New evidence of WMD was found on Capitol Hill last week. Weapons of Mass Distraction came pouring out of the White House and through news outlets in an attempt to change the subject of public dialog. The 9/11 Commission is charged with determining what efforts the U.S. government undertook to prevent terrorism prior to the attacks on 9/11. The Commission will use this information to make recommendations aimed at preventing such attacks from ever being successfully carried out in the future.
The Bush administration initially opposed the creation of the 9/11 Commission. When it failed in this effort, it placed strict limits on time allotted for investigation as well as the type and amount of testimony key figures will give. For example, National Security Adviser Dr. Condoleezza Rice will not testify in public nor under oath at all. As for the president himself, he first agreed to meet with the commission in private for one hour to “share his views.” Now, however, he has agreed to meet with them for as long as they like, in private, but not under oath.
During last week’s hearings, the public testimony of former counter-terrorism official Richard Clarke got the most attention by far – and understandably so. His testimony contained information that might serve to undermine Bush’s presidential campaign as the self-proclaimed “war president.” In fact in his testimony he stated, “And the reason I am strident in my criticism of the president of the United States is because by invading Iraq – something I was not asked about by the Commission. It’s something I chose to write about a lot in the book – by invading Iraq the president of the United States has greatly undermined the war on terrorism.” Clarke also appeared on television to promote his book Against All Enemies, in which he purports to provide an insider’s view of counter-terrorism efforts. The White House response was both rapid and severe. Top elected and appointed officials set about a concerted effort to “greatly undermine” the credibility and aptitude of Clarke, who has served under four presidential administrations.
Vice President Dick Cheney called Rush Limbaugh to let the “ditto heads” know that Clarke was “out of the loop.” Quite an admission, the top terrorism expert was out of the loop. Rice, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld all hit the news show circuit to repudiate Clarke. News shows were suddenly consumed with coverage of the multi-front attack against Clarke. In effect these officials were saying, let’s not discuss the issues raised by Clarke, one of the many people involved in this unfolding tragic drama. Let’s discuss Clarke.
Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), the Senate majority leader, chimed in Friday with his own Clarke-disabling contribution of WMD. He is calling for the declassification of Clarke’s private testimony before the Commission, though he states that he cannot cite a specific discrepancy between the two.
I wonder if they are being paid from campaign contributions for these performances.
I, for one, don’t want to know anything about Clarke, specifically. I want to know what happened. I have stood on the 110th floor of the World Trade Center and felt dizzy looking up as the clouds moved in the sky above the majestic symbol of American productivity. I remember the faces of the elevator operator and the young lady that sold me the souvenir refrigerator magnet at the Top of the World.
The so-called “run-up” to war was based on counterfactual assertions or what in politics is termed “spin.” It was just another psychological battle propagating the airways with “preferred meaning” and obfuscating the issues of consequence. Concerns of American security should be addressed with answers, debates and conversations, not spin.
Usually the news sound bite of the day will determine who wins each of the political battles of public perception. The government should put away the WMD and let the facts come out.
Tiye Baldwin is a Daily Nexus staff writer.