Just suppose… as Dick Cheney launched his springtime assault in defense of the war on terrorism and the use of torture, that a new piece of information had come to light providing circumstantial evidence that there might indeed have been a connection between the 9/11 hijackers and Saddam Hussein.
The connection might be a bit tenuous, but suppose one of the principal hijackers had a cousin who had been on the payroll of Saddam’s Mukhabarat for 25 years and during that period he had received $300,000.
How likely is it that Cheney would dismiss such a connection, that he would accept the claim that the two cousins did not know each other well, and that he would agree that really this was the kind of connection to which no significance should be attached?
Since this is an imaginary scenario the answer must be purely speculative, but this much we do know: several men were brought close to death in the hope that under intense pressure they might divulge some scrap of information on a possible al Qaeda-Saddam connection.
We can take this much for granted: Someone who had spied for Saddam and who was related to a 9/11 hijacker would — if Dick Cheney had any say in the matter — at the very least face some serious questioning.
So why should we bother with this kind of idle speculation?
Last July, Ali al-Jarrah was arrested by Hezbollah in Al-Marej in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. He was later handed over to Lebanese government security services and now sits in jail.
As the New York Times reported in February:
Lebanese investigators say he has confessed to a career of espionage spectacular in its scope and longevity, a real-life John le Carré novel. Many intelligence agents are said to operate in the civil chaos of Lebanon, but Mr. Jarrah’s arrest has shed a rare light onto a world of spying and subversion that usually persists in secret.
Mr. Jarrah’s first wife maintains that he was tortured, and is innocent; requests to interview him were denied.
From his home in this Bekaa Valley village, Mr. Jarrah, 50, traveled often to Syria and to south Lebanon, where he photographed roads and convoys that might have been used to transport weapons to Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group, investigators say. He spoke with his handlers by satellite phone, receiving “dead drops” of money, cameras and listening devices. Occasionally, on the pretext of a business trip, he traveled to Belgium and Italy, received an Israeli passport, and flew to Israel, where he was debriefed at length, investigators say.
At the start of the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, Israeli officials called Mr. Jarrah to reassure him that his village would be spared and that he should stay at home, investigators said.
Since Jarrah’s arrest, Israeli spy rings have been falling like dominoes all across Lebanon. Ironically, the unraveling of Mossad’s intelligence network has resulted in part from technical assistance provided to the Lebanese by the Bush administration — assistance that was intended to target Syrians.
But what’s all of this got to do with 9/11?
It turns out that Ali al-Jarrah had a famous cousin: Ziad al-Jarrah, hijacker and pilot of United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001.
The New York Times says “the men were 20 years apart in age and do not appear to have known each other well.”
Maybe this isn’t the kind of connection that concerns Cheney and maybe Ziad knew nothing about his cousin’s 25 years of service to Mossad.
Still, it’s interesting. No?