Sunday, December 29, 2002

Kean's conflict is at the very heart of what his commission is supposed to investigate. The commission is to examine whether the attacks could have been avoided and is to recommend steps to prevent future attacks. The reason the issue has become politicized - the reason why Bush was forced by public pressure by the families of the victims of September 11 to establish such a commission - is that there remains a lingering suspicion that the Bush Administration was somehow at fault for not stopping the terrorism. There are three levels of suspicion:

  1. The idea that the Bush Administration was behind the terrorist attacks, or at least that part of the U. S. military or intelligence apparatus close to the military industrial complex and members of the Bush Administration planned the terrorism to satisfy various goals. This makes a lot of sense, but is too conspiratorial for most Americans.

  2. The idea that the Bush Administration ignored the massive amounts of specific warnings of the attacks and arranged for the remarkably slow NORAD response in order to allow the terrorism to occur, again to satisfy various goals. This makes even more sense, and given the unbelievable sluggishness of NORAD seems to me to be practically a certainty, but is still too conspiratorial for most Americans.

  3. The idea that business ties of various members of the Bush Administration, particularly to the Bush family itself, led to improper restrictions in the investigations being conducted by U. S. counterterrorism agencies on Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, restrictions which allowed the terrorism to occur. This in my mind is an absolute certainty, and is so suspicious that it appears to lie behind the concerns of the families of the victims.

We have to go back to John O'Neill, the the director of counterterrorism for the FBI's New York office, and the FBI's leading expert on bin Laden. He was a driven man, and was determined to catch bin Laden and stop his organization, but was thwarted by what he felt was political interference by the U. S. government. He was so frustrated at not being allowed to do his job that he quit in disgust, and took a job as head of security for the World Trade Center, only to die on his second day of work, probably when he heroically went back into one of the towers to try to save people. O'Neill felt that the answers to the terrorism question lay in Saudi Arabia, and in particular, in the relationship between U. S. corporate oil interests and the Saudi elites which were financing the terrorism. The U. S. policy of treating the terrorist threat as subordinate to corporate interests goes back at least to the Clinton Administration, but became even more exaggerated under Bush, possibly because Bush and his family had personal business connections with the Saudi elites, including the financiers of al-Qaeda (not to mention the amazing fact that Bush's father's company, Carlyle, had as an investor the bin Laden family itself - to quote myself: "it is as if during the Second World War the main American military supplier was partly owned by Roosevelt's father and partly owned by Hitler's brother"). O'Neill's problems peaked when his investigation of the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen was acrimoniously thwarted by the U. S. ambassador to Yemen, Barbara Bodine. O'Neill's exit from the FBI seems to have been hastened by some odd charges involving a missing briefcase, an issue which supposedly led to his understanding that he would no longer be considered for promotion. We have seen a number of examples where FBI agents attempted to investigate suspicious incidents, but were mysterously thwarted by the FBI bureaucracy (e. g., the Phoenix memorandum on Arabs attending U.S. flight schools, the story of FBI informant Aukai Collins, the failure to obtain a FISA warrant against Moussaoui - the man who heads the FBI's National Security Law Unit, the unit that blocked the Minneapolis agents from pursuing their suspicions about Moussaoui, recently received a reward for "exceptional performance", which carried with it a cash bonus of 20 to 35 percent of his salary and a framed certificate signed by the President!). All of these incidents, together with O'Neill's concerns, have to lead one to wonder whether corporate interests interfered with a proper investigation of al-Qaeda, an investigation which would have prevented 9-11. Kean's conflict fits squarely into this problem: he is a director of a U. S. oil corporation which is in partnership with a company owned by a family in the Saudi elites which is very closely associated with Khalid bin Mahfouz, a man who probably financed President Bush's oil business, a man closely associated with the debacle of BCCI, and a man who has been alleged to be a financier of al-Qaeda. Kean is supposed to investigate whether U. S. corporate oil interests, and in particular business interests and connections of the President of the United States, had any adverse effect on the proper counterterrorism investigations of the U. S. government, when Kean has much the same sort of corporate crony connections to exactly the same man.