Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Commission, Continued

The 9/11 Commission, Continued
P. Schultz
June 19, 2012

            Here are some more passages or partial passages from The Commission, which I find revealing and interesting.

“Kean and Hamilton had been saying it for more than a year. And in the final weeks of the investigation, they said it again. They wanted no ‘finger pointing’ in the final report. They were aware of criticism from within the staff, certainly from 9/11 families, that the report was failing in a basic mission of accountability. Certainly, Kean and Hamilton sensed that the Washington press corps and pundits wanted individuals held responsible…..With a unanimous report, Kean and Hamilton also wanted to prove something that they stood for throughout their careers and that seemed to have been forgotten….that is was still possible for loyal Republicans and loyal Democrats to agree on what was best for national security.

“Kean and Hamilton had settled on a useful catchphrase in describing what had gone wrong before 9/11. There had been a ‘failure of imagination’ by the government as a whole – not so much by individuals who worked in the government – to prepare for the threat that Osama bin Laden posed.” [pp. 404-406]

            Now, just how does that work? A failure by “the government as a whole” but not anyone, not any particular person or persons in the government? Of course, this does not work at all. This explanation is really no explanation at all; it is merely a rationalization to justify the goal of unanimity, a goal that is nowhere defended by Kean or Hamilton as desirable.

            And it should be noted that while this report was issued just a few months before the presidential election of 2004, it did not become an issue in that campaign. As Shenon points out: “The report was released to almost universal acclaim. For days afterward, Bush and Kerry tried to one-up each other on the campaign in expressing enthusiasm for the commission’s work.” [p. 415] And this for a report without any “accountability” of those who failed to prevent or even to detect the 9/11 attacks. Amazing, simply amazing.

            But, as it has just occurred to me: There was no argument for unanimity because unanimity was not the goal. It was merely the tool, the means. The goal was to leave "the system" untouched by controversy, to reinforce the idea that there is nothing or very little wrong with that system or political order. And because the Commission was successful in this project the report "was released to almost universal acclaim" and any suggestions for "reform" amounted to merely tinkering with the system or even reinforcing the system and its basic outlines. For example, the recommendation, acted upon by President Bush, for a DNI, Director of National Intelligence, merely reinforces the system already in place. It does not represent in any way a major alteration of the existing system.

             So, it is important to understand why unanimity was so important to Kean and Hamilton. It was not to demonstrate their adherence to "old fashioned values" like bipartisanship. Rather, it was to squelch any move, or even any thoughts, that there were and are fundamental flaws in the system or regime that then existed and that, thanks in large part to the Commission,  currently exists.

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