GIVE Vice-President Dick Cheney his due for consistency. He has insisted from the start that Saddam Hussein was involved with al-Qaeda in the 9/11 attacks on the United States. At one point in late-2002, in the build-up to the Iraq invasion, US opinion polls were finding that more than 60 per cent of the American people believed that Iraq was implicated in 9/11. When President Bush finally, if reluctantly, admitted last year that no such link existed, Mr Cheney kept his counsel; last Monday, however, he surfaced on the subject to say that Saddam Hussein had long-established ties with al-Qaeda. Presumably this was a preemptive strike against the release yesterday by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States of some of its findings, ahead of the full publication of its report next month; among them was a categoric statement that the Commission had found no credible evidence that Iraq had helped al-Qaeda carry out the 11 September 01 attacks. Since the Commission has held talks in private and public with everyone in the US administration connected in any way to 9/11, including an unprecedented joint session with Mr Bush and Mr Cheney, it must be assumed that among the evidence it did not consider credible was the Vice-President's.
Will this be the last we shall hear from Mr Cheney about the Saddam Hussein link to al-Qaeda? Probably not. The Vice-President seems to be as stubborn on this point as Tony Blair is on weapons of mass destruction. The irony, of course, is that al-Qaeda's terrorism, which Saddam Hussein kept at bay, is now firmly established in Iraq, thanks to the Anglo/American invasion and the inept handling of its aftermath. Many voices predicted that this would happen, but they were ignored.