Royko Were Here...
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
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
at the University of Virginia, Zelikow maintained that the
war, in which 616 U.S. and 102 coalition troops have been
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
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Complaints and death threats should be directed to BR-549.