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Context of 'November 2002 and After: Karl Rove Concerned about 9/11 Investigation'

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During the administration of US President Richard Nixon, and under the counsel of his advisor for National Security Affairs Henry Kissinger, the United States drops more than two million tons of bombs on Laos during more than 500,000 bombing missions—exceeding what it had dropped on Germany and Japan during all of World War II—in an effort to defeat the left-leaning Pathet Lao and to destroy North Vietnamese supply lines. The ordnance includes some 90 million cluster bombs, 20-30 percent of which do not detonate (see After 1973). A Senate report finds: “The United States has undertaken a large-scale air war over Laos to destroy the physical and social infrastructure of Pathet Lao held areas and to interdict North Vietnamese infiltration… throughout all this there has been a policy of subterfuge and secrecy… through such things as saturation bombing and the forced evacuation of population from enemy held or threatened areas—we have helped to create untold agony for hundreds of thousands of villagers.” And in 1970, Far Eastern Economic Review reports: “For the past two years the US has carried out one of the most sustained bombing campaigns in history against essentially civilian targets in northeastern Laos…. Operating from Thai bases and from aircraft carriers, American jets have destroyed the great majority of villages and towns in the northeast. Severe casualties have been inflicted upon the inhabitants… Refugees from the Plain of Jars report they were bombed almost daily by American jets last year. They say they spent most of the past two years living in caves or holes.” [Blum, 1995; BBC, 1/5/2001; Stars and Stripes, 7/21/2002; BBC, 12/6/2005] Meo villagers who attempt neutrality or refuse to send their 13-year-olds to fight in the CIA’s army, are refused American-supplied rice and “ultimately bombed by the US Air Force.” [Blum, 1995] The CIA also drops millions of dollars in forged Pathet Lao currency in an attempt to destabilize the Lao economy. [Blum, 1995] During this period, the existence of US operations in Laos is outright denied. [Blum, 1995; Stars and Stripes, 7/21/2002]

Entity Tags: US Congress, Richard M. Nixon, Lyndon B. Johnson

Timeline Tags: US-Laos (1958-1973)

Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s assistant for National Security Affairs, convinces the president to begin a secret bombing campaign in Cambodia where Viet Cong and North Vietnamese have established logistical bases. The campaign, secretly referred to as “Operation Breakfast,” spurs the Vietnamese to move deeper into Cambodia causing US bombings to move further into the country’s interior. As in Laos (see 1969-1973), the US drops an incredible number of bombs on civilian areas. [Los Angeles Times, 7/8/1997] Craig Etcheson will later write in his book, The Rise and Demise of Democratic Kampuchea: “The fact is that the United States dropped three times the quantity of explosives on Cambodia between 1970 and 1973 than it had dropped on Japan for the duration of World War II. Between 1969 and 1973, 539,129 tons of high explosives rained down on Cambodia; that is more than one billion pounds. This is equivalent to some 15,400 pounds of explosives for every square mile of Cambodian territory. Considering that probably less than 25 percent of the total area of Cambodia was bombed at one time or another, the actual explosive force per area would be at least four times this level.” [Etcheson, 1984, pp. 99]

Entity Tags: Henry A. Kissinger, Richard M. Nixon

Timeline Tags: US-Cambodia (1955-1993), Nixon and Watergate

December 7, 1976: Indonesia Invades East Timor

Indonesia invades and occupies the former Portuguese colony of East Timor. An estimated 200,000 people—roughly one-third of the country’s population—will be killed in the violence and famine that follow. [Extra!, 11/1993; John Pilger, 1994; Sojourners, 9/1994; BBC, 5/17/2002] The invasion was tacitly approved in advance by US President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the day before during a meeting with Suharto (see December 6, 1975).

Entity Tags: Henry A. Kissinger, Suharto, Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr

Timeline Tags: US-Indonesia-East Timor (1965-2002)

President Bush says he is opposed to establishing a special, independent commission to probe how the government dealt with terrorism warnings before 9/11. [CBS News, 5/23/2002] He will later change his stance in the face of overwhelming support for the idea (see September 20, 2002), and will then sabotage an agreement reached with Congress to establish a commission. Several years after leaving the White House, current Bush press secretary Scott McClellan will write that the president’s reluctance to open an independent investigation into the 9/11 attacks (see November 15, 2002) was part of a larger penchant for secrecy in the administration. McClellan will write: “Unfortunately, the initial response of the Bush White House to demands by partisan critics in Congress and elsewhere for an independent investigation fueled the firestorm of anger. It was an early indication that the Bush administration did not sufficiently accept the necessity for transparency in its management of the public business. The president and his senior advisers had little appetite for outside investigations. They resisted openness, and believed that investigations simply meant close scrutiny of things they would prefer to keep confidential. Not that anything they’d done had necessarily crossed a legal line; rather, some things done privately might not look so good if disclosed publicly, and might cause political embarrassment for the president.… The Bush administration lacked real accountability in large part because Bush himself did not embrace openness or government in the sunshine. His belief in secrecy and compartmentalization was activated when controversy began to stir.” [McClellan, 2008, pp. 117-118]

Entity Tags: Scott McClellan, Bush administration (43), 9/11 Commission, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

In the wake of damaging Congressional 9/11 inquiry revelations, President Bush reverses course and backs efforts by many lawmakers to form an independent commission to conduct a broader investigation than the current Congressional inquiry. Newsweek reports that Bush had virtually no choice. “There was a freight train coming down the tracks,” says one White House official. [Newsweek, 9/22/2002] But as one of the 9/11 victim’s relatives says, “It’s carefully crafted to make it look like a general endorsement but it actually says that the commission would look at everything except the intelligence failures.” [CBS News, 9/20/2002] Rather than look into such failures, Bush wants the commission to focus on areas like border security, visa issues, and the “role of Congress” in overseeing intelligence agencies. The White House also refuses to turn over documents showing what Bush knew before 9/11. [Newsweek, 9/22/2002]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, 9/11 Congressional Inquiry

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A tentative congressional deal to create an independent commission to investigate the 9/11 attacks falls apart hours after the White House objected to the plan (it appears Vice President Cheney called Republican leaders and told them to renege on the agreement [New York Times, 11/2/2002] ). Bush had pledged to support such a commission a few weeks earlier (see September 20, 2002), but doubters who questioned his sincerity appear to have been proven correct. Hours after top Republican leaders announced at a press conference that an agreement had been reached, House Republican leaders said they wouldn’t bring the legislation to the full House for a vote unless the commission proposal was changed. There are worries that if the White House can delay the legislation for a few more days until Congress adjourns, it could stop the creation of a commission for months, if not permanently. [New York Times, 10/11/2002] Another deal is made a few weeks later (see November 15, 2002) and the commission goes forward.

Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Presidential adviser Karl Rove is concerned about the 9/11 Commission, which is soon to be established (see November 15, 2002). Author Philip Shenon will say this is because he thinks that “in the wrong hands… [it] could cost President Bush a second term.” According to Democratic Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, Republican Senator Trent Lott says that behind-the-scenes opposition to the commission’s creation is orchestrated by Rove and the White House’s political office. “It’s all Rove,” Lott tells Daschle. Rove is also involved in the selection of the Commission’s initial chairman, Henry Kissinger (see November 27, 2002), and his successor Tom Kean (see December 14, 2002). [Shenon, 2008, pp. 15, 29]

Entity Tags: Karl C. Rove, 9/11 Commission

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Congress approves legislation creating an independent commission—the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States—which will later be popularly known as the 9/11 Commission. The Commission’s mandate is to “examine and report on the facts and causes relating to the September 11th terrorist attacks” and “make a full and complete accounting of the circumstances surrounding the attacks.” President Bush signs it into law November 27, 2002. [US Congress, 11/27/2002] Bush originally opposed an independent commission (see May 23, 2002), but changed his mind over the summer (see September 20, 2002) after political pressure. The Democrats conceded several important aspects of the Commission (such as subpoena approval) after the White House threatened to create a Commission by executive order, over which it would have more control. Bush will appoint the Commission chairman and he sets a strict time frame (18 months) for its investigation. [CNN, 11/15/2002] The Commission will only have a $3 million budget. Senator Jon Corzine (D-NJ) and others wonder how the Commission can accomplish much with such a small budget. [Associated Press, 1/20/2003] (In contrast, a 1996 federal commission investigating casino gambling received $5 million; the federal government spent $50 million investigating Bill Clinton and Whitewater; and the investigation into the February 2003 Columbia shuttle explosion will receive $50 million.) [Carter, 2004, pp. 280] Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) will call the budget “a joke.” [Shenon, 2008, pp. 31] The budget will later be increased (see March 26, 2003).

Entity Tags: Tom Daschle, Jon Corzine, US Congress, 9/11 Commission, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Former Democratic congressman Lee Hamilton is considered by his party for the position of vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission, but does not get the appointment, which goes to former Senator George Mitchell (see November 27, 2002). Hamilton, who is nonetheless appointed to the Commission as an ordinary member, is rejected as vice chairman by Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle and other leading Democrats because he is seen as too soft on Republicans—he lacks “a taste for partisan fights,” and seems “always to assume the best about people, Republicans included.” He is also friends with two of the investigation’s targets, Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who he calls “Dick” and “Don,” and Cheney’s White House counsel, David Addington. He got to know Cheney during the Iran-Contra investigation, when Cheney was the ranking Republican on the committee and Hamilton failed to distinguish himself (see Mid-1980s), as he did over the “October Surprise” affair (see 1992-January 1993). Author Philip Shenon will comment, “While [Hamilton] might disagree with Cheney and Rumsfeld on policy, Hamilton trusted both men always to tell the truth.” [Shenon, 2008, pp. 32-33] However, Mitchell will subsequently resign and Hamilton will replace him as vice chairman (see December 11, 2002). In this role Hamilton will have good relations with the Bush White House (see March 2003-July 2004 and Early July 2004).

Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, 9/11 Commission, Lee Hamilton, Donald Rumsfeld, Philip Shenon

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline, Iran-Contra Affair


Henry Kissinger.
Henry Kissinger. [Source: Public domain]President Bush names Henry Kissinger as Chairman of the 9/11 Commission. Congressional Democrats appoint George Mitchell, former Senate majority leader and peace envoy to Northern Ireland and the Middle East, as vice chairman. Their replacements and the other eight members of the commission are chosen by mid-December. Kissinger served as Secretary of State and National Security Adviser for Presidents Nixon and Ford. [New York Times, 11/29/2002] Kissinger’s ability to remain independent is met with skepticism. [Sydney Morning Herald, 11/29/2002; CNN, 11/30/2002; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/3/2002; Washington Post, 12/17/2002] He has a very controversial past. For instance, “Documents recently released by the CIA, strengthen previously-held suspicions that Kissinger was actively involved in the establishment of Operation Condor, a covert plan involving six Latin American countries including Chile, to assassinate thousands of political opponents.” He is also famous for an “obsession with secrecy.” [BBC, 4/26/2002] It is even difficult for Kissinger to travel outside the US. Investigative judges in Spain, France, Chile, and Argentina seek to question him in several legal actions related to his possible involvement in war crimes, particularly in Latin America, Vietnam, Cambodia (see March 1969), Laos (see 1969-1973), Bangladesh, Chile, and East Timor (see December 7, 1976). [Village Voice, 8/15/2001; BBC, 4/18/2002; Chicago Tribune, 12/1/2002] The New York Times suggests, “Indeed, it is tempting to wonder if the choice of Mr. Kissinger is not a clever maneuver by the White House to contain an investigation it long opposed.” [New York Times, 11/29/2002] The Chicago Tribune notes that “the president who appointed him originally opposed this whole undertaking.” Kissinger is “known more for keeping secrets from the American people than for telling the truth” and asking him “to deliver a critique that may ruin friends and associates is asking a great deal.” [Chicago Tribune, 12/5/2002]

Entity Tags: George Mitchell, 9/11 Commission, Henry A. Kissinger, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Following Henry Kissinger’s resignation as 9/11 Commission chairman the day before (see November 27, 2002), presidential aide Karl Rove calls Thomas Kean, a former Republican governor of New Jersey, to ask if he is willing to be considered as chairman of the Commission. Kean, who does not know Rove well and has been out of politics for some time, is surprised that he is being considered for the job. He is even more surprised that it is Rove making the call, especially given Rove’s reputation as the brain behind the rise of President George W. Bush. However, he says that he may do the job, if chosen. Kean will later speak to the president’s chief of staff Andy Card about the job, and formally accept it in a call from President Bush. Rove will later say that he thinks it was he who first suggested Kean as chairman, but will add that he regrets this, due to later battles with the White House. Card will also say he thinks he was the first to suggest Kean. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 16-7, 25]

Entity Tags: Thomas Kean, Karl C. Rove, 9/11 Commission

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Time magazine reports that the 9/11 Commission has requested an additional $11 million to add to the $3 million for the commission, and the Bush administration has turned down the request. The request will not be added to a supplemental spending bill. A Republican member of the commission says the decision will make it “look like they have something to hide.” Another commissioner notes that the recent commission on the Columbia shuttle crash will have a $50 million budget. Stephen Push, a leader of the 9/11 victims’ families, says the decision “suggests to me that they see this as a convenient way for allowing the commission to fail. they’ve never wanted the commission and I feel the White House has always been looking for a way to kill it without having their finger on the murder weapon.” The administration has suggested it may grant the money later, but any delay will further slow down the commission’s work. Already, commission members are complaining that scant progress has been made in the four months since the commission started, and they are operating under a deadline. [Time, 3/26/2003] Three days later, it is reported that the Bush administration has agreed to extra funding, but only $9 million, not $11 million. The commission agrees to the reduced amount. [Washington Post, 3/29/2003] The New York Times criticizes such penny-pinching, saying, “Reasonable people might wonder if the White House, having failed in its initial attempt to have Henry Kissinger steer the investigation, may be resorting to budgetary starvation as a tactic to hobble any politically fearless inquiry.” [New York Times, 3/31/2003]

Entity Tags: 9/11 Commission, Stephen Push, Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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