At a press conference in mid-June, President Bush, in response to a question about the connections between Iraq and Al-Qaeda, tried to justify the war by saying:
I always said that Saddam Hussein was a threat...He was a threat because he had terrorist connections, not only al Qaeda connections, but other connections to terrorist organizations; Abu Nidal was one. He was a threat because he provided safe haven for a terrorist like Zarqawi who is still killing innocents inside of Iraq.Its hardly a convincing argument: Zarqawi is killing people in Iraq, therefore Zarqawi was sponsored by Saddam Hussein. There are many anti-American Islamic radicals in Iraq totally unaffiliated with Saddam Hussein. There are also many Islamic radical cells in America and Europe - and given that there is not a shred of evidence that Saddam aided Al Qaeda in any manner, this is a rather strained (and misleading) claim to make. Helen Thomas brought this point up at the next White House press briefing:
Q: There's also al Qaeda in the United States. That does not mean the United States is cooperating with those members of al Qaeda. Just by the presence of someone does not mean there's a cooperation.To which press secretary Scott McClellan replied with a non-sequitur:
MR. McCLELLAN: But, remember, we're talking about an oppressive regime that was in power in Iraq...Its pretty clear that the White House is peddling an illogical line of reasoning in a desperate effort to justify the war. I think it should be noted, though, that the United States is not above willingly providing safe haven to known terrorists. A profile of Otto Reich, ex-Undersecretary of State for Latin American Affairs, in the October 2002 issue of the New Yorker provides the following story:
...there was the case of Orlando Bosch. Bosch was a Cuban exile, a former pediatrician who had served time in prison in the United States for conspiring to plant mines on foreign vessels and for firing a bazooka at a Polish freighter docked in the port of Miami. In 1976, Bosch was arrested in Venezuela and convicted of masterminding the bombing of a Cuban airliner. All seventy-three people aboard were killed. Bosch was still in jail in Venezuela when Reich arrived [as Ambassador to Venezuela].
As it happened, Bosch was retried and acquitted six weeks after Reich got to Venezuela. Once Bosch was released, he tried to get a visa to the United States. Reich has always denied taking any special interest in the case. In the diplomatic cables he sent to Washington, according to his spokesman, Reich wrote that he had informed the Venezuelan government that Bosch was not welcome in the United States. But he also appended, in cables that have been declassified, some unusual notes to Bosch's aplications, passing on, for instance, a report that a Cuban assasination team had entered Venezuela with Bosch as its target, and that Bosch's friends would be able to extract him from the country at a few hours' notice. Bosch, however, did not wait for a visa. In February, 1988, he boarded a plane to Miami, tried to enter the country illegally, and was arrested at the airport.
The Justice Department, which had connected Bosch with more than thirty acts of sabotage and violence, wanted to deport him. To many Cuban exiles, however, Bosch was a hero - the Miami City Commission had even declared a Dr. Orlando Bosch Day, in 1983 - and there was an intense public campaign to have him freed. Jeb Bush was a prominent figure in the campaign, and in 1990 the first President Bush, ignoring a Justice Department recommendation, ordered Bosch released. Today, Bosch lives freely in Miami.