bush's dastardly scheming to build support for the war in Iraq. This one is laid out in Ron Suskind's new book "The Way of the World - A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism" and trumpeted in a Times review by contributing writer Mark Danner, "Weapons of Mass Destruction And Other Imaginative Acts."

Danner, who has written his own antiwar book, takes as fact a highly questionable anecdote from Suskind's book.

...the book delivers, serving up two interlinked revelations that add materially to the W.M.D. megascandal: first, that more than three months before initiating the Iraq war President Bush and his highest officials received information, via the British, from Iraq's intelligence chief, Tahir Habbush, that Saddam Hussein had destroyed all his weapons of mass destruction years before - information that the officials "buried" but that turned out to be true. And second, that after paying off Mr. Habbush to the tune of $5 million and resettling him in Jordan, White House officials used him to run a scam on the American people, drafting a letter over his name, backdated to the summer of 2001, in which Mr. Habbush informs Hussein that he has been training Mohammed Atta, soon to be the leader of the 9/11 attacks.

This forged letter, meant to establish beyond doubt a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11, was leaked in December 2003 to an Iraqi politician and longtime C.I.A. asset - Ayad Allawi, soon to be named the first interim prime minister of Iraq - and thence made its way, via a prominent British journalist, to the front page of The Daily Telegraph, and from there into the American press, receiving prominent treatment in various places, including "Meet the Press" and an Op-Ed column by William Safire in The New York Times. Perhaps, as you nursed your coffee that day, you saw the program or read the piece? According to Mr. Suskind, that was your government at work.

Despite White House and C.I.A. denials, Mr. Suskind's case, if not definitive, seems strong; and had Hussein not been captured the very day the article appeared in The Telegraph, the C.I.A.'s handiwork might have had a significant political effect.

But Suskind's "strong" case is pretty strongly refuted by The Weekly Standard Stephen Hayes, in an August 5 posting to the magazine's Daily Standard blog:

Ron Suskind has written another book. It's getting lots of attention. And the main charge is almost certainly false....To believe Suskind's account...you would have to believe: 1) that the Bush administration ordered the CIA, in writing, to forge a letter that was a rather obvious hoax; 2) that the CIA, hostile to the Bush administration and leaking against it at every turn, eagerly complied.