In order to “uncover every detail and learn every lesson of September the 11th,” George Bush has appointed Henry Kissinger to lead a commission investigating the terrorist attacks. Who does the President think he’s kidding?
Leaving aside for the moment the question of whether the commission itself is not a phenomenal waste of resources, the choice of Mr. Kissinger is a ridiculous decision by the administration. As Maureen Dowd ironically put it on The New York Times’ Op-Ed page last Sunday: “Who better to ferret out government duplicity and manipulation than the man who engineered secret wars, secret bombings, secret wiretaps and secret coups.” A man who, Ms. Dowd wrote, was best known for “encouraging the illegal bombing of Cambodia; backing Chile’s murderous Pinochet; playing Iago to President Richard Nixon” and “wiretapping journalists and his own colleagues.”
The day after The Times published Ms. Dowd’s astute commentary, in order to show their sensitivity to balanced journalism, the paper had William Safire argue the other side. Mr. Safire, who was bugged 30 years ago by the then National Security Advisor, produced a mealy-mouthed defense of Mr. Kissinger, trying to sell us on the idea that after 60 years of manipulation and phony charm, he has changed. Mr. Safire ignores Mr. Kissinger’s most notable trait: his profound narcissism, which would make it impossible for the former Secretary of State to do anything that might seriously offend the Bush administration or his own powerful cronies and thereby risk losing his place at the table.
It’s truly unbelievable: A man whose wandering hands were all over some of the darkest moments of American government is now expected to shine an honest light on that government’s failures leading to Sept. 11. And Americans are expected to ooh and aah over Mr. Kissinger’s supposed stature as a “foreign-policy expert.” Being appointed to head up the commission is just another self-promoting feather in Mr. Kissinger’s cap. He bluffed his way throughout his career, from start to finish, and now, at age 79, he’s returning to the stage to take another bow, thanks to lobbying on his behalf by Dick Cheney, his pal from the Ford administration.
Anyone still thinking that Mr. Kissinger is interested in an open investigation need only note that he is refusing to release the client list of his consulting firm, Kissinger Associates. He says he’ll drop any client who poses a conflict of interest during the commission’s work, but of course only he will decide if there’s a conflict. Given that the firm’s clients reportedly include oil companies such as ExxonMobil and Arco, and that the commission will surely be taking a close look at Saudi Arabia’s role in Sept. 11, the only ethical and reasonable thing to do would be for Mr. Kissinger to recuse himself from all Kissinger Associates business. But don’t hold your breath.
The choice of Mr. Kissinger is really just the punchline to the joke that is the commission. What, precisely, is the big mystery? We know why were attacked, we know who did it, we know we need better security. The answer to the question, “Who screwed up: the White House, the C.I.A. or the F.B.I.?” is: everybody. Why spend the next year and a half puzzling over the obvious?
What happened on Sept. 11, 2001, was tragedy. George Bush’s choice of Henry Kissinger is farce.
The Missing Report on American Jews
A $6 million study of the Jewish community in America, over a decade in the making, is apparently being suppressed by United Jewish Communities, the nonprofit agency directing the project. This has led to the reasonable suspicion that the agency, not pleased with the results, is trying to fudge the numbers.
This is not just an academic study. As the Associated Press recently reported, the survey influences how tens of millions of dollars are allocated to keep Judaism alive and flourishing in America. The survey monitors several trends, such as Jews’ intermarriage, their ties to Israel, and the place of religious ritual in modern Jewish life. Some preliminary data from the survey have appeared over the years-in 1990, it was reported that 52 percent of Jews marry non-Jews. Earlier this year, the survey reported that the U.S. Jewish population had dropped from 5.5 million to 5.2 million in the past 10 years. But on the brink of publishing the full report in November, the U.J.C.’s president, Stephen Hoffman, claimed some “critical data” were missing and refused to release the report. But the survey’s own researchers and technical advisers say that the missing data is not crucial and cast doubt on Mr. Hoffman’s motives.
What’s not in doubt is that the report’s eventual credibility will be damaged unless Mr. Hoffman and the U.J.C. release the full report in a timely and transparent manner.