Kissinger is a consummate Washington insider, a man with vast experience in the inner workings of the U.S. government and equally vast connections with powerful international business interests. He is clearly intelligent and well connected, though, regrettably, he comes with more baggage than a Western pack mule. He has been throughout his long and checkered career, if nothing else, a master of evasion and subterfuge. Do someone say Cambodia? Or Chile?
The investigation into that fateful September day is long overdue, of course. The commission’s main purpose, however, should not be to point fingers at one government agency or another, this administration or that, but, rather, to identify precisely what went so wrong as to leave the U.S. vulnerable to such large-scale and well-coordinated acts of terror. Only in doing so can we take the necessary steps to ensure that the mistakes of the past aren’t repeated. The well-being of all Americans demands nothing less.
Kissinger will be joined by former Sen. George Mitchell as vice chairman. Mitchell is held in high esteem by Irish Americans for his work in negotiating Northern Ireland’s Good Friday agreement in 1998. He has certainly earned our confidence, but we must not forget that he, like Kissinger, is a political animal and that his very presence on the commission highlights its biggest shortcoming.
Indeed, comprising five Republicans and five Democrats, the commission risks being itself political. The other members have not yet been announced, but for the group to be effective, it must be willing to act independently of either party. The members must be fearless in taking on the powerful government institutions whose performance in the days leading up to the attacks must necessarily be put under the microscope. The commission must make an extra effort to reassure Americans that nothing short of a comprehensive and wide-ranging probe will be undertaken. Anything less will be seen as a whitewash.