US imperialism: "no whitewash at the White House"?

Michael Keaney michael.keaney at
Thu Nov 28 01:50:44 MST 2002

Bush asks Kissinger to head terror investigation
By Rupert Cornwell in Washington
The Independent, 28 November 2002

The former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was named by George Bush
yesterday to head a new independent commission to investigate the 11
September attacks and the failure of American intelligence services to
detect the worst terrorist outrage in the country's history.

President Bush was signing legislation at the White House to set up the
body, and said that the commission would help America's leaders understand
the minds and methods of its new global enemy. He said that the
investigation "should carefully examine all the evidence and follow all the
facts wherever they lead".

The commission will have a broad mandate, building on work done by a joint
House and Senate committee. It will have 18 months to do its work, though Mr
Bush said he would like to have a report earlier. "The sooner we have the
commission's conclusions, the sooner this administration will act on them,"
he said.

Mr Bush had long resisted an inquiry along the lines of the 1964 commission
under Chief Justice Earl Warren into the Kennedy assassination, maintaining
that its broad subpoena powers could lead to embarrassing leaks and
interfere with the war against terrorism.

But the President eventually bowed to intense pressure from the families of
the victims demanding that the facts be uncovered, after last summer's
congressional hearings threw light on the shortcomings of the FBI, the CIA
and the National Security Agency, and the inability of the various
intelligence agencies to co-operate.

Mr Bush is to appoint the commission's 10 members, whom he insists will be
evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. At least six members will be
required to approve a subpoena, to ensure that witnesses are not called
merely to score party-political points.

In these circumstances, Mr Kissinger is an obvious choice. Although the
manipulative style and ruthless realpolitik he displayed under President
Nixon and President Ford have made him something of a demon for liberals,
especially over policy in Cambodia and Latin America, he remains a hugely
respected figure.

Most Americans have forgotten or forgiven his role in the Vietnam War and in
America's support for brutal military regimes in Chile and elsewhere. For
them, the 79-year-old is above all the Nobel-prize winning co-architect with
Mr Nixon of détente with the Soviet Union and China.

His ponderous, statesmanesque style make him a highly prized commentator and
editorial page contributor. But most important for Mr Bush is his style,
secretive where needs be and always conscious of the realities of power.
This trait could become highly important if, as expected, Mr Bush himself is
called before the panel to testify about what he knew of the terrorist
threat before 11 September.

The commission is part of a bill allocating undisclosed extra resources to
the fight against terrorism. These will go towards beefing up the CIA and
the FBI, and dovetail with the creation of the new Homeland Security
Department under the former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge, which Mr Bush
also signed into law this week. Mr Kissinger's brief is far-reaching. "We
are under no restrictions and will accept no restrictions," he said on his
return to government service for the first time in 25 years.

"This is a matter for all America," he declared, after speaking with family
members of some of the 3,000 victims. "To the families concerned, there's
nothing that can be done about the losses they've suffered - but everything
must be done to ensure such a tragedy does not occur again."

If no stone is left unturned, the investigation could prove explosive. Not
only will it explore how much was known by government agencies before the
attacks on New York and Washington, it can also hardly avoid the matter of
the foreign support for al-Qa'ida, above all from the territory of important
American allies such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

Controversy is raging in America about allegations that charitable donations
from the wife of the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the US found their way to
two of the 19 hijackers, 15 of whom were Saudi citizens. The Riyadh
government has denied the allegations.

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