Will 9-11 Commission#039;s work get us closer to answers?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 10, 2004

Why is it that our society always seems to see conspiracy in everything?

Anytime something bad happens, some people want to find the culprit.

Somehow, it seems, figuring out exactly who to blame makes us feel better.

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Remember when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded? In the days and months following the accident, scientists and engineers spent countless hours studying, recreating and culling through miles of paperwork and untold bits of wreckage.

Eventually, the cause was found, a leaky O-ring seal on a solid rocket booster. In the end, we wound up knowing what we should have done to prevent the accident.

Unfortunately, nothing could be done to make up for the past errors other than to learn from them. At that point, finger pointing served no real purpose and offered no help to the family members who lost loved ones.

The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (also known as the 9-11 Commission) has been in the news quite a bit lately.

The latest work of the commission, the much hyped, little-substance testimony of Dr. Condoleezza Rice, is worrisome.

The commission, a bi-partisan group created to study the facts surrounding the 9-11 attacks, has at times taken on the air of a modern-day witch-hunt.

The tone with which some commission members addressed Rice and other witnesses seems to infer some secret that must be beaten out of the witness or some implied guilt or responsibility for the attacks.

Much of the testimony contains lots of grandstanding and little new information.

Much has been said about whether or not the federal government took proper action in response to threats prior to Sept. 11.

Critics argue perhaps things might have been different on Sept. 11 had we more appropriately responded to whispers of threats.

While it would, indeed, be a shocker if one of the witnesses wound up saying, "Sure, we knew their whole plan, how it was going to happen, when, where, who was doing it. We just didn't do anything about it."

Such a revelation is unlikely. And, it appears the idea that we could have prevented the attacks is also unlikely considering the prior knowledge we had.

The commission's entire work - or at least that which has been publicly aired and discussed - is a bit troubling. Despite its overall bi-partisan creation, one has to question how large a role politics may ultimately play in the commission's work and the demeanor of its members.

Playing Monday-morning quarterback is fairly easy. Dropping back in the pocket on Sunday afternoon with giants rushing at you is an entirely different animal.

What would have happened if on Sept. 10, Americans were told a threat was eminent? Could most Americans have fathomed the consequences, let alone prepared for them?

We'll probably never know for sure.

And no amount of grand standing or browbeating will get us closer to an answer.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Ironton Tribune. He can be reached at (740) 532-1445 ext. 12 or by e-mail to kevin.cooper@irontontribune.com.