ORLANDO, Fla. – Vice President Dick Cheney (search) said Monday that Saddam Hussein (search) had "long-established ties" with Al Qaeda (search), an assertion that has been repeatedly challenged by some policy experts and lawmakers.
The vice president offered no details backing up his claim of a link between Saddam and Al Qaeda.
"He was a patron of terrorism," Cheney said of Hussein during a speech before The James Madison Institute, a conservative think-tank based in Florida. "He had long established ties with Al Qaeda."
In making the case for war in Iraq, Bush administration officials frequently cited what they said were Saddam's decade-long contacts with Al Qaeda operatives. They stopped short of claiming that Iraq was directly involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, but critics say Bush officials left that impression with the American public.
Cheney listed what he described as the accomplishments of the Bush administration in the war on terror, including fledgling democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq; and the decision by Libya's leader, Moammar al-Qaddafi (search), to abandon his nuclear ambitions.
Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., countered that the Bush administration had "a sorry record in the war on terror." Graham, former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, spoke Sunday in a conference call arranged by John Kerry's presidential campaign in anticipation of Cheney's speech.
The State Department said last week it was wrong in stating that terrorism declined worldwide last year in a report that the Bush administration initially cited as evidence it was succeeding against terrorism, Graham noted. Both the number of incidents and the toll in victims increased sharply, the department acknowledged.