Shooting Mosquitoes on the Titanic

If you're wondering why many family members of 9/11 victims are disappointed with the final report of the 9/11 Commission, this might help in understanding that their critique of the investigative process and outcome is broader than their own sense of personal anguish.

One of the key recommendations contained in the 567-page 9/11 Commission final report is the establishment of an "intelligence czar."

Ray McGovern, a 27-year CIA veteran and now a steering group member with Veterans Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, offers these penetrating remarks.

"The families pressed heroically for a nonpartisan, independent investigation; what they got was a bipolar panel, thoroughly partisan at each pole, who nonetheless grew to like one another and decided to settle for the lowest common denominator and hold no one accountable."

McGovern says that, gradually, family members of 9/11 victims will come to the full awareness that "treating merely the symptoms of terrorism is quixotic – that the soil and roots of terrorism must be dug and uncovered; that, as the 9/11 report acknowledges in a very subdued way, it is Washington's strong and uncritical bias toward Israel and its invasion of Iraq that have fueled al-Qaida; that our current approach to defeating terrorism by trying to kill all the terrorists is akin to trying to eradicate malaria by shooting as many mosquitoes as possible."

Brushing aside the long-held conservative concern of rolling back "big government" President Bush is reportedly moving quickly on the recommendation to create his own version of an "intelligence czar."

Is such a position necessary? McGovern points out what should be obvious to anyone not distracted by the political show on display. "Moving the intelligence chair one deck higher on the Titanic holds no promise."

The Kansan septuagenarian and independent political commentator Mary Pitt puts it even more starkly.

"But, wait! This concept of having one person to whom all law enforcement and security departments of the government report in detail on the state of the security and needs of the nation does ring a distant bell... It seems that, at some point in our history, we had such a person," she writes.

"If we strain our memories, we could remember such a person, who considered all this information in a studied manner and, with the welfare of the nation in mind, made serious, wise, and well-thought proposals for legislation to implement the safety and continuation of the Union....Now I remember. We called him the president."

The prolific and provocative Robert Dreyfuss, senior correspondent for the American Prospect, points out other holes in the 9/11 report.

The report doesn't explicitly say that the U.S-led invasion of Iraq is unrelated to the "war on terror." Why should it? Because as has been reported over and over again, there were no credible collaborative ties between Saddam's government and al-Qaida.

So what or who nurtured bin Ladenism? The 9/11 Commission says "social and economic malaise." Other contributing factors? The report says: "a decade of conflict in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989 gave Islamist extremists a rallying point and training field... Young Muslims from around the world flocked to Afghanistan to join as volunteers in what was seen as a 'holy war ' - jihad - against an invader."

Conspicuously absent from the report, as Dreyfuss observes, is any mention of the CIA's role in backing Osama bin Laden and his followers to fight the "evil empire's" incursions into Afghanistan.

Now, when poor people talk about the institutional obstacles in their lives, social conservatives respond with policies that subject them to "market discipline" – welfare reform, for example – and do so in the name of "personal responsibility."

But when it comes to talk of terrorism, they're the ones pointing to institutional failures, all the while side-stepping the issue of personal responsibility and accountability when it comes to individual missteps within the Bush administration.

Ironically, we can turn to the intellectual father of conservative thought, Edmund Burke, who in 1770 shed light on how this is seemingly so.

"We first throw away the tales along with the rattles of our nurses; those of the priest keep their hold a little longer; those of the government the longest of all."

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