Jewish World Review May 24, 2004 / 4 Sivan, 5764

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly
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Clown commission: Events of 9/11 deserve more than this inquiry


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | "While the 9/11 commission is about as substantive as a sitcom, it is not nearly as funny," Beston wrote in The American Spectator online.

John Lehman, a Republican, was the latest member of the commission to disgrace himself, with his intemperate (and factually challenged) assault on former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and former Fire Department Chief Thomas Van Essen. The fat guys in plush chairs with big mouths can't even get hindsight right.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani interjected the long-winded "questions" posed by members of the panel to interject a note of common sense: "Our enemy is not each other, but the terrorists who attacked us."

The one thing we can be certain of is that within days of its filing on July 26, the report of the 9/11 commission will be filed away unread, its "findings" — whatever they will be — ignored by one and all.

As far as this group of clowns is concerned, that will be an appropriate result. Their opinions — quite literally — will not be worth the paper they are printed on. But the commission's failure is a tragedy. There needed to be a serious examination of the institutional problems which contributed to the success of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and now there won't be one.

But not all is lost. The 9/11 commission has been a textbook illustration of how to do everything wrong. So when tragedy strikes again — as it almost certainly shall — we at least have a blueprint for what mistakes not to repeat.

The first problem with the 9/11 commission is its reporting date. Any report issued during an election year is bound to be dangerously politicized. The point of this exercise in not to find scapegoats for short-term political advantage, but to identify weaknesses in our national security structure to prevent a repetition of tragedy. The report should not be issued until next January, when its findings might be of some use to the incoming administration.

The nature of the commission is evidence that those who appointed it did not have identifying problems and offering solutions for them uppermost in their minds. Only 4 of the 10 commissioners have putative qualifications to pass judgment on the performance of our intelligence agencies. And of these one — Jamie Gorelick, deputy attorney general during the Clinton administration — has a hopeless conflict of interest. Two others — Lehman and former Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, a former Navy SEAL, have made asses of themselves. All the others were chosen more for their political reliability (to one party or the other) than for their insight into national security affairs.

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The worst member of the commission is its chairman, former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean. Kean is such a lightweight that all that keeps his feet on the ground are the rocks in his head. Kean and his colleagues repeatedly have appeared on television news programs, expressing their opinions on the testimony of witnesses. This is as wildly inappropriate as if, during a trial, the judge and members of the jury were giving a running commentary on their current thoughts on the guilt or innocence of the defendant to the press.

Kean has failed to rein in commissioners when they go off on tangents, as when Kerrey treated National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to a bizarre rant on Iraq policy, a subject far beyond the purview of the Commission. Kean has also failed to keep demonstrators within the audience at public hearings in line.

All the commissioners have shown a greater interest in getting their faces on television than in getting at the truth. But what is fatal to the commission's credibility is the presence on it of Gorelick.

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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. Comment by clicking here.

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