In the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, as well as after the fact, critics of the war mocked the notion that there were any connections between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda.
There were indeed some contacts between Saddam's Ba'athist regime and Al Qaeda operatives, but the question of whether they rose to the level of full-fledged coordination is now, for all intents and purposes, irrelevant.
The Associated Press reports that Osama bin Laden is actively directing the actions of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the top Al Qaeda member in Iraq, responsible for countless bloody attacks commonly ascribed to Iraqi "insurgents":
WASHINGTON - Osama bin Laden is enlisting his top operative in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, to plan potential attacks on the United States, U.S. intelligence indicates.One needs to travel to the farthest fringes of the liberal left, into Churchill-Jensen territory, to find people who seriously oppose the capture and punishment of bin Laden and his terrorist underlings. The fact that Osama bin Laden is directing the forces attacking our troops in Iraq is proof positive that we need to stay there until the so-called "insurgency" is extinguished.
Al-Zarqawi, who rivals bin Laden as the nation's public enemy No. 1, has been involved in attacks in the Middle East but has not been known before to have set his sights on the United States.
...Bin Laden was in contact with al-Zarqawi within the past two months in an effort to enlist him in attacks, a U.S. official said on condition of anonymity. The move may reflect the al-Qaida leadership's desire to involve al-Zarqawi in activities outside Iraq, the official said.
Events in Iraq, officials noted, have limited al-Zarqawi's ability to undertake attacks elsewhere.
Al-Zarqawi is blamed for scores of attacks in Iraq and pledged allegiance to bin Laden and the al-Qaida network last year. Yet he has had differences with bin Laden, and his efforts are considered somewhat distinct from central al-Qaida operations.
NOTE: This is Day 3 of the special light-blogging ski trip edition of Riding Sun. The snow here in Niseko has ben falling for days on end, surpassing in quantity and quality anything I have experienced anywhere in the world. Regular blogging will resume after I get back Friday night.