for almost two years, however, the bush administration and its supporters have been endlessly repeating the lie that zarqawi was already affiliated with al-qaeda. indeed, they flogged zarqawi's alleged connections with saddam hussein to "prove" that there was a hussein-al qaeda connection. the allegations never held much water to people who watch middle eastern politics closely, but that didn't stop cheney from repeating the lie during the vice presidential debates just a week and a half ago.
last february the u.s. intercepted a letter allegedly from zarqawi to bin laden asking for assistance in iraq. the letter was intercepted almost exactly one year after colin powell first stated that zarqawi was the link between saddam and osama. conservatives touted the letter as proof positive that the administration's allegations had been right and middle eastern expert nay-sayers didn't know what they were talking about. the problem was the letter did not appear to be the kind of letter sent between people who were already in cahoots with each other. it looked like an initial offer of cooperation, not an exchange in a long-running relationship. the letter goes through great lengths to describe the situation in iraq and then contains the following sentence in the last paragraph:
If you agree with us on it, if you adopt it as a program and road, and if you are convinced of the idea of fighting the sects of apostasy, we will be your readied soldiers, working under your banner, complying with your orders, and indeed swearing fealty to you publicly and in the news media, vexing the infidels and gladdening those who preach the oneness of God.contrary to the administration's repeated claims, the conditional language of the letter indicates that zarqawi and bin laden were not yet collaborating, zarqawi was just offering to swear fealty to him in the future if bin laden agreed with his views on the state of iraq and his plan for imposing a sunni theocracy in the country.
that future is apparently now. zarqawi's announcement of alliance to al qaeda mentions that he has been in contact with the organization for eight months. that means the february letter was among zarqawi's earliest attempts to contact the group. tawhid and jihad used to be a local group, with very little influence outside mesopotamia. now it's an al qaeda franchise.
i don't know about you, but i don't feel any safer. thanks george!