9/11 Commission is all politics

by on March 31st, 2004

My column this week in the Independent Florida Alligator addresses the politicization of the 9/11 commission:

On Sept. 12, 2001, America stood united as never before. We all were united as Americans – Republicans and Democrats alike. Unfortunately, that solidarity didn’t last long, as the politicization of the Sept. 11 commission attests. The commission has turned into a political sideshow for this year’s elections and will do little to make Americans safer or more secure.

The fact that the commission is described as “bipartisan” is telling – the word “partisan” shouldn’t be involved at all. Comprised chiefly of former politicians, it’s no surprise the commission produces more political fodder than results.

The commission demanded National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice testify, despite the long-standing principle that personal advisers to the president are not beholden to Congress. In fact, Dick Clarke did not testify before a 1999 commission for the same reason.

In spite of this precedent, President Bush has decided to let Rice testify openly and under oath, in addition to the more than four hours of private testimony she already has provided. Those attempting to use Sept. 11 to hurt the president have erred – Rice’s cogent expertise now, after weeks of hype, will be widely broadcast to set the record straight.

It is absolutely clear who was responsible for the horrific attacks of Sept. 11. It was not the fault of Bush or former-President Clinton, nor was it the fault of Clarke (who grandiosely apologized to the nation last week) or Islam, one of the world’s great faiths.

The responsibility for Sept. 11 lies with the terrorists who committed those awful acts of violence. The little pleasure the al-Qaida leadership enjoys in its caves and safe-houses, I imagine, comes from watching our nation waste its energy on political infighting rather than facing the terrorist threat with a united front.

The investigation into the failures leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor did not begin until after World War II for one reason: Playing the blame game while our troops are at war and our nation is under attack does not serve the interests of our nation.

The current attacks on the Bush administration are absurd. During the previous eight years, al-Qaida bombed the World Trade Center, the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, two American embassies in Africa and the U.S.S. Cole at anchor in Yemen. Sudan’s offers to hand over bin Laden were rejected. During this time, terrorists grew bolder, believing the most serious response we could muster was a couple of cruise missiles lobbed at empty tents and aspirin factories.

After Sept. 11, the Bush administration rightly decided to handle terrorism as a military rather than a law-enforcement matter with remarkable results. Two brutal regimes have been replaced with democratic governments, two-thirds of al-Qaida leadership have been killed or captured and the terrorists now know fear.

It is clear this commission is more about settling political scores than setting things right and defending this country from future attack. We don’t need a scapegoat; we need to fight terrorism. Americans know how to recognize pandering and political attacks, and we won’t tolerate it.

Hunter Williams