There really are people who still believe that SADDAM HUSSEIN could not have supported terrorist groups like Al Qaeda because he was a SECULAR fascist dictator while Osama bin Laden is said to be for a global Islamic theocracy, a kind of modern Caliphate. Yet Al Qaeda has about as much to do with Religion and Islam as Saddam Hussein had to do with Iraqi Democracy and good air quality in Halabja. But very few Filipinos probably know of the direct connection with local terrorist groups, long suspected and now definitively confirmed in the mountain trove of documents found in Iraq and Afghanistan, only recently come to light and comprehension.
(VIA MEMEORANDUM) The Weekly Standard has this item today: Saddam's Philippines Terror Connection--
SADDAM HUSSEIN'S REGIME PROVIDED FINANCIAL support to Abu Sayyaf, the al Qaeda-linked jihadist group founded by Osama bin Laden's brother-in-law in the Philippines in the late 1990s, according to documents captured in postwar Iraq. An eight-page fax dated June 6, 2001, and sent from the Iraqi ambassador in Manila to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Baghdad, provides an update on Abu Sayyaf kidnappings and indicates that the Iraqi regime was providing the group with money to purchase weapons. The Iraqi regime suspended its support--temporarily, it seems--after high-profile kidnappings, including of Americans, focused international attention on the terrorist group.Read it all, but especially part 2 of the Weekly Standard's report. Read it all, though here's a juicy bit more from the Standard...
The fax comes from the vast collection of documents recovered in postwar Afghanistan and Iraq. Up to this point, those materials have been kept from the American public. Now the proverbial dam has broken. On March 16, the U.S. government posted on the web 9 documents captured in Iraq, as well as 28 al Qaeda documents that had been released in February. Earlier last week, Foreign Affairs magazine published a lengthy article based on a review of 700 Iraqi documents by analysts with the Institute for Defense Analysis and the Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia. Plans for the release of many more documents have been announced. And if the contents of the recently released materials and other documents obtained by The Weekly Standard are any indication, the discussion of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq is about to get more interesting.
One week before the attack, Abu Sayyaf leaders had promised a campaign of terror directed at the "enemies of Islam"--Westerners and the non-Muslim Filipino majority. And one week after the attack, Abu Sayyaf attempted to strike again, this time with a bomb placed on the playground of the San Roque Elementary School. It did not detonate. Authorities recovered the cell phone that was to have set it off and analyzed incoming and outgoing calls.
As they might have expected, they discovered several calls to and from Abu Sayyaf leaders. But another call got their attention. Seventeen hours after the attack that took the life of SFC Jackson, the cell phone was used to place a call to the second secretary of the Iraqi embassy in Manila, Hisham Hussein. It was not Hussein's only contact with Abu Sayyaf.
"He was surveilled, and we found out he was in contact with Abu Sayyaf and also pro-Iraqi demonstrators," says a Philippine government source, who continued, "[Philippine intelligence] was able to monitor their cell phone calls. [Abu Sayyaf leaders] called him right after the bombing. They were always talking."
An analysis of Iraqi embassy phone records by Philippine authorities showed that Hussein had been in regular contact with Abu Sayyaf leaders both before and after the attack that killed SFC Jackson. Andrea Domingo, immigration commissioner for the Philippines, said Hussein ran an "established network" of terrorists in the country. Hussein had also met with members of the New People's Army, a Communist opposition group on the State Department's list of foreign terrorist groups, in his office at the embassy. According to a Philippine government official, the Philippine National Police uncovered documents in a New People's Army compound that indicate the Iraqi embassy had provided funding for the group. Hisham Hussein and two other Iraqi embassy employees were ordered out of the Philippines on February 14, 2003.
Interestingly, an Abu Sayyaf leader named Hamsiraji Sali at least twice publicly boasted that his group received funding from Iraq. For instance, on March 2, 2003, he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that the Iraqi regime had provided the terrorist group with 1million pesos--about $20,000--each year since 2000.
People in the Archipelago will recall that this was the period of spectacular raids, kidnappings and other escpades of the Abu Sayyaf Group. This was the era of the Rizal Day Bombing (December 30, 2000, blamed on Erap and Ping); of the Sipadan hostage takings and rise of fame of names like Commander Robot, Global, Kosovo; the raid on Dos Palmas, the ransomed rescue of GMA's billonaire election contributor, Reghis Romero; the Beheading of Guillermo Sobero, the tragedy of missionaries, Gracia and Martin Burnham, the Military Fiasco at Lamitan; the never-ending turmoil on Basilan Island; the escape of Fathur Rohman al Ghozi; the rise of Mindanao as the training ground and hiding place and R&R for the Jemaah Islamiyah and Al Qaeda. This was an era of infamy and intelligence failure, nay of a failed and illegitimate leadership. Anti-terrorism policy in the Philippines under Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has always been mostly HOT AIR -- all talk and very little effective action. This not to disparage the brave fighting men on the frontlines of the fight against both Islamist terrorism of the Abu Sayyaf and the CPP NPA brand of communist insurgency. Rather it is to point to the failures of the national civilian and military leadership to effectively and convincingly call the Filipino people to war on terrorism. How can a military, whose top brass is denounced by its bravest young officers of corruption and dereliction of duty, effectively lead the people towards a just and lasting peace? The President herself has failed to get Anti-Terrorism legislation passed, because her own inconsistent words and actions have thrown her commitment to the fight against terrorists in serious doubt. Her actions testify only to a superb instinct for peronal political survival, not a commitment to the wider alliance or to the principles that motivate its members. Joseph Mussomelli, previously US Embassy's charge d'affaires (last year), said in a parting commentary that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was the "weakest link" among the leaders of ASEAN. I've had several occasions to consider the record of President Arroyo in the war on terror in several related posts:
People are having problem with semantics and the debate has never quite moved beyond the issue of what terrorism IS.
IS TERRORISM A TACTIC?
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's capitulation and appeasement act in Iraq did not impress our allies any about Filipino reliability, at least at the level of the President, especially after she immediately flew into the arms of China in order to play an old Marcosian game. She comes in for some hard scrutiny from the Heritage Foundation in...
AMERICA'S INTERESTS AND FATE OF GLORIA MACAPAGAL ARROYO
This is a bit more philosophical in response to an email
METAPHOR OF THE SINGLE JETLINER
Some plain Texas talk for the U.S. President...
AMERICA SHOULD WITHDRAW SUPPORT FOR GMA'S MOB RULE