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Republicans Opposed Torture Report and 9/11 Commission, Too

December 15, 2014

By now, most Americans can probably recite the conservative arguments against the Senate torture report by rote. After seeing Dick Cheney on TV, watching the parade of vein-bursting Republicans on the Senate floor or reading virtually identical columns from the likes of Charles Krauthammer, Rich Lowry and former CIA clandestine services boss Jose Rodriguez, the talking points are all familiar by now. The "partisan report" was "flawed" and a "travesty." The actions of "patriotic" intelligence personnel were the natural response to "bipartisan demands" after 9/11, including calls from the likes of Dianne Feinstein and Jay Rockefeller. Worst of all, raging right wingers claim Senate Democrats are giving "aid and comfort to the enemy" by providing "an after-action report" on American tactics and vulnerabilities.
Now, if these sound bites sound familiar, they should. That's because many of the arguments Republicans are making to defend the Bush Torture Team now are the same ones they used to oppose the creation of the 9/11 Commission.
Of course, you'd never know that reading Charles Krauthammer's rewriting of recent American history. Defending the state-sponsored sadism that violated U.S. and international law after the horror of the September 11 attacks, the former psychiatrist explained:

We were so blindsided that we established a 9/11 commission to find out why. And we knew next to nothing about the enemy: its methods, structure, intentions, plans. There was nothing morally deranged about deciding as a nation to do everything necessary to find out what we needed to prevent a repetition, or worse.

Just as long, the Republicans' best and brightest argued, doing everything necessary to prevent a repetition of 9/11 didn't include a commission to determine how 3,000 people were slaughtered on President Bush's watch.
As you should recall, until they yielded to overwhelming public pressure, President Bush, Vice President Cheney and GOP leaders in Congress opposed the 9/11 Commission charged with learning the truth about the worst attack on the U.S. homeland.
In May 2002, Republicans circled the wagons around President Bush after revelations that the administration had been warned about possible Al Qaeda plans to hijack an aircraft. But when Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle asked "Why did it take eight months for us to receive this information?" and called for a blue-ribbon commission to investigate, the GOP's top brass railed to Bush's defense. Daschle's Republican counterpart Trent Lott denounced the demands for an inquiry:

"I really think there's nothing more despicable ... for someone to insinuate that the president of the United States knew there was an attack on our country that was imminent and didn't do anything about it. For us to be talking like our enemy, George W. Bush instead of Osama bin Laden, that's not right."

Lott's colleague Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) agreed:

"I don't think that anyone should start pointing fingers in a personal way or suggest that people are trying to cover their political backsides. I just think that's ridiculous. I think we need to go forward. We need to be positive. There are failures. We need to get to the root of it and try to make our country more secure."

Vice President Dick Cheney and the soon-to-be disgraced Tom DeLay took a different tactic, claiming an investigation into the catastrophe of 9/11 would itself hinder the war against Al Qaeda. As DeLay groused:

"A public commission investigating American intelligence in a time of war is ill conceived and, frankly, irresponsible. We need to address America's challenges in intelligence gathering and terrorist prevention. But we don't need to hand the terrorists an after-action report."

Cheney, meanwhile, suggested that trying to find out what President Bush knew and when he knew it would provide aid and comfort to the enemy:

"An investigation must not interfere with the ongoing efforts to prevent the next attack, because without a doubt a very real threat of another perhaps more devastating attack still exists. The people and agencies responsible for helping us learn about and defeat such an attack are the very ones most likely to be distracted from their critical duties if Congress fails to carry out their obligations in a responsible fashion."

For his part, President Bush echoed that assessment. As CBS reported on May 23, 2002:

President Bush took a few minutes during his trip to Europe Thursday to voice his opposition to establishing a special commission to probe how the government dealt with terror warnings before Sept. 11.
Mr. Bush said the matter should be dealt with by congressional intelligence committees.
CBS News Correspondent Bill Plante reports that Mr. Bush said the investigation should be confined to Congress because it deals with sensitive information that could reveal sources and methods of intelligence. Therefore, he said, the congressional investigation is "the best place" to probe the events leading up to the terrorist attacks.
"I have great confidence in our FBI and CIA," the President said in Berlin, adding that he feels the agencies are already improving their information sharing practices.

Bush's reticence wasn't surprising, given the continuing revelations about the repeated warnings he received about Al Qaeda throughout the spring and summer of 2001. But that was then and this is now. And now, a Democrat sits in the White House. Which is why the Republicans who sought to block the 9/11 Commission and the "partisan" report on torture have launched the eighth investigation into the Benghazi tragedy in which four Americans were killed. After all, it was, as Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) explained, "one of the worst intelligence failures in our history."


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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