9/11 Commission Recap

A good bit of the hearings conducted by the 9/11 Commission appointed after the tragedies in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania in 2001 and conducted in 2003-04 were heard in this corner, as well as the “swan song” statements made by most of the commissioners this week, as they gave their “grade-card” performances regarding the administration’s inculcation (or non-inculcation) of their 41 recommendations – thanks a thousand times over for C-SPAN, the TV service that makes it possible for a citizen not to be forced to look at the news through the eyes of some agenda-driven “mainstream” news organization, such as NBC, ABC, CBS, and the New York Times or Washington Post. On the basis of the obvious collective angst of the commission members, and without the “mainstreamers” to interpret their remarks, it seemed in this corner that the commission was the most partisan non-partisan outfit to come down the pike in a long time, both in the hearings and in the somewhat melodramatic performances of this week.

Suffice it to say that the collective wisdom of the commission was that its 41 recommendations were totally correct and should be considered inviolate, i.e., brought on line no later than yesterday, even though its report was not presented until the summer of 2004, just a bit over a year ago. The notion that anything can be done in the capital – especially if within the parameters of congressional responsibility – in a mere 15-16 months is too off-the-wall even to challenge the imagination of a Timothy O’Leary-type hallucinatory frat brat. To say the commissioners were upset that their recommendations for saving the country and indeed the entire world were not already set in concrete legally and fueled with the proper funding would be to put it mildly. They were – to be nice – merely outraged!

The commission did some good work, and came up with some good recommendations, in spite of its partisan bent, though it was made up of five each of republicans and democrats. The chairman was Republican Thomas Kean, former New Jersey governor, and its vice chairman was Democrat Lee Hamilton, a former Indiana congressman with something like 34 years in the House. The membership seemed, unlike most reasonable people, to believe that 9/11 or at least its aftermath was somehow brought about by the dereliction of a Bush administration that had been in office for eight months, following the eight-year tenure of the Clinton administration, during which the planning and groundwork for 9/11 had taken place, and during which the U.S. government had done virtually nothing either to discover that planning or respond significantly to actual attacks on U.S. personnel and properties. The WTC bombing of 1993, the dragging-through-the-streets of American GIs in Somalia, the Khobar Towers incident in Saudi Arabia, the bombing of two U.S. African embassies, the bombing of the USS Cole come readily to mind. Nothing of significance was done to counteract these atrocities wreaked upon American citizens, properties, and personnel.

One wonders why the commission was appointed. It certainly was not appropriate for the purpose of pointing fingers or placing blame, simply because it had never been conceivable to most people that such a slaughterhouse type of suicidal actions could happen. The last time planes and people had been used as missiles and guidance systems, respectively, to any degree was in 1945, when the Japanese kamikaze pilots tried to destroy America’s Pacific fleet during World War II…and did destroy lots of ships and killed lots of sailors; however, that action was in wartime and comprised a desperate attempt by military men knowing full well that their nation was on the verge of annihilation. The U.S. was in no war with anyone in 2001, certainly not with Afghanistan or Iraq. The notion that human beings could commit suicide in killing thousands of unsuspecting people was simply beyond anyone’s comprehension, with the obvious exception of Islamic terrorists, of which there were next to none in this country in 2001. The only purpose which the 9/11 Commission could serve would be to discover the events leading to the 9/11 massacres and make recommendations. It did this, but with an almost conspiratorial bent – at least it so seemed here – to blame George Bush. The bulk of the blame, as everyone knew, had to be directed at the Clinton administration. Clinton’s national security adviser, Sandy Berger, distinguished himself and his administration during the hearings by stealing documents – but he hasn’t served any time for that little miscue. Disgusting!

Perhaps the most important matter handled by the commission had to do with the inability, purposeful or not, of various intelligence and enforcement agencies to communicate with each other. The commission made the important recommendation that this be remedied; however, a primary reason this situation existed in the first place lay at the feet of one of the commission members, Jamie Gorelick, a former deputy attorney general under Attorney General Janet Reno (remember the Branch Davidians fiasco) in the Clinton administration. It was her 1995 memo that brought about the rigid separation of criminal investigators from intelligence agents, thus disallowing the very cooperation the commission demanded to now be in place and collectively wailed was not yet in place, never mind that such systems cannot, by Washington definition, be reconfigured in a matter of months. Just the reconfiguration of computer systems alone is a job of inordinately challenging proportions. Ms. Gorelick was at her most pathetic during her valedictory speech when she brought up the subject of the government’s connection (dereliction) with the events caused in August and the months since by Hurricane Katrina. This subject had absolutely no bearing on the business of the 9/11 Commission, but Ms. Gorelick apparently seized upon it to make whatever political capital possible of her opportunity before the cameras of C-SPAN. The fact that she made herself look foolish will probably never dawn upon her.

For his part, Commissioner Timothy Roemer, former Indiana congressman and the apparently self-appointed attack-dog of the commission, brought up the subject of the nation’s loss of reputation throughout the whole world account accusations of prisoner-torture, if memory serves. This, also, had nothing to do with 9/11, but the rabid democrat used his free time before the cameras to make what he apparently considered to be political capital. If memory serves, he also went out of his way to address survivors of the tragic events of 9/11, not mentioning, of course, that many had become millionaires as the result of the tragedies, a magnanimous republican administration making this possible. Such was not the case with regard to the Murrow Building terrorist-bombing in Oklahoma City in 1995 under the Clinton administration, but Roemer didn’t mention that, either. His partisan blathering in both the hearings and the valedictory were disgusting.

Either Commissioners Ben-Veniste, a Washington lawyer, or former Nebraska governor/senator Bob Kerrey was not at the valedictory or they simply were not apparent to this corner. Suffice it to say that Ben-Veniste, using much of his time in the hearings for making speeches instead of asking questions and listening to answers, was not noticed thankfully, in the interest of warding off sheer boredom. Since the report card milieu (grades A through F and even an Incomplete) was used to “grade” the government on its response to the oracular wisdom and lecturing of the commission, Kerrey, president of the New School University, might have appreciated being absent. Nothing could have been more sophomoric than this approach. The commissioners seemed not to be able to say emphatically enough that the nation is in dire peril of another attack, but neglected to mention that as at least the major part contributing to the nation’s apparent safety since 9/11 the administration has not done too badly. One could almost sense a certain disappointment, applicable as well to current democrat leaders, that something terrible has not already happened. More’s the pity.