By David Kubiak
Saturday, Dec 20, 2003
December 17th: 9/11 Commission Chairman Kean fires off a news blip claiming the September 11 attacks were “preventable,” some officials had “simply failed”, and “major revelations” are due next month. Titillating stuff, without question, but Kean was already backing off the next day, “clarifying” that “We have no evidence that anybody high in the Clinton or Bush administrations did anything wrong,” i.e., only mid-level heads may be required to roll.
While the “preventable” crackle fades away on the news ticker, I would commend your attention to a graver 9/11 story that never made the crawl bar but directly affects the credibility of this inquiry as a whole.
December 9th, two days after the 52nd anniversary of Pearl Harbor, the National 9/11 Commission itself was hit without warning by Tom Daschle’s bombshell appointment of Iraq hawk Bob Kerrey to replace Max Cleland.
Kean’s bully outbursts notwithstanding, the Independent 9/11 Commission is in trouble. A majority of members have been tarnished with conflict of interest allegations for their ties to airlines, oil firms, and the Bush/Cheney crowd. The commission is also under fire for not requiring witnesses to testify under oath and for allowing administration “minders” to chaperone its private deposition interviews. The Administration is not cooperating, the media is missing in action, and the Commission’s clock is running out. With two-thirds of its mandated life already passed, it is still awaiting access to critical documents from the FAA, NORAD and the White House.
To make matters far worse, it’s also lost Max Cleland, one of the few commissioners untainted by conflicts of interest and certainly the most outspoken with regard to the facts. By June of this year Cleland was already railing loudly against the Administration for “slow-walking” cooperation, insisting on “minders”, and routing the Commission’s information through a “political coordinator” in Ashcroft’s Justice Department Many victim family groups disappointed by the Commission’s compromises, vacuous hearings, and delays were stating privately that Cleland was one of the only commissioners they could trust.
Then on July 11th, Tom Daschle suddenly and inexplicably nominated Cleland for one of the Democrat controlled board seats in the Export-Import Bank. The nomination required a presidential OK, but if approved would expel Cleland from the 9/11 Commission since no commissioner could simultaneously hold a federal post. So Daschle had knowingly put the fate of the Administration’s harshest 9/11 critic into the hands of the Bush team itself.
Cleland for his part refused to shut up, “As each day goes by we learn that this government knew a whole lot more about these terrorists before September 11th than it has ever admitted.” (NY Times 10/26/03) He was also the only member to speak out against the Commission leaders’ deal allowing the White House to severely limit and censure access to requested Bush briefing documents. As Cleland raged to Wolf Blitzer on CNN (11/13/03), “”This is a scam, it’s disgusting. America is being cheated… We shouldn’t be making deals. If somebody wants to deal, we issue subpoenas. That’s the deal.”
That may have been Cleland’s idea of the deal, but it was also apparently the last straw. Nine days later Bush confirmed Cleland’s Ex-Im Bank appointment and purged him from the Commission for good.
The ball then returned Daschle’s court as he alone had the authority to appoint Cleland’s successor. The Family Steering Committee, which monitors the Commission’s proceedings on behalf of many victim family groups, lobbied hard for another commissioner they could believe in — someone who would be as fearless, focused and candid as Cleland, and help allay their increasing qualms. Their three recommendations included former Sen. Gary Hart, who had co-chaired the prophetic Hart-Rudman Commission on national security and terrorism; Eleanor Hill, a trusted commission staffer and former Pentagon Inspector General; and 9/11 widow Kristen Breitweiser, co- chair of September 11th Advocates. Breitweiser was in fact the family groups’ favorite as she was not only “one of them,” she had also been a driving force behind the 9/11 Commission’s creation when Congress’s joint intelligence investigation proved futile and Daschle meekly heeded Cheney’s warning not to launch any inquiries of his own.
Daschle could not be pushed around by just anyone however. He fearlessly defied all victim group requests and New York editorials recommending a family member for the post, as well as thousands of faxes and emails begging him to choose Kristen above all. Daschle not only spurned these appeals, he flabbergasted everyone by appointing New School University’s controversial president, Bob Kerrey, to the post.
Daschle’s press office stressed all the Cleland/Kerrey parallels – both men were outspoken former senators, red-state Democrats, and decorated amputee Vietnam vets. What the press releases neglected to note was that, unlike Cleland, Kerrey was also an ultra-hawk, a strategic ally of Bush’s neocon handlers, and an alleged war criminal to boot.
DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL, JUST RUN
Some who heard the news were disconcerted because of the unresolved war crime charges against Kerry for his command of a Navy Seals special ops unit in Vietnam. In the late ’90s investigative journalist Gregory Vistica found Vietnamese and military witnesses who claimed Kerrey ordered the slaughter of 21 unarmed women and children in a raid on the tiny hamlet of Thanh Phong in February of 1969. Kerrey went on to lose a leg in a later skirmish, win the Medal of Honor, and enjoy a meteoric political career. Pressed by Vistica’s revelations, Kerrey finally acknowledged the massacre in 2001, denying he started it, but admitting he didn’t try to stop it either. Whatever the truth of that night, many more were alarmed by the fact that he concealed the bloody episode for three decades while exploiting his “war hero” status to realize his political goals (which were lofty, including a hard driving Presidential bid in ’92).
One mainstream review of Vistica’s expose, “The Education of Lieutenant Kerrey,” noted that “Kerrey did his best to control the story and even to quash it by offering Vistica a job on several occasions. He also changed his story repeatedly: ‘After the many talks I’d had with Kerrey over two- plus years, I came to see that he regarded the truth as fluid–something that could be modified, mixed, or diverted to suit his needs at the moment.'”
Reasonable doubt 1): how can someone who has shown so few misgivings about cover-ups or fluidic deceit for so long suddenly become a principled champion of concrete truth and full disclosure overnight?
After serving one term in Nebraska’s governor’s mansion and nearly two in the Senate, Kerrey summed up his national security vision in a famous 1999 speech that urged more of everything martial: more intrusive intelligence, more sweeping surveillance, more billions (by far) for the Pentagon, and a more damn-the-costs-tests-&-treaties–full-speed-ahead! approach to Star Wars.
Reasonable doubt 2): if these were indeed your policy objectives, sir, what about the post-9/11 world is not to like?
PNAC: THE LITTLE RAD POLICY ENGINE THAT COULD
If Kerrey’s gung ho ’99 overtures seem to chorus the militant anthems of the Project for a New American Century, you have a good ear. PNAC, you may recall, presents itself as an ultra-patriotic think tank and the strategy Vatican of neo-conservatism. PNAC members and alumni like Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Perle, Abrams, et al. now dominate White House decision-making and are the guiding force behind our current global adventurist spree.
For the last five years PNAC members have openly advocated total US military and economic domination of land, space, and cyberspace to secure global hegemony and economic supremacy, all of which would speedily deliver — drum roll — “the New American Century!”
PNAC has been the clearest voice promoting US control of the oil rich Middle East states; the loudest boosting military spending, full spectrum dominance, and space war tech; and the most wistful (in 2000) publicly lamenting that all its grand designs would take forever to realize without “some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.”
It’s becoming clear that we the people should pay heed to what these guys pray for, since they always seem to get their wish. One real concern, as readers of Robert Stinnett’s densely documented “Day of Deceit” (Free Press, 1999) may recall, is that the “old” Pearl Harbor was not exactly a grim godsend or even a surprise attack. Stinnett reprints the Navy intercepts and internal memos that prove FDR knew it was coming and deftly used the ensuing outrage against Japan to ship troops off to Europe. (At least until our troops took Baghdad, this ranked as the greatest political bank shot of our age.) FDR’s foreknowledge has in fact long been known to serious students of the era, and the PNAC fellowship, if nothing else, is a historically literate crew.
Whatever this administration’s foreknowledge of 9/11 (and god knows they were warned eleven times), the issue with Kerrey is his ex post facto collusion with the PNAC crowd to pump the 9/11 terror to sell the conquest of Iraq.
Indeed to many 9/11 victim families in the Peaceful Tomorrows and Not in Our Name camp, Kerrey’s most disturbing employment was his zealous membership in the PNAC-dominated Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. Better known in peace & justice circles as the Committee to Bomb Iraq, the CLI was a White House-anointed “advocacy group” founded in November 2002 to bolster faltering poll support for PNAC’s long planned Iraq war. Its mission according to its own website at the time: “The Committee for the Liberation of Iraq will engage in educational and advocacy efforts to mobilize U.S. and international support for policies aimed at ending the aggression of Saddam Hussein… [which] poses a clear and present danger to its neighbors, to the United States, and to free peoples throughout the world.”
Although Saddam’s “clear and present danger” remained ominously unspecified, PNAC board fixture and CLI executive director Randy Scheunemann saw a more immediate threat arising here at home: “There’s going to be a huge need in the post- election vacuum to make sure that what happened in August [when support for unilateral Iraq intervention fell to 27% in the polls] doesn’t happen in November and December… Capitol Hill offices have been getting a lot of calls against [attacking Iraq] and not many for.”
With public support tanking and Iraq war prep well underway, a huge PR campaign was called for and the CLI delivered. Chorusing White House canards about WMDs, mushroom clouds, UN futility, and Iraq/Al Qaeda collusion, CLI members and friends launched a media offensive that deluged news shows, op-ed pages, and high profile podia for three months. By March, deception prevailed, angst was restored, a majority believed Saddam had backed 9/11, and nearly 60% were ready for us to take him on alone.
By any PR standard the campaign was audacious and a great success. Poli- sci and propaganda buffs will no doubt study its techniques for many years. But beyond its skillful mendacity, the nature of CLI’s membership teaches important lessons as well.
GAMES OF MONOPOLY, WAR AND PNACKLE
Remember Mussolini’s maxim that fascism should rightly be called corporatism because it merges corporate interests with state power? Well, the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq is sort of an American microcosm of Benito’s corporate-martial dream, a corporatist hologram of our military-industrial complex writ small. Consider the strategic fusion.
You want military? Check recent CV entries for CLI Prez Scheunemann (Rumsfeld’s Iraq policy consultant), or Richard Perle (Assistant Secretary of Defense & Chairman, Defense Policy Board), or Frank Gaffney (Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense) or James Woolsey (CIA chief) or arch-hawks like General Wayne Downing (Deputy National Security advisor & Iraq National Congress lobbyist) and General Buster Glosson (Chief of Gulf War I bombing campaign)
You want industrial? CLI chairman Bruce P. Jackson was a top seed in defense industry games throughout the Nineties and weapons giant Lockheed Martin’s VP for Strategy and Planning right up to 2002 when he took the CLI post. Chairman of the CLI Board was George Schultz, a patriarch of Bechtel, which would go on to “win” more than $600 million in uncontested Iraqi infrastructure contracts. And let’s not forget the indefatigable General Barry McCaffrey, notorious Gulf War I field commander, who now represents Raytheon Aerospace, Integrated Defense Technologies, and Veritas Capital, a growing Carlyle Group wannabe.
You want a complex? Consider the swarming CLI / PNAC nexus: not just CLI insiders like PNAC co-founder Robert Kagain, PNAC chairman William Kristol, PNAC’s executive director Gary Schmitt, PNAC director Scheunemann, and PNAC’s “Prince of Darkness” Richard Perle, but also the Committee’s compulsory conclaves with PNAC progenitors Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz. Just how much more PNACkled can one little group get?
These linkages are critical because they tie Kerrey directly into the heart of a crowd now being charged in various quarters with 9/11 foreknowledge, passive abetment and thus treason and murder. Indeed respected former cabinet ministers in both Britain and Germany have argued in print this year that 9/11 was “allowed to happen” as a great enabler for PNAC’s imperial campaigns. In the US, Ellen Mariani, an elderly 9/11 widow, recently filed a civil RICO (Racketeering, Influence, and Corrupt Organization) Act complaint against Bush and such key PNAC puppeteers as Cheney and Rumsfeld, presenting forty pages of evidence that they “knowingly let 9/11 happen for their personal and political gain.” The gains enumerated include not only fear-induced poll bloat and 2002 congressional victories, but also the huge windfall profits realized by defendant-related firms in the destruction/reconstruction of Afghanistan and Iraq. (For example, Cheney’s 433,000 Halliburton stock options alone have now appreciated to $26 million plus.)
Until these accusations are fully explored and adjudicated, Kerrey’s close strategic cooperation with these defendants in hyping their agenda makes him a prime “person of interest” in both the evidential and auxiliary sense.
WHO YA GONNA CALL? A TRUST-BUSTER?
So to sum up our reasonable doubts: Is a man who has: a) shown no personal aversion to grave cover-ups and duplicity; b) noisily promoted the militarist policies that 9/11 delivered; and c) collaborated with alleged accomplices in, and obvious beneficiaries of, the 9/11 attacks, really the best candidate we can find for a 9/11 sleuth?
Who knows what Daschle was thinking when he sacrificed Cleland, ignored victim family pleas, and conjured up Kerrey (or for that matter what possessed him earlier to spike his own 9/11 probe, back the Iraq war, and cheerfully sign off on the Patriotic Act)?
What we do know is Kerrey’s own view of his job, which was published the same day as Kean’s “preventable” claim. “The commission should not be a vehicle to bash President Bush, in Kerrey’s view. The commission will have to do its work ‘respectfully – but forcefully,’ he said, so as ‘not to embarrass the president.'” (NY Villager, 12/17/03)
We also know that whomever the commission might eventually finger for “failure” or “incompetence”, the crucial question of winking foreknowledge has yet to be raised, and without Cleland’s brave holler the victims’ answer-hungry kin will have a much lonelier row to hoe.
W. David Kubiak is director of Big Medicine, a research and education institute studying the corporate takeover of our country, culture and consciousness. His email is bigmed(at)nancho.net.