9/11 Commission: Failure No. 2
July 27, 2004
This is the second of a five-part series pointing out Five Things That The 9/11 Commission got wrong.
Thing Two. Perhaps it’s too much to expect people like Fred Fielding, Slade Gorton, Jim Thompson, Bob Kerrey and the rest of the 9/11 Commission to say anything intelligent about how to “Prevent the Continued Growth of Islamist Terrorism,” one of the top priorities in the “What To Do? A Global Strategy” chapter of their report. After all, it’s fair to say that they are virtual know-nothings when it comes to understanding Islam, not to mention its radical and fundamentalist manifestations.
But this chapter isn’t a road map on fighting “Islamist terrorism.” It is a veritable Bartlett’s of quotable (and meaningless) platitudes. So far, at least, I haven’t seen anyone point this out.
Here are a few of the silliest (and by the way, these are not taken out of context, but are the central observations and “recommendations” of the commission in how to fight Islamic terrorism by “engage[ing] in the struggle for ideas”):
“It is among the large majority of Arabs and Muslims that we must encourage reform, freedom, democracy, and opportunity."
Another key recommendation is to support a Middle East NAFTA. “The U.S. government has announced the goal of working toward a Middle East Free Trade Area, or MEFTA, by 2013…. Recommendation: A comprehensive U.S. strategy to counter terrorism should include economic policies that encourage development, more open societies, and opportunities for people to improve their lives.”
It goes on in this vein. The commission report (page 362) notes that “Islamic” terrorism is “motivated by religion and does not distinguish politics from religion, thus distorting both. It is further fed by grievances stressed by bin Laden and widely felt throughout the Muslim world—against the U.S. military presence in the Middle East, policies perceived as anti-Arab and anti-Muslim, and support of Israel.” This is a nod in the direction of admitting that the terrorists don’t just “hate our freedom,” as President Bush constantly intones, but that there are fundamental policy differences that feed into anti-American sentiment in the region, and which Osama bin Laden draws upon. Yet the commission doesn’t recommend a single policy change, or even a review of those polices, or even a study to find out what policies exactly are considered “anti-Arab” and “anti-Muslim.”
I’d expect Jon Stewart to suggest that we fight Osama bin Laden though MEFTA. Or by having America “stand up for its values.” But the 9/11 Commission?