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If Royko Were Here...
April 6, 2004
By Sheila Samples

I often wonder what Chicago's late, great Mike Royko would think about Dick Cheney. Cheney is literally snickering up his sleeve at the direction he's managed to steer the independent (sic) 9-11 Commission, to effectively cover up what he and others in the administration knew beforehand.

I suspect the acerbic renegade columnist would be quick to point out that the Commission is working pretty hard on its own to make Cheney's job easier. He'd probably tell us the Commission's "bipartisan" members are arguably the only group of people in this country - maybe even the world - who don't know exactly what this entire bunch knew, and when they knew it.

You play Cheney's game, you play by Cheney's rules and with Cheney's stacked deck. That's the deal - take it or leave it. Nobody gets a break here. The Cheney White House has gone from angrily resisting an independent investigation, to sabotaging it via curtailing funds and imposing unrealistic cut-off dates and, finally, to blatant manipulation. Distractions, such as public outrage over selecting Henry Kissinger to be in charge of anything even remotely honorable, gave Cheney the cover he needed to, for example, install as Commission executive director Philip Zelikow, a Condoleezza Rice buddy and former member of the 2000 Cheney/Bush transition team.

Zelikow may not be privy to what led up to Bin Laden's 9-11 attack on the United States, but he has no illusions about what prompted Bush's 3-20 attack on Iraq. In a Sep 10, 2002 speech at the University of Virginia, Zelikow maintained that the war, in which 616 U.S. and 102 coalition troops have been killed and far too many more wounded and maimed, was motivated by the U.S. government's desire to defend Israel.

"Why would Iraq attack America or use nuclear weapons against us?" Zelikow asked. "I'll tell you what I think the real threat is and actually has been since 1990 - it's the threat against Israel." Zelikow went on to say that such a threat "dare not speak its name," because it was not a "popular sell" with the Europeans.

Can't argue with that. If there's one thing Boss Cheney knows, it's how to make money in the war market.

Thus, Zelikow is both an able 9-11 Commission puppet and puppeteer. He decides the parameters of the investigation into what was done to protect America before 9-11, to include which questions witnesses are asked, and whether subpoenas will be issued. None have been. None will be.

But not even Zelikow sealed the deal for Cheney. Still not satisfied, Cheney went to great lengths to install former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean as Commission chairman. Kean, director and shareholder of Amerada Hess, is directly involved in an oil venture with Saudi Arabia's Delta Oil, which is in part controlled by Khalid bin Mafhouz, Osama Bin Laden's brother-in-law.

Just another amazing coincidence which, Kean assures us, will have no effect on his performance in striving mightily to discover any part the Saudis might have played in this nation's most horrific tragedy.

However, Cheney's never been one to take chances. With the 9-11 widows out there stomping around, demanding the truth, there was only one thing to do. Appease them. Offer up Condi. Putting a squirming Condaleezza Rice out there to publicly untangle the snarl of lies she has told to any media outlet that would schedule her for the past year is just one part of Cheney's grand scheme to close the books on this pesky little matter.

Matter of fact, throwing Rice to the wolves is no big deal - anybody who's paid even marginal attention to Cheney's modus operandi over the years has seen that one coming for a long time. Although Rice has been richly rewarded for years by both Bush father and son for carrying their water so well, when the FOC (friends of Condi) recently began touting her as the logical choice for vice president, her bucket very quickly got a hole in it. Suddenly, it's water, water everywhere.

It's only fair to point out that many of Rice's wounds are self-inflicted. Lying, then spinning the lies, then lying about spinning the lies can get tedious - even confusing - and can cause someone to suffer irreparable memory loss when someone is under oath. Especially in public. Rice will pull through her highly publicized appearance before the Committee this week damaged to be sure, and useless, but thanks to Zelikow and Kean, she will emerge intact.

But the "deal" Cheney made with Commission members for an interview, where he and Bush appear together - not under oath, in private, with no official record and only one note-taker in attendance who probably had to promise not to remember anything he hears, and if he does, he will cut off his own head and bury it in the backyard - sets a new low in lack of cooperation for this bunch. And that's quite a feat.

Of course, there's always the outside chance Cheney just told the flat-out truth. "Look, guys," Cheney could have said, "we're up to our asses in alligators here. You know how dysfunctional the Bushes are - especially this one. I have to be in there with him. Can't afford for him to have a public meltdown."

Cheney probably had to go no further than to remind them of Bush's zany performance last week when a reporter asked him, "Mr. President, do you have a plan to deal with the high gasoline prices?"

Bush leaned over the podium as he is prone to do when he wants to appear not only honest, but earnestly honest, and - for some bewildering reason, referring to himself in the third person - responded, "The President of the United States has gotta 'jawbone' OPEC members and make 'em understand they can't cut back on oil production."

With reporters staring at him numbly, Bush went on to boast with a wink and a big grin, "I was an oil man once - not a big oil man, I was a little oil man but that's still an oil man so I know a little bit about the subject."

So, it's easy to see how the Commission could be convinced that questioning Bush one-on-one might result in a real nasty Texas truth gusher. Like Cheney probably told them, splattering the public with the oily truth "at this time in our history" probably isn't the most prudent thing to do. You know, for national security and stuff like that.

But wait - there's more! The real coup was Cheney demanding - and getting - a written promise from the Commission that it will relinquish all rights to ask further questions from any member of the administration, to include advisers and unelected warmongering neocon perps who are skulking mischieviously along the shadowy periphery of democracy. Members even relinquished the right to contact those who previously testified in order to clarify remarks they may have made.

In a groveling March 30 statement, the Commission - crawling eagerly on its belly like a bitch dog begging for attention - profusely thanked both Bush and Cheney for agreeing to meet in just one joint private session, and promised not to allow the gracious presence of Dr. Rice to set a precedent. And, in spite of the daily stonewalling and efforts to discredit and derail the Commission's mandate, for no discernable reason at all, they collectively praised Bush for his "consistent policy of strong support."

Is this Commission independent or what?

Having Zelikow and Kean covering your backside is kinda like putting the tag team of neocon operatives Antonin Scalia and James Baker in charge of yet another presidential election. There will be no pointy-finger hanging chads, no blame-game butterflies - and no surprises when the mostly redacted Commission report is vetted by the White House and finally approved by Cheney for release in July.

Trying to understand the convoluted, behind-the-scenes machinations of Commission officials - to make sense of their feverish rhetoric - I can sympathize with Royko, who fumed in frustration when he came face-to-face with the Internet:

"[It's]... like driving a car down a narrow road in a snow storm, a car in which the windshield wipers and headlights don't work. All of the signs along the highway are backwards and upside down and of no help at all. Finally," Royko said, "when you see someone along the side of the road and stop for directions, they can only speak to you stuttering in Albanian."

If Royko were here today, he would convulse with laughter at the evil silliness of it all. He would shake his head disapprovingly at us, glower ominously at Cheney, and then roar indignantly, "Aww, c'mon Boss - gimme a break!"

Royko would leave us no alternative but to converge on Cheney and demand the truth. If Royko were here, I suspect that we would get it.


Sheila Samples is an Oklahoma freelance writer and a former US Army Public Information Officer. She will accept praise and atta-boys at rsamples@sirinet.net. Complaints and death threats should be directed to BR-549.

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