February 05, 2008

They Do Book Reviews

This New York Times review of Philip Shenon's new book 'The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation' does everything it can to stop you reading:
The inside story of a government commission doesn’t sound very promising; most commission reports wind up unread on dusty shelves... So why go over it all again?
It's worth pushing on, if only for this anecdote:
In a memorable scene Mr. Shenon depicts the widows of 9/11 victims, a group that called itself the Jersey Girls, meeting Henry A. Kissinger, President Bush’s choice to be chairman of the 9/11 Commission, in the posh offices of Mr. Kissinger’s international consulting firm in New York. When one of the Jersey Girls asks Mr. Kissinger if he has any clients named bin Laden, Mr. Kissinger spills his coffee and nearly falls off his sofa. “It’s my bad eye,” Mr. Kissinger explains, as the women rush to clean up the mess — “like good suburban moms,” Mr. Shenon says one widow recalls. The next morning Mr. Kissinger telephoned the White House to resign from the commission.
But there really isn't much else worth reading in this fluff piece. This is a hugely important story, and the NYT reviewer treats it like a work of popcorn fiction. Disgraceful.

WaPo's Dan Froomkin is, as ever, far more direct:
The last thing Bush needed during a hotly contested reelection campaign was a reminder of his inattention to the threat of terrorism before 9/11, or of his initial paralysis when he heard the news, or of his misbegotten attempts to pin the blame on Iraq.

Bush originally fought the establishment of such a commission. Even after he bowed to congressional pressure, he still only went along grudgingly...

Now, it seems the White House may not have needed to be too apprehensive about the commission's report. It had an inside man. And he was one of the guys in charge.
OK, that's better. So where's the meat on the sandwich? Well, AP's Hope Yen reveals that Zelikow was not only on the phone to Karl Rove throughout the commission, but also to his good old friend Condoleezza Rice. Zelikow admits making the calls but says he wasn't talking politics!
"Rove and I didn't really know each other," he said in the statement. "I don't recall ever having an extended conversation with him, and certainly not about politics or the commission."
Oh, really? Well, then, please explain this:
The book says that in early 2004, Zelikow allegedly sought to add to an initial staff report wording that linked al-Qaida to Iraq. The wording would have said the terrorist network repeatedly tried to communicate with the government of Saddam Hussein, a claim of cooperation the administration had cited to justify the war in Iraq. After a staff protest, Zelikow backed down; the final report said there was no "collaborative relationship" between Saddam and al-Qaida. Zelikow has said that he simply wanted the panel to keep an open mind on the issue.
Zelikow was sure channeling P.R. spin from SOMEONE from the Oval Office!

Froomkin recalls Woodward's account of the July 10 meeting between Tenet, Black and Rice, which commission members were never told about.
"And a month later, as Ron Suskind reported in his book, 'The One Percent Doctrine,' an unnamed CIA briefer flew to Bush's Texas ranch to call the president's attention personally to the now-famous Aug. 6, 2001, memo titled 'Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.' According to Suskind, Bush heard the briefer out and replied: 'All right. You've covered your ass, now.'"
Then there is the issue of CIA torture tapes being hidden from the commission... Yadda, yadda.

In short, what we have here is a long pattern of intentionally deceptive, misleading, uncooperative and evasive behavior from an incompetent White House charged with investigating its own incompetence and deception. Surprised? You shouldn't be.

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