Fox's Kilmeade claimed Bush “never even said there's a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq”

On Fox & Friends, Brian Kilmeade falsely claimed that “the president of the United States never even said there's a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq,” and that "[t]hat wasn't the premise for going in there." In fact, President Bush repeatedly said there was such a link, and that the United States should invade because Saddam might give his purported weapons of mass destruction to Al Qaeda.

On the August 6 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade falsely claimed that “the president of the United States never even said there's a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq,” and that "[t]hat wasn't the premise for going in there." In fact, President Bush, and several other members of his administration, repeatedly said there was such a link, and that the United States should invade because Saddam might give his purported weapons of mass destruction to Al Qaeda, which could use them to attack the United States. Indeed, in an October 14, 2002, speech, Bush, after mentioning Iraq's purported weapons, declared that Saddam “is a man that we know has had connections with Al Qaeda. This is a man who, in my judgment, would like to use Al Qaeda as a forward army. And this is a man that we must deal with for the sake of peace, for the sake of our children's peace.” Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney also drew a link between Iraq and the September 11 attacks. However, as Media Matters for America has noted, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence concluded in a September 2006 report that “Saddam Hussein was distrustful of al-Qa'ida and viewed Islamic extremists as a threat to his regime, refusing all requests from al-Qa'ida to provide material or operational support," and that "[n]o postwar information indicates that Iraq intended to use al-Qa'ida or any other terrorist group to strike the United States homeland before or during Operation Iraqi Freedom."

As noted by the blog News Hounds, Kilmeade made the claim while discussing author Ron Suskind's report in his new book, The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism (Harper), that "[t]he White House had concocted a fake letter from [Iraqi intelligence chief Tahir Jahil] Habbush to Saddam, backdated to July 1, 2001. It said that 9/11 ringleader Mohamed Atta had actually trained for his mission in Iraq -- thus showing, finally, that there was an operational link between Saddam and al Qaeda." According to Suskind, “the idea was to take the letter to Habbush [who had been ”secretly resettled [] in Jordan" by the CIA] and have him transcribe it in his own neat handwriting on a piece of Iraq government stationary, to make it look legitimate. CIA would then take the finished product to Baghdad and have someone release it to the media" (Page 371). Both former CIA Director George Tenet and the White House have denied Suskind's allegation.

Contrary to Kilmeade's suggestion that an Al Qaeda-Iraq link had not been part of the case for invading Iraq, Bush linked Al Qaeda to Iraq many times during the lead-up to the war. For example:

The danger to our country is grave and it is growing. The Iraqi regime possesses biological and chemical weapons, is rebuilding the facilities to make more and, according to the British government, could launch a biological or chemical attack in as little as 45 minutes after the order is given. The regime has long-standing and continuing ties to terrorist groups, and there are Al Qaeda terrorists inside Iraq. This regime is seeking a nuclear bomb, and with fissile material could build one within a year.

Iraq has already used weapons of mass death against another country and against its own citizens. The Iraqi regime practices the rape of women as a method of intimidation, and the torture of dissenters and their children. And for more than a decade, that regime has answered Security Council resolutions with defiance and bad faith and deception.

We know that the Iraqi regime is led by a dangerous and brutal man. We know he is actively seeking the destructive technologies to match his hatred. And we know that he must be stopped. The dangers we face will only worsen from month to month and year to year. To ignore these threats is to encourage them -- and when they have fully materialized, it may be too late to protect ourselves and our allies. By then, the Iraqi dictator will have had the means to terrorize and dominate the region, and each passing day could be the one on which the Iraqi regime gives anthrax or VX nerve gas or someday a nuclear weapon to a terrorist group.

  • From Bush's October 7, 2002, speech:

We know that Iraq and Al Qaeda have had high-level contacts that go back a decade. Some Al Qaeda leaders who fled Afghanistan went to Iraq. These include one very senior Al Qaeda leader who received medical treatment in Baghdad this year, and who has been associated with planning for chemical and biological attacks. We've learned that Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases. And we know that after September the 11th, Saddam Hussein's regime gleefully celebrated the terrorist attacks on America.

  • From Bush's October 14, 2002, speech at the Thaddeus McCotter for Congress Dinner:

My job is not only to protect America today, but to anticipate problems, as well. And obviously I started a significant and important debate about Iraq. I did because I -- because I understand the threat of Iraq. This is a country that said he would have no weapons of mass destruction, and he does. This is a country that has defied the United Nations 11 straight years, 16 different resolutions. He's completely ignored the international body. This is a country who has made it clear he'd like to have a nuclear weapon. And when our inspectors -- or the inspectors went into the country right after the Gulf War, it was estimated that they were months away from having a nuclear weapon. This is a country that hates America, hates the people in the neighborhood. This is a country which has invaded two countries unprovoked. This is a country, the leadership of which has actually used weapons of mass destruction on its own people, on citizens who disagreed with him. This is a country who gassed its neighbor s. This is a dangerous man.

Prior to September the 11th, 2001, we thought two oceans would protect us. We thought we could kind of step back, and say, this may be somebody else's problem, in another part of the world, and we may or may deal with it. After September the 11th, we've entered into a new era and a new war. This is a man that we know has had connections with Al Qaeda. This is a man who, in my judgment, would like to use Al Qaeda as a forward army. And this is a man that we must deal with for the sake of peace, for the sake of our children's peace.

  • From Bush's January 28, 2003, State of the Union address:

Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of Al Qaeda. Secretly, and without fingerprints, he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own.

  • From a February 6, 2003, statement by Bush:

Senior members of Iraqi intelligence and Al Qaeda have met at least eight times since the early 1990s. Iraq has sent bomb-making and document forgery experts to work with Al Qaeda. Iraq has also provided Al Qaeda with chemical and biological weapons training.

Bush also said that Iraq was a threat because it could provide Al Qaeda with weapons of mass destruction, which the terrorist network could use to attack the United States:

  • From Bush's September 25, 2002, press conference with Colombian president Alvaro Uribe:

Q: Mr. President, do you believe that Saddam Hussein is a bigger threat to the United States than Al Qaeda?

BUSH: That's a -- that is an interesting question. I'm trying to think of something humorous to say. (Laughter.) But I can't when I think about Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. They're both risks, they're both dangerous. The difference, of course, is that Al Qaeda likes to hijack governments. Saddam Hussein is a dictator of a government. Al Qaeda hides, Saddam doesn't, but the danger is, is that they work in concert. The danger is, is that Al Qaeda becomes an extension of Saddam's madness and his hatred and his capacity to extend weapons of mass destruction around the world.

Both of them need to be dealt with. The war on terror, you can't distinguish between Al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror. And so it's a comparison that is -- I can't make because I can't distinguish between the two, because they're both equally as bad, and equally as evil, and equally as destructive.

  • From Bush's March 17, 2003, address to the nation:

Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised. This regime has already used weapons of mass destruction against Iraq's neighbors and against Iraq's people.

The regime has a history of reckless aggression in the Middle East. It has a deep hatred of America and our friends. And it has aided, trained and harbored terrorists, including operatives of Al Qaeda.

The danger is clear: using chemical, biological or, one day, nuclear weapons, obtained with the help of Iraq, the terrorists could fulfill their stated ambitions and kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in our country, or any other.


Should Saddam Hussein choose confrontation, the American people can know that every measure has been taken to avoid war, and every measure will be taken to win it. Americans understand the costs of conflict because we have paid them in the past. War has no certainty, except the certainty of sacrifice.

Yet, the only way to reduce the harm and duration of war is to apply the full force and might of our military, and we are prepared to do so. If Saddam Hussein attempts to cling to power, he will remain a deadly foe until the end. In desperation, he and terrorists groups might try to conduct terrorist operations against the American people and our friends. These attacks are not inevitable. They are, however, possible. And this very fact underscores the reason we cannot live under the threat of blackmail. The terrorist threat to America and the world will be diminished the moment that Saddam Hussein is disarmed.

Bush and Cheney have also linked the September 11 attacks to Saddam's Iraqi regime:

  • In a March 21, 2003, letter to the speaker of the House of Representatives and president pro tempore of the Senate announcing that he was invading Iraq, Bush stated that “the use of armed force against Iraq is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.”
  • On the December 9, 2001, edition of NBC's Meet the Press, host Tim Russert asked Cheney, in reference to Cheney's assertion to Russert five days after the September 11 attacks that there was no evidence that Iraq was involved, if he “still believe[s] there is no evidence that Iraq was involved in September 11?” The vice president responded that since “you and I last talked,” it was "pretty well confirmed" that an Iraqi intelligence officer met with Atta shortly before the attacks.

From the August 6 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

CLAYTON MORRIS (guest co-host): Now here's a question for you: What's Number 14 right now on Three guesses.

GRETCHEN CARLSON (co-host): A new book.


CARLSON: A new book with a lot of assertions in it.

MORRIS: Yeah, a new controversial book by -- you either love him or you hate him, I guess, Ron Suskind, former Wall Street Journal reporter. There it is. The Way of the World is Number 14. It was released yesterday, and it's causing quite a bit of controversy, I guess.

KILMEADE: Yeah, the “story of truth and hope in an age of extremism.” In this book contains a memo evidently that I guess the CIA was asked to write. There was supposedly a forgery to link Saddam Hussein to Mohamed Atta.

CARLSON: Now, wait a minute. Well, it's a little bit more severe than that. Suskind is alleging that the White House ordered the CIA to forge a backdated, handwritten letter from the head of the Iraqi intelligence at the time to Saddam Hussein, basically in an effort to create a link between Al Qaeda and the Iraqi regime. And why is that important? Because, of course, that would lead to the whole situation about why the war in Iraq is being fought. A lot of people saying that there is absolutely no truth to this whatever, including the former CIA director -- the director at the time -- George Tenet, who released a statement saying that this is seriously flawed.

MORRIS: Yeah, and he goes -- he says, “There was no such order from the White House to me, nor, to the best of my knowledge” -- he puts that in there -- “was anyone from CIA ever involved in any such effort.” Raises some serious questions -- his book also goes on to talk about not only this forged letter -- here's the rest of Suskind's claims -- he says that “an operational link between Saddam and Al Qaeda, something the vice president's office had been pressing CIA to prove since 9-11 as a justification to invade Iraq.” Among Suskind's other assertions, though, he says that they knew that they were never gonna find weapons of mass destruction in the country.


MORRIS: And that was among also the forgeries or the pushing --


MORRIS: -- and part of this propaganda campaign.

KILMEADE: So they knew the whole time as the -- we've been through this so many times before. It's amazing some more people are making money off it. So this book is 14 -- is 14 on Amazon. They never made an effort -- Ron Suskind never made an effort to contact any of the players here including George Tenet. So everyone denies it, [deputy press secretary] Tony Fratto of the White House denies it, obviously, everybody else denies it. But he's gonna make a lot of money on it.

So, I don't understand, because the president of the United States never even said there's a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq. That wasn't the premise for going in there. So, weapons of mass destruction, they never thought they'd have them? Don't we have [former Secretary of Defense] Donald Rumsfeld, quoted by some of his greatest detractors, saying, “Check here, check there,” and pulling his hair out that they weren't found there? Throughout George Tenet's book, he gives you the play-by-play of the search for weapons of mass destruction and how those hot sites turned out to be not so hot and how discouraged he was.

Asli Bashir is an intern with Media Matters for America.