Published on Friday, July 11, 2003 by the Berkshire Eagle (Pittsfield, Massachusetts)
Why Does 9/11 Inquiry Scare Bush?
The Bush administration has never wanted an inquiry into the intelligence and law-enforcement failures that led up to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and it is doing its best to make sure we never get one. Even the tame commission of Washington insiders, led by men of the president's own party, is now complaining that its work is being hampered by foot-dragging from the Pentagon and Justice Department in producing documents and witnesses, in an effort to run the clock out on it before it can complete its work. The commission's leaders have taken the extraordinary step of accusing the White House of witness "intimidation," insisting that sensitive witnesses testify only in the presence of a "monitor" from their agency. The parallel to Saddam Hussein's refusal to let Iraqi scientists talk to U.N. weapons inspectors without a similar monitor is too glaring to miss and begs the obvious question: What has Mr. Bush got to hide?
The crudeness of his tactics suggests that whatever it is, it must be pretty bad. The Internet is full of wild theories -- that Mr. Bush knew in advance of 9/11 and allowed it to happen so he could exploit it to get his way in domestic and international politics is the most notable -- and while cyberspace is the natural home of the improbable and the far-fetched, the administration's stonewalling only lends credence to those who believe a cover-up of something is going on.
September 11 was the most traumatic incident in recent American history. Three thousand people died in New York, billions in property was destroyed, the national economy tanked and Americans' sense of security was shattered. The men responsible for the attacks are still at large and openly threaten to attack us again. Yet the commission's budget is only $3 million, a pittance compared to the $100 million that was wasted getting to the bottom of Bill Clinton's Whitewater investment and his extramarital affairs. The hearings in the Republican-dominated Congress were a perfunctory affair that attracted even less attention from a sensation-oriented media than is being paid to this commission.
The American people deserve a thorough investigation. They want to know why the fighter jets weren't scrambled after the first plane hit the tower, what the Clinton and Bush administrations knew about threats from al-Qaida and what they were doing about them, what citizens of our allies Saudi Arabia and Pakistan financed Osama bin Laden and his hijackers, how the FBI and CIA missed obvious clues and let suspects they were following slip away, why airline security was so lax, what is the meaning of a suspicious pattern of stock transactions that occurred before the attacks, whether law enforcement efforts were subordinated to diplomatic priorities and the needs and desires of American oil companies.
Americans want the answers to two basic questions: What went wrong? And what is being done to make sure it never happens again? They should be satisfied with nothing less than an honest effort to get those answers, no matter who they embarrass, and the White House should not stand in the way.
Copyright 2003 Berkshire Eagle