Bush Nominates Himself to Chair 9/11 Investigation
George W. Bush has tapped Thomas Kean to chair the independent investigation into the attacks of September 11th. This nomination comes in the wake of the choice of Henry Kissinger for that post, and his sudden departure. Kissinger, considered a master of secrets and a war criminal to boot, was an odd pick for the post, to say the least. He resigned rather than give up the list of clients he has served since leaving public life, as the 9/11 victims families had demanded and the protocols of security clearance had required. One wonders what manner of Kissinger clients could have caused a 'conflict of interest' in a terrorism investigation, but that question will have to wait.
In a perfect world, Kean would be a standard-issue Republican. He is President of Drew University. He served from 1982 through 1990 as Governor of New Jersey, enjoying high popularity among his constituents and warm relations with labor groups. He is the former chairman of the National Environmental Education and Training Foundation; he is a board member of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the World Wildlife Fund, the National Center for Learning Disabilities, and the National Endowment for Democracy.
Kean led the U.S. delegation to the World Conference on Education for All in Thailand in 1990; he was vice chairman for the U.S. delegation to the Fourth U.N. World Conference on Women in 1995; he served on the advisory board to the President's Initiative on Race from 1997 to 1998; he is currently chairman of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy; he served as a board member of America's Promise, a foundation for improving America's youth created by Presidents Clinton, Bush, Carter, Ford and Reagan (who was represented at the group's inception by his wife, Nancy).
That is an impressive record.
Kean is also a director for the petroleum giant Amerada Hess, the food services corporation Amarak, and the Pepsi Bottling Group. Kean is likewise a board member of the Fiduciary Trust Company International. He is a former board member for the CIT Group and United Health Group.
It is his association with Hess that has drawn concern from 9/11 victims groups, because Hess has business agreements with Saudi Arabia and oil exploration facilities in Indonesia and Malaysia. The latter countries are widely believed to be home to al Qaeda terrorists, while the former has become notorious for its association with Wahabbi fundamentalism, Osama bin Laden, and a majority of the 9/11 hijackers. Kristen Breitweister, the co-chairman of Sept. 11 Advocates, who lost her husband in the World Trade Center attacks, said of Kean's nomination: "I'm collecting all the information so when we meet with all the commissioners we'll be able to properly ask all the questions. I'm not even at a point where I'm considering whether or not he would be good at it."
There can be no question that Kean's nomination is a quantum improvement over Kissinger. However, it was a curious choice. Kean has been out of politics since 1990, and is a virtual unknown on the national stage. It is clear that he enjoys philanthropic work, but it is also clear that he has strong ties to some heavy hitters in the business community and the petroleum industry. He has not the massive ego of Kissinger, nor aspirations to high office, having gotten out twelve years ago, after deciding that the political rat race had become distasteful. He has virtually no experience in foreign policy, intelligence, or national security matters.
In many ways, this was a non-nomination. Kean has much to lose and little to gain from chairing this investigation. In the final analysis, it appears that Bush has nominated someone who will be easily controlled by the administration. Kean does not possess, by dint of experience, the wherewithal to ask the difficult questions that must be pressed if this investigation is to be successful. His is not, and never has been, the kind of boat-rocker that will be necessary to pry the truth from the administration, the CIA, the FBI, the NSA and the Department of Defense.
It is vital in this to remember that the Bush administration thwarted this independent investigation for 18 months, until they got the two things they wanted. One was a requirement that any subpoenas would be issued only after six of the ten people on the commission voted for it. The commission is composed of five Democrats and five Republicans. If a particular subpoena seems to cut too close to the political bone, the Republicans on the committee need only stand shoulder to shoulder to stop it.
The other requirement the Bush administration demanded was the right to pick the chairman of the commission. One need look no further than the first choice, Henry Kissinger, to see the reasons for this. Ostensibly, this investigation has been proposed so that nothing like 9/11 ever happens again. The Bush administration chose Kissinger to see this mission through, demonstrating that they are far more interested in keeping secrets than they are in getting to the bottom of this.
Now, we have Thomas Kean, a man with no training or background in any of the areas necessary to the investigation, a man who does not appear capable of taking on the intelligence community and the administration, much less the five other Republicans who will have veto power over the issuance of subpoenas. It is difficult to imagine Thomas Kean pushing hard for answers to questions like these:
- Why did George W. Bush order the dismantling of the Bin Laden Task Force prior to 9/11?
- Was the Bush administration involved in negotiations with the Taliban prior to 9/11 regarding a pipeline project to be undertaken in Afghanistan by Unocal Petroleum and a consortium of other corporations and nations, including Saudi Arabia?
- Why were fighter interceptors not scrambled after it became clear that commercial aircraft had been hijacked?
- Who made the decision to stop FBI Deputy Director John O'Neill from investigation al Qaeda financial accounts? What did Barbara Bodine, U.S. ambassador to Yemen, have to do with pulling O'Neill off the case?
- Why were the Black Boxes and flight data recorders from the hijacked aircraft never recovered?
- What was Saudi Arabia's involvement with the hijackers and the 9/11 plot?
- Why were pointed warnings received from Israel, Egypt, Germany and Russia, which detailed a plot to hijack aircraft and use them to attack prominent American targets, virtually ignored? Again, why were fighter jets not scrambled since this warning was already in hand?
- What corporations are currently profiting from the War on Terror? In particular, how much does the multinational corporation The Carlyle Group, an entity steeped in petroleum production and weapons sales, stand to make from the conflict?
Yet these are the questions that must be answered. By nominating Thomas Kean for this duty, George W. Bush has basically nominated himself. Kean holds every appearance of being a good and decent man. One hopes the puppet strings will not pain him too much.
William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times bestselling author of two books -- "War On Iraq" (with Scott Ritter) available now from Context Books, and "The Greatest Sedition is Silence," available in May 2003 from Pluto Press. He teaches high school in Boston, MA.