The runaway 9/11 Commission

The runaway 9/11 Commission

: William Safire has a great column this morning dissecting the recent sins of the 9/11 Commission with its al Qaeda-Iraq link stories.

Background: Remember last week, there were headlines aplenty saying that the Commission says there is no link between Iraq and the 9/11 attacks.

Uh, but that wasn’t the real issue. To my knowledge, few if any people in power said that Iraq was behind the attacks. But many did say that Iraq was supporting al Qaeda and that they had ties.

But this “Commission report: yielded many when-did-you-stop-beating-your-Iraqis headlines as the “Commission” denied something that didn’t need denying, putting the Administration on the defensive as Cheney had to say, well, but there are ties.

And then the Commision itself had to backtrack and conceded that, well there were ties indeed. Bob Kerrey (see breakfast club post below) says that there were links, “no question.” His No. 2, Lee Hamilton, says the Commission does not disagree with Cheney when he says there are connections and he even backs away from saying there was “no credible evidence” of a 9/11 link to saying that it was “not proven one way or the other,” Safire reports.

But by then, the headline damage was done. It looks to the world like another hammer with which to beat up American and its President over the Iraq war. But it’s a rotten red herring.

Safire explains that this mess. He says that the headlines came from an interim report of “the commission’s runaway staff, headed by the ex-N.S.C. aide Philip Zelikow.” The staff “twisted the two strands together to cast doubt on both the Qaeda-Iraq ties and the specific attacks of 9/11.”

Turns out that the Commission members “do not get involved in staff reports,” Kerrey said yesterday. So this report did not come from the “Commission.” It is shocking that the commission would allow this to happen. It is another indication of the Commission’s incompetence and the politicization of 9/11 it has allowed and fostered.

Safire gives five suggestions for how the Commission can regain its nonpartisan credibility.

Horse. Barn. Gone.

The Commission should be tripping over itself to try to set the record straight but I have no hope of that.

But I do second Safire’s fifth suggestion: “5. Stop wasting time posturing on television and get involved writing a defensible commission report.” I’d add that they should stop wasting time on $22 bagels and have an Egg McMuffin, too (see below).

: Further, Safire lets the media off the hook: “Cheney’s ire was misdirected. Don’t blame the media for jumping on the politically charged Zelikow report.”

Wrong. The media have Google and archives and could and should have untwisted these two strands the Commission staff twisted together.