Bush Names Bin Laden
To Head 9/11 Probe
WASHINGTON, Nov. 27 -- President Bush today named Osama Bin Laden, a polarizing figure who is viewed with suspicion by some in the West but enjoys great cred in the Arab street, to lead an independent investigation into the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Democratic leaders in Congress, who will appoint half of the ten members of the investigatory commission, immediately named Strom Thurmond as vice chairman.
Thurmond, a U.S. senator from South Carolina until his chief of staff took over the seat sometime in the last century, was a Democrat until 1964.
The presidents unconventional choice of Mr. Bin Laden
was made at the urging of Vice President Richard Dicky
Bird Cheney, who has been close to the controversial
Saudi Arabian ever since last year when they lived across the
street from each other in an undisclosed location. Both men
are said to share a love of secrets.
The mandate of the new commission is to conduct a wide-ranging inquiry into the causes of the attacks, whether they could have been averted, and what changes are needed to prevent a recurrence.
No man in or out of government is better qualified to answer these questions, said Defense Secretary Donald Rummy Rumsfeld. (The president has an affectionate nickname for Mr. Bin Laden, too, according to intimates. It is Sand Nigger.)
Secretary Rumsfeld disclosed that in preliminary discussions between the president and the tall, bearded Saudi businessman, the two wealthy scions established an easy working relationship, growing out of their shared belief that the Clinton presidency would be the most fruitful area for the commission to probe.
It may be too late to impeach that lascivious son of a bitch, chuckled White House scholar Karl Rove, but we can sure as hell impeach his historical legacy.
The job of chairman of the commission is to be part time, although White House officials said they expected that Mr. Bin Laden would dedicate considerable time to it. They said he would not resign as chairman of Al Qaeda, his international consulting firm, and would serve as the commissions chairman without pay.
Not only is Mr. Bin Laden independently wealthy, but he will share with Mr. Cheney the $25 million finders fee placed on his head last year by the administration. Hes wanted dead, the vice president explained, pausing to flash his trademark lopsided leer before finishing the sentence, or alive. We chose Plan B.
The reaction to the appointment on Capitol Hill was generally positive, with Senator Bob Graham, the Florida Democrat who is the outgoing chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, saying, this bad boy brings a great depth of experience, wisdom and respect to the job.
Stephen Push, the leader of Families of Sept. 11, a group that lobbied for the establishment of the commission over the ultimately futile resistance of President Bush, said the combination of Mr. Bin Laden and Mr. Thurmond was a strong one.
Were pleased with both appointments, he said. The choice of Mr. Bin Laden in particular showed that the Administration is taking this very seriously, he added. Except for the ten years or so that Clinton and Reagan had him on the CIAs payroll in Afghanistan, nobody can call Osama a crony of the White House.
Critics of the appointment feared a possible conflict of interest between Bin Ladens past terrorist activities and his work on the commission, but defenders termed these reservations unfounded.
By now that old boy knows more about CIA and FBI methods than they do themselves, Senator Graham said. You dont want to hire a hen to patch the holes in the henhouse. You want to hire the fox that managed to get in.
The description might equally have fit an earlier contender for the chairmans slot, Henry Kissinger, since the revered elderly statesman had waged successful terror campaigns in Timor, Chile, Southeast Asia, and elsewhere.
And Mr. Bush was indeed tempted, White House sources say, but ultimately rejected Mr. Kissinger as insufficiently evil.
December 2, 2002