Bush answers on 9/11 overdue
May 23, 2003
BY ANDREW GREELEY
After the Bay of Pigs disaster when the CIA tried to invade Cuba, President John F. Kennedy took personal responsibility and ordered an independent investigation. In fact, the invasion had been planned during the Eisenhower administration, and JFK could easily have blamed the mess on his predecessor.
After the Pearl Harbor attack, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established an investigative commission chaired by Supreme Court Justice Owen D. Roberts, a Republican who had been the prosecutor for the notorious Teapot Dome scandal.
Patently, President Bush is not going to assume responsibility for the World Trade Center catastrophe. His political allies blame former President Bill Clinton (as they are blaming him three years later for the current recession). Moreover, Bush continues to stonewall attempts to set up an independent investigation of what went wrong, and continues to sit on the 900-page report prepared by a bipartisan congressional committee.
The White House excuse for this cover-up is that discussion about what went wrong in the months before the destruction of the World Trade Center would interfere with the ''war on terrorism.'' There are several things wrong with this argument. First, if there is not something to hide, why not release the report? Second, FDR and JFK had real wars to fight--the former against imperial Japan, the latter a cold war against world communism. Third, the ''war on terrorism'' is a metaphor (just like the ''war on drugs,'' the ''war on AIDS,'' the ''war on hunger,'' the ''war on poverty'') for a struggle against international criminals. It is a useful political label for a president who wants to be re-elected as a wartime leader and to land on an aircraft carrier dressed in flight gear (even though he was in effect AWOL for at least a year during the Vietnam War). The metaphor conceals what is different in the struggle against Islamic fundamentalism when compared to the war against imperial Japan. Admitting the mistakes the administration made in July and August 2001 will not give aid and comfort to anyone, and certainly not to al-Qaida.
Instead, the president continues to respond to terror with his cowboy rhetoric: We will get Osama bin Laden. We will get the Mullah Omar. We will get the terrorists who blew the hole in the USS Cole. We will get the anthrax killer. We will get Saddam Hussein and his sons. Most recently, we will get the killers who attacked the compounds in Saudi Arabia.
The latter will be quite a trick since the killers were suicide bombers, and Bush will have to bring them back from the dead to haul them into court.
No one seems to notice that we have not found bin Laden or the mullah. The Cole terrorists escaped from a jail in Yemen--undoubtedly with the help of some elements in the Yemeni government (although Attorney General John Ashcroft, with the usual display of sanctimony, has indicted them). We have not found--or perhaps not arrested--the anthrax killer. Saddam is hiding somewhere, probably in a bunker in Baghdad with his sons. Thirty of his top aides are still on the loose.
The people Bush proposed to smoke out and ''get'' are still free. Moreover, some of the CIA officials who ''dropped the ball'' in the summer of 2001 have been promoted. Yet the media who were so eager to pry into the private life of President Clinton seem disinclined to uncover the real story of what happened during that summer and whether the same people who dropped the ball then are still dropping it.
Nor have they paid any attention to the president's claim out there on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln that al-Qaida was on the run. After the explosions in Saudi Arabia and Morocco and the threats in Kenya, it would appear that they are not on the run at all. It would also appear that if one continues to believe Bush's rhetoric, one is accepting as true statements that might be less than true. Finally, it is high time that someone in this country remembers FDR and JFK and wants to know what is really happening. What's the president trying to hide?
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