December 2, 2002

Left and Right unite against Henry the 'K' – but was appointing Kissinger chairman of the 9/11 commission really such a bad idea?

Rarely has there been a display of unanimity such as the universal hissing that greeted Henry Kissinger's appointment as chairman of the "National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States." From Maureen Dowd's reliably b*tchy response "Who better to investigate an unwarranted attack on America than the man who used to instigate America's unwarranted attacks?" to the even b*tchier but less articulate Glenn Reynolds "too absurd for words" on the neocon Right, the cry goes up: "The fix is in!"

For a country supposedly so divided along ideological lines, the amount of agreement on this one point is truly remarkable. The John Birch Society, the Green Party, the right-wing Newsmax, left-Clintonite David Corn, anti-abortion activists, left-neocon Christopher Hitchens whose fatwa against Kissinger is well-known – and right-neocon Jonah Goldberg all agree. As Goldberg put it on CNN, that the "[he] just doesn't seem to me to be the right guy at the right time."

Which is quite a turnaround for Goldberg, who was heard to remark the other day that he had a "no brainer prediction," to wit:

"Henry Kissinger's been tapped to head up the 9/11 investigation. Within 24 hours we will see Arab and homegrown conspiracy nuts saying this was done to assure that the role of the Israelis will never see the light. Of course, I think this is idiotic, but that hasn't stopped these people before."

Has Goldberg joined the ranks of the "conspiracy nuts"? If those nasty Ay-rabs and the native Tin Foil brigade are "idiotic" to oppose Kissinger, why isn't it equally idiotic for Goldberg to take the same position? Well, you see, lots of people – foreigners, mostly – don't seem to like Kissinger very much. Oh, and another thing, says Jonah: he is prone to "subterfuge" and "weird games."

This last is really the key to the opposition coming from the neoconservative Right. It is well-known that Kissinger's private clients include the very Arab states that the neocons want us to conquer and occupy, most notably the Saudis: Goldberg and his militantly anti-Saudi friends are unlikely to be assuaged by the divestment of all such financial interests by commission members. Kissinger is likely to make short shrift of the rather tenuous alleged "connections" between the wife of the Saudi ambassador and two of the 9/11 hijackers, and will no doubt consign the neocon-far left-Forbidden Truth theory of a worldwide Saudi conspiracy against America to the trash-can where it belongs.

Kissinger is unlikely to entertain evidence that in any way implicates a U.S. ally as being complicit, even passively, in the worst terrorist attack in American history, and Goldberg is certainly correct that this includes Israel. What the neocons are up in arms about is that their own pet conspiracy theories are likely to be just as rudely disregarded. Kissinger is likely to turn out to be an equal-opportunity suppressor of evidence – both real and imagined – making sure the investigation steers a narrow path between the sensitivities of our Arab allies and the political realities of the President's need to appease Israel.

The job called for a detective, someone trained to go after the truth, and President Bush appointed a diplomat, whose job consists mostly of finessing the truth. But why the widespread shock?

The idea that this phony commission was ever meant to solve the many mysteries surrounding 9/11 is ludicrous. To begin with, the idea of political appointees investigating their own government is, shall we say, counterintuitive unless one posits a preordained cover-up. We are supposed to believe that the appointees are all "private citizens," but it's no accident, as the Marxists used to say, that most of the leading candidates are ex-government officials.

Secondly, in this particular case, the whole scheme was cooked up by Joe Lieberman and John McCain as a political maneuver to embarrass the White House and give their own presidential ambitions some much-needed momentum. With the invasion of Iraq already bogged down in the quagmire of UN inspections, and the GOP right-wing engaged in a running debate with the White House over the nature of Islam, the neocons are predictably enraged by the Kissinger appointment. It is the clearest indication yet that the White House is not going along with neocon program that sees Riyadh as the new Kremlin in a new cold war.

I never expected an "official" commission to uncover the truth about 9/11, and so I'm not at all disappointed by the Kissinger appointment. It is a political masterstroke that can only inspire awe, and perhaps some speculation that resurrecting figures out of our somewhat dubious recent past is a recurring theme of this administration, a new and novel kind of retro-chic. First John Poindexter, then Kissinger can Ollie North be far behind?

The task of the 9/11 commission is one that, in a free society, should have been taken up by journalists. That it has been co-opted by a quasi-governmental organ without a peep of protest from the Fourth Estate is a sad indication of the degeneration of a once-proud profession. In the age of the omnipotent state, the idea that all answers lie with the government is an illusion that many find comforting. That the concept of an "official" truth is an oxymoron seems lost on these people, along with the irony of the idea. It has been fourteen months and the U.S. government is just now beginning its official public investigation into the worst terrorist atrocity on our soil that should tell us all we need to know about their eagerness to reveal the truth.

Let the lefties whine about the Pinochet "coup" and the martyrdom of the Commie Allende, who might, but for Kissinger, have become another Castro. Let ranting neocons like smear-artist Stephen Schwartz rail about the International Wahabist Conspiracy and echo their former brethren on the Left in denouncing the pernicious influence of "big oil" all they want. Since the 9/11 commission has been a diversion and a political device from the beginning, its sandbagging by the President is a positive development in that, at least, the commission won't lead us down the wrong path.

Lieberman, McCain, and their neocon allies hoped the 9/11 commission would amount to the post-9/11 equivalent of the Moscow Trials, in which "Wahabism" and the Saudi regime in particular would be targeted as the progenitors of a Vast Conspiracy, but that tiresome prospect has now been effectively derailed. My own response to that, given my jaundiced view of the commission's original purpose, can only be: "Hail Henry!"

– Justin Raimondo

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard.