During the 2008 election, Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul said that our constant military intervention in the Arab world was the primary motivation behind terrorist acts like 9/11. Why did Paul say this? Because Osama Bin Laden said it. Because the 9/11 Commission report said it. Because CIA intelligence said it, even inventing the term “blowback” precisely to describe it. Yet, when Paul explained this, fellow candidate and eventual Republican nominee John McCain excoriated the Texas congressman and suggested that he was indirectly giving aid and comfort to the enemy, Al-Qaeda.

Yet last week, McCain gave aid and comfort to the enemy. Directly.

Yes, it seems that the man who once ran for president portraying himself as being “tough” on terrorists now supports Al-Qaeda. This is not a joke.

The literal truth of this proposition, which admittedly seems outlandish on its face, hinges upon the question of whether the people McCain now explicitly supports are indeed Al-Qaeda. Consider the following.

When McCain flew to Libya last week to give his support to rebel leaders fighting against the Gaddafi regime, the Senator said: “I have met with these brave fighters, and they are not Al-Qaeda… To the contrary: They are Libyan patriots who want to liberate their nation. We should help them do it.”

McCain met with Libyan rebel leaders and concluded that they are not Al-Qaeda. But there remains a problem. Who is saying that these people are Al-Qaeda? Libyan rebel leaders.

Admitting to having received support from Al-Qaeda, the UK Telegraph reported of Libyan rebel leader Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi last month: “Mr al-Hasidi insisted his fighters ‘are patriots and good Muslims, not terrorists,’ but added that the ‘members of al-Qaeda are also good Muslims and are fighting against the invader.”

If it is true that Mr. McCain has a better grasp on who-is and who-is-not Al-Qaeda than Libyan rebel leaders, then the Senator is innocent in his new alliance. But if it is true that Libyan rebel leaders have a better grasp of who makes up their ranks than an Arizona senator: John McCain supports Al-Qaeda.

Those who might call this duplicitous or an intellectual stretch have short memories. In fact, there is more solid evidence linking McCain to Al-Qaeda than there was for linking Saddam Hussein to that organization.

In December 2001, Vice President Dick Cheney said that it was “pretty well confirmed” that there was a link between Al-Qaeda and Iraq. In 2002, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had said there was “bulletproof evidence” of ties between Al-Qaeda and Iraq. Making his case for war in 2003, President George W. Bush said in his State of the Union address: “Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of Al-Qaeda.” In 2004, Bush would reconfirm his position: “The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al Qaeda: because there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda.”

Bush’s 2004 statement was in reaction to the recently released 9/11 Commission Report which declared: “to date we have seen no evidence that these or the earlier contacts ever developed into a collaborative operational relationship. Nor have we seen evidence indicating that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States.” The report’s findings were supported by the CIA, FBI, the National Security Council and virtually the entire intelligence community.

By 2006, Bush would admit: “First, just if I might correct a misperception, I don’t think we ever said — at least I know I didn’t say that there was a direct connection between September the 11th and Saddam Hussein.” At a later press conference, Bush was asked by a reporter “What did Iraq have to do with the attack on the World Trade Center?” The president replied: “Nothing.”

Compare the Bush administration’s evidence of a link between Iraq and Al-Qaeda and the evidence for a link between John McCain and Al-Qaeda. The Telegraph reported that US and British government sources said Al-Hasidi “was a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, or LIFG… Even though the LIFG is not part of the al-Qaeda organisation, the United States military’s West Point academy has said the two share an ‘increasingly co-operative relationship…’ Earlier this month, al-Qaeda issued a call for supporters to back the Libyan rebellion…” A headline in the Telegraph on Saturday read: “al-Qaeda among Libya rebels, Nato chief fears.”

Who says there is evidence of a link between the Libyan rebels and Al-Qaeda? US and British intelligence, NATO leaders, and the Libyan rebels themselves. Who says there is not a link? John McCain, who calls the rebels “heroes.”

McCain again proves the old saying that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter:” Far from delineating good vs. evil, the Senator’s Libyan trip shows how the often contradictory intelligence concerning US allies and enemies allows our government to spin our foreign policy narrative in whatever direction suits them best.

Along with warning of the dangers of blowback, Congressman Paul also noted in 2008 that constantly intervening in the incestuous tempest that is the Muslim world—in which today’s allies become tomorrow’s enemies and vice versa—more often hurts us than it helps. McCain snidely dismissed Paul’s point, deriding him as an “isolationist.”

If this is true, then it is also true that John McCain is now a terrorist. As George W. Bush put it after 9/11: “We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.”