The president clearly does not want to know the truth about Sept. 11. Otherwise he would not have appointed Henry Kissinger to head an inquiry into the origins of arguably the most successful terrorist attack in history. Long an unabashed advocate of concealing and distorting the truth in the name of national security, he is the last guy who has the right to ask someone in government, "What did you know and when did you know it?"
Kissinger, after all, was the member of the Nixon White House most bent on destroying Daniel Ellsberg for giving a copy of the Pentagon Papers, the government's secret history of the Vietnam War, to the New York Times. His obsession with preventing all government leaks, except those of his creation, is well documented in the Nixon tapes. And this is the man who publicly lied about everything from the bombing of Cambodia to the cover-up of the Watergate break-in of Democratic Party headquarters to the overthrow and death of the democratically elected leader of Chile.
But even if truth serum could be slipped into his morning espresso, Kissinger still would be an appalling choice to lead what should be the fearless, unbiased fact-finding investigation necessary to prevent future tragedies like the destruction of the World Trade Center towers.
He has been much too personally embroiled in the gamesmanship, greed and opportunism underlying politics in the Mideast; neither is he willing to disclose his long list of lucrative government and business contracts that pose potential conflicts of interest.
For example, Kissinger Associates, the former secretary of State's ultra-connected consulting firm, has had dealings in the past with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait -- the two nations most closely linked with the 9/11 hijackers -- and was the subject of a congressional investigation for its role in the $4-billion bankrolling of Saddam Hussein in the late 1980s by the Atlanta office of Italy's BNL bank. Kissinger Associates then included Brent Scowcroft, who became national security advisor for President George H.W. Bush, and Lawrence Eagleburger, secretary of State in that administration.
That those ties crisscross with other suspicious activities of close Bush family advisors -- including Poppy Bush's consulting role with the Carlyle Group that took him to Saudi Arabia to drum up business -- makes Kissinger's selection as understandable as it is dishonest.
The truth is, the administration doesn't want a commission looking into what went wrong on Sept. 11 because its focus might turn too close to home. The incoming Bush administration in 2001 ignored dire warnings from Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger that Al Qaeda was the major security threat facing the U.S. Instead, the new administration focused on the war on drugs and even funneled "humanitarian" aid to Taliban-run Afghanistan as a reward for the fundamentalists' eradication of an opium crop.
The truth about Sept. 11 might dampen Bush's exploitation of tragedy to draw attention from a sagging economy, a down stock market and stunning financial scandals that began with the downfall of Bush's close buddies at Enron. How convenient to divert the public's attention from other problems with the notion that the whole world must be turned upside down to combat terrorism, when marginal and avoidable mistakes by our government allowed the dreams of madmen to be fulfilled in blood.
Would the monstrous new homeland security bureaucracy really have protected us from a few box-cutter-wielding nuts? How difficult, after all, is it to prevent people already on a terrorist wanted list from entering the country to attend U.S. flight schools? How hard is it for the president of the United States to get the FBI and the CIA to talk to each other? And why are we apparently going to war with Iraq, which had nothing to do with Sept. 11, instead of with Saudi Arabia, which did?
The Bush administration was floundering before Sept. 11, and it still seems to have difficulty dealing with the nation's domestic problems. Instead of facing that harsh reality, Bush wants us to welcome the shredding of constitutional protections, allegedly for our own protection, and be excited at the prospect of a sideshow war with Hussein.
Best to not look too hard at any of this. The Bush administration resisted convening a 9/11 commission for more than a year and, when forced by overwhelming public pressure to do so, picked an infamous man with the legendary chops to quash any search for truth.
Robert Scheer is a syndicated columnist.