Government officials have an opportunity now with the Sept. 11, 2001, commission to look back on the events leading up to the terrorist attacks to learn what went wrong and how to prevent such oversight from happening again.
However, the commission has turned from learning opportunity into election-year politics and a thinly veiled guise for finding a scapegoat.
There most certainly is plenty of blame to go around for miscommunication and oversight leading up to Sept. 11, but it is too much blame to place on any one person or administration. More evidence continues to surface that shows that although clues existed to possible attacks, the FBI, CIA and other entities simply did not share that information with President Bush.
Nor can the fault solely be placed on the Bush administration. Leaders such as Richard Clarke, top antiterrorism adviser at the time of the attacks, and FBI director Louis Freeh, all holdovers from previous administrations, played integral roles in the communication breakdown that led up to the attacks and the miscommunication that ensued.
There likely would be much less finger-pointing happening if an election were not six months away. Democrats supporting presidential candidate John Kerry would love nothing more than to tear down Bush’s handling of the attacks, a platform Bush currently relies on to gain support. Many Bush supporters seem willing to point their fingers at Bill Clinton’s administration to take the pressure off of them.
Events have a way of becoming overblown in an election year, and this commission is no different.
Obviously, clues about impending attacks existed months before Sept. 11-clues that, looking back on the attacks, might seem quite obvious now. And had we known what we know now, the attacks might have been averted.
However, that is not the case, and it is ridiculous to hold anyone to the same standard that hindsight has afforded us.
If this commission is about finding the breakdowns and mistakes in communication leading up to Sept. 11, 2001, and learning from those mistakes, then let it continue, by all means. This is a valuable opportunity to learn how to protect the country better in the future.
However, the more time spent on finding a scapegoat, the less likely that will happen.