Former Governor Tom Kean and former Congressman Lee Hamilton,
chairmen of the 9/11 Commission—publicity hounds that they are—want to
keep the long-retired but much celebrated panel in the public mind. They
have written a tell-all book, Without Precedent: The Inside Story of
the 9/11 Commission (Knopf, Aug. 15, 2006), about the trials and
tribulations of the panel’s work.
Despite the commission’s disastrous recommendations—which led to a
reorganization of the U.S. intelligence community that worsened its
original, pre-9/11 defect (a severe coordination problem caused by
bureaucratic bloat)—and apparent whitewashing of the single most
important issue it examined, the chairmen are trying their best to write
another best seller.
The book usefully details the administration’s willful
misrepresentation of its incompetent actions that day, but makes the
shocking admission that some commission members deliberately wanted to
distort an even more important issue. Apparently, unidentified
commissioners wanted to cover up the fact that U.S. support for Israel
was one of the motivating factors behind al Qaeda’s 9/11 attack.
Although Hamilton, to his credit, argued for saying that the reasons
al Qaeda committed the heinous strike were the U.S. military presence in
the Middle East and American support for Israel, the panel watered down
that frank conclusion to state that U.S. policy on the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict and U.S. policy on Iraq are “dominant
staples of popular commentary across the Arab and Muslim world.”
Some commissioners wanted to cover up the link between the 9/11
attack and U.S. support for Israel because this might imply that the
United States should alter policy and lessen its support for Israeli
actions. How right they were.
The question is simple: if the vast bulk of Americans would be safer
if U.S. politicians moderated their slavish support of Israel, designed
to win the support of key pressure groups at home, wouldn’t it be a good
idea to make this change in course?
Average U.S. citizens might attenuate their support for Israel if the
link between the 9/11 attacks and unquestioning U.S. favoritism for
Israeli excesses were more widely known. Similarly, if American
taxpayers knew that the expensive and unnecessary U.S. policy of
intervening in the affairs of countries all over the world—including the
U.S. military presence in the Middle East—made them less secure from
terrorist attacks at home, pressure would likely build for an abrupt
change to a more restrained U.S. foreign policy.
But like the original 9/11 Commission report, President Bush
regularly obscures this important reality by saying that America was
attacked on 9/11 because of its freedoms, making no mention of U.S.
interventionist foreign policy as the root cause.
Yet numerous public opinion polls in the Islamic world repeatedly
prove the president wrong. The surveys show that people in Islamic
countries admire American political and economic freedoms, culture, and
But when Muslims are polled on the level of their approval of U.S.
foreign policy, the numbers go through the floor. Much of this negative
attitude derives from mindless U.S. backing of anything Israel does. In
addition, Osama bin Laden has repeatedly written or stated that he
attacks the United States because of its military presence in the
Persian Gulf and its support for Israel and corrupt regimes in the Arab
The Bush administration has worsened the anti-U.S. hatred in Islamic
countries, which drives this blowback terrorism, by its invasion of Iraq
and its support of Israel’s excessive military response in Lebanon.
Unfortunately, innocent Iraqis and Lebanese are unlikely to be the only
ones afflicted with the damage from U.S. interventionism.
Innocent Israelis and Americans have been, and likely will continue
to be, the victims of policies that have been sold by President Bush on
the basis of making the citizens of both countries safer and more
secure, while the 9/11 Commission obediently has covered the
Ivan Eland is a Senior Fellow at The Independent Institute,
Director of the Institute’s
Center on Peace &
Liberty, and author of the books
The Empire Has No Clothes, and
Putting “Defense” Back into U.S. Defense Policy.