Before we went in!!
But what I want to bring to your attention today is the potentially much more sinister nexus between Iraq and the al-Qaida terrorist network, a nexus that combines classic terrorist organisations and modern methods of murder. Iraq today harbours a deadly terrorist network headed by Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, an associated collaborator of Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida lieutenants.
Zarqawi, a Palestinian born in Jordan, fought in the Afghan war more than a decade ago. Returning to Afghanistan in 2000, he oversaw a terrorist training camp. One of his specialities and one of the specialities of this camp is poisons. When our coalition ousted the Taliban, the Zarqawi network helped establish another poison and explosive training centre camp. And this camp is located in north-eastern Iraq.
You see a picture of this camp.
The network is teaching its operatives how to produce ricin and other poisons. Let me remind you how ricin works. Less than a pinch - image a pinch of salt - less than a pinch of ricin, eating just this amount in your food, would cause shock followed by circulatory failure. Death comes within 72 hours and there is no antidote, there is no cure. It is fatal.
Those helping to run this camp are Zarqawi lieutenants operating in northern Kurdish areas outside Saddam Hussein's controlled Iraq. But Baghdad has an agent in the most senior levels of the radical organisation, Ansar al-Islam, that controls this corner of Iraq. In 2000 this agent offered al-Qaida safe haven in the region. After we swept al-Qaida from Afghanistan, some of its members accepted this safe haven. They remain there today.
Zarqawi's activities are not confined to this small corner of north-east Iraq. He travelled to Baghdad in May 2002 for medical treatment, staying in the capital of Iraq for two months while he recuperated to fight another day.
During this stay, nearly two dozen extremists converged on Baghdad and established a base of operations there. These al-Qaida affiliates, based in Baghdad, now coordinate the movement of people, money and supplies into and throughout Iraq for his network, and they've now been operating freely in the capital for more than eight months.
Iraqi officials deny accusations of ties with al-Qaida. These denials are simply not credible. Last year an al-Qaida associate bragged that the situation in Iraq was, quote, "good," that Baghdad could be transited quickly.
We know these affiliates are connected to Zarqawi because they remain even today in regular contact with his direct subordinates, including the poison cell plotters, and they are involved in moving more than money and material.
Last year, two suspected al-Qaida operatives were arrested crossing from Iraq into Saudi Arabia. They were linked to associates of the Baghdad cell, and one of them received training in Afghanistan on how to use cyanide. From his terrorist network in Iraq, Zarqawi can direct his network in the Middle East and beyond.
We, in the United States, all of us at the State Department, and the Agency for International Development - we all lost a dear friend with the cold-blooded murder of Mr. Lawrence Foley in Amman, Jordan last October, a despicable act was committed that day. The assassination of an individual whose sole mission was to assist the people of Jordan. The captured assassin says his cell received money and weapons from Zarqawi for that murder.
After the attack, an associate of the assassin left Jordan to go to Iraq to obtain weapons and explosives for further operations. Iraqi officials protest that they are not aware of the whereabouts of Zarqawi or of any of his associates. Again, these protests are not credible. We know of Zarqawi's activities in Baghdad. I described them earlier.
And now let me add one other fact. We asked a friendly security service to approach Baghdad about extraditing Zarqawi and providing information about him and his close associates. This service contacted Iraqi officials twice, and we passed details that should have made it easy to find Zarqawi. The network remains in Baghdad. Zarqawi still remains at large to come and go.