Entry from November 20, 2002

Do the Republicans hope for partisan advantage as much as the Democrats? Is that why they have agreed to the allegedly “bi-partisan” commission to investigate the attacks of September 11, 2001? Perhaps they were thinking that they would be able to pin them on the Clinton administration, just as the Democrats are clearly expecting to find reasons to blame Bush.

The commission, which is to be made up of 10 non-politicians — four chosen by congressional Democrats and four by congressional Republicans plus a chairman chosen by the President and a vice chairman chosen by the Democratic leadership — is due to report in 18 months’ time. You do the math. That will put the commission’s report just in time for the 2004 presidential election’s campaigning season.

Watch the wheel spin: red or black? Clinton or Bush? Where will the little ball of poison come to rest? The G.O.P. must think they have as good a chance as the Dems, even though the latter have made it a condition that one of the Republican appointees should have the approval of Senators McCain and Shelby. Obviously, they’re counting on McCain to rise to the bait and put on his “maverick” hat. He doesn’t need to learn from Jim Jeffords what a windfall of publicity there is to be gained by turning “independent” on your party comrades. I wouldn’t bet a lot, under the circumstances, on the dirt’s sticking to Clinton.

But perhaps you think me cynical. Certainly Senators McCain and Lieberman, co-sponsors of the measure to authorize the committee certainly would. “This is a decisive victory for the families of September 11 victims and the nation as a whole,” Sen. Lieberman said. “Finally, we will get a clear, clean picture of what government agencies failed, how they failed and why.” Who could be against that?

Senator Daschle would also shake his head in sorrow to think that anyone could be so base as to impugn his motives. Yet it’s clear that the purpose of the commission, at least so far as he is concerned, is connected with his recent, more aggressive tack of criticizing the administration for not being more successful in its pursuit of such al-Qaeda terrorists as may still be at large, including Osama bin Laden. “We haven’t found bin Laden. . .We haven’t made any real progress in many of the other areas involving the key elements of al Qaeda. They continue to be as great a threat today as they were a year and a half ago. So by what measure can we say this has been successful so far?”

Success for him, as for his party, can only mean the elimination of all threats to America and a return to the happy state of affairs pre-9/11 when politicians could confine their squabblings to recriminations over who picked the lock on the social security lockbox. He still doesn’t get it. No more does Lieberman with his “clear, clean picture of what government agencies failed.” Talk about begging the question! What if no government agencies failed? What if sometimes bad things happen to good people? What if the guilty parties were the Arab terrorists and not lazy bureaucrats or lax security officials?

“If we can’t evaluate how it was that the last 9/11 happened,” said Senator Daschle, “how is it that we can prepare for the next one, should there be, God forbid, a threat of that kind again?” But what makes him think we can “prepare for the next one”? Even if, with hindsight, we can identify the changes to security procedures that would have stopped the first attack, will making those changes stop the next one? Might it not be better to keep our attention focused on the swine who did the deed rather than looking for faults to find with each other for failing to stop it?

But refusing to indulge ourselves in mutual recriminations would be like refusing to criticize our own government on foreign soil: an old-fashioned, gentlemanly standard of solidarity and patriotism which now seems as dead as tipping one’s hat to a lady. You could ask Representatives McDermott and Bonior, who notoriously said while in Iraq that Saddam Hussein’s assurances of pacific intentions had to be accepted “at face value” while their own president had to be suspected of deception in order to lead the country into war. It is in the context of this scandalous attitude that the commission to investigate 9/11 should be understood.

Discover more from James Bowman

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.

Similar Posts