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Families Say 9/11 Report Avoids Certain Truths

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Between The Lines
http://www.btlonline.org
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Between the Lines Q&A
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release Aug. 10, 2004
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Victims' Families Say 9/11 Commission Report Avoids Certain Truths, But Makes Some Valuable Recommendations

- Interview with David Potorti, co-director of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, conducted by Scott Harris

Listen in RealAudio: http://www.btlonline.org/potorti080604.ram

The bipartisan commission appointed to investigate the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks released their final 567-page report on July 22. The commission examined the activities of the al-Qaeda terrorist network, the flaws in U.S. intelligence operations prior to the attacks, the performance of the Bush and Clinton administrations and rescue efforts on 9/11. The commission made several recommendations for the re-organization of the nation's 15 intelligence agencies, including the appointment of a Cabinet-level national intelligence director.

The report also examined the Bush administration's planning for the Iraq war and found there was no connection between Saddam Hussein's government and the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington. President Bush, who initially resisted the establishment of the 9/11 commission, now says he is considering the panel's recommendations.

One of the organizations closely following the proceedings of the Commission was September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, "founded by family members of those killed on 9/11 who have united to turn their grief into action for peace." Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with David Potorti, co-director of the group, whose brother died at the World Trade Center on 9/11. Potorti assesses the Commission's report and expresses solidarity with victims of terrorism, violence and war from around the world.

David Potorti: You know commissions in general are created to pretty much whitewash the real story. But having said that, I'm glad that there's a commission report. I would make the point that this report would not exist without the work of a handful of 9/11 widows -- they call them the "Jersey girls" -- or the Families' Steering Committee. It is important to look at the recommendations and to read the narrative of all the failures. But I think if you don't deal with the "why" of terrorism, if you don't really deal with why people want to kill us, and you just sort of look at all the failures without any sort of self-reflection -- that we're never going to be safe. But in glancing through the report I wrote down a couple of notes, and on page 363, they do make a really good statement. They say the long-term success demands the use of all elements of national power: diplomacy, intelligence, covert action, law enforcement, economic policy, foreign aid, public diplomacy and homeland defense and that is exactl And then a little bit later on page 376, they talked about the U.S. government, that it should offer an example of moral leadership in the world, committed to treat people humanely and abide by the rule of law and be generous and caring to our neighbors and that we should stress life over death and widespread political participation and contempt for indiscriminate violence. And that includes respect for the rule of law, openness in discussing differences, tolerance for opposing points of view. And these are all wonderful things. Unfortunately, we're not doing any of them in Iraq and we're not doing any of them in Afghanistan. You know if this is the recommendation of the 9/11 commission and President Bush says he wants to enact it, well, great, why don't we start with that stuff?

They do acknowledge that America's foreign policy choices have consequences and that's a really good statement and they go on to say in the 9/11 report, right or wrong, it is simply a fact that American policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and American actions in Iraq are dominant staples of popular commentary across the Arab and Muslim world. But then they go on and they say but that does not mean that U.S. choices have been wrong, however. So, they're sort of on the right track there, but they're just not willing to acknowledge that we might be doing something wrong. I think that if you're going to have any sort of self-reflection, that among the possibilities that has to be the fact that yeah, maybe we just screwed up and we're wrong. And I guess maybe that's just not the place. Maybe an official government document is not the place where you're going to hear that.

But we had some concerns about how the thing was put together, we thought that people were a little too collegial with each other. We had concerns about the vetting process in the report. How exactly was the report put together? Who exactly looked at it? Was it just President Bush who was deciding what was in it? Who wasn't, what wasn't in it? And we certainly had that problem with Philip Zelikow being the executive director of the commission, because he's very, very close with Condoleeza Rice -- they wrote a book together, a couple books together, I think. So we have seen that as a real conflict of interest, and just do not understand why he was on the commission, essentially editing the whole thing. And it certainly doesn't seem like it did a whole lot of good in terms of candor.

Between The Lines: David Potorti, having lost your older brother at the World Trade Center, and in discussions with other family members, what is it you'd like to see happen in government action as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks? If this report doesn't satisfy what you think should occur now, what would?

David Potorti: I think we just have to get out of Iraq, and I know that there's certainly a lot of people who say, well, look we went in, we broke it and now we've got to fix it. But I think so much of our problems just come from us, specifically us being in Iraq. I guess I fall down on the side of first, we've got to get out of there so that people stop killing our troops and stop using us as a target. And the second half of the equation is that we've got to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is the central argument against the United States in the Arab world. You know, I think that's not specific to 9/11, but I think 9/11 really did come out of those two things. I think it really is all about foreign policy, how we relate to the world. People just don't hate us, they hate us because of what we do to them. As Howard Zinn said the other night, if we just stop bothering people, they will stop bothering us. I know that's an incredible oversimplification, but the fact is, we bother a lot of peop September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows is conducting a march commemorating civilian war dead from Boston, the site of the Democratic National Convention to New York City, where the GOP will hold its presidential convention at the end of August. Get more information about the march by calling (212) 598-0970 or visit the group's website at http://www.peacefultomorrows.org

Related links on our website at

http://www.btlonline.org/btl080604.html#1hed

- "Report on 9-11 Too Tepid"
- "Iraq War and Israel Soft-Pedaled in 9/11 Report"
- "Panel's '9/11 Report' Becoming a Big Seller"
- "Failures of the Sept. 11 Commission"
- "Questions Persist Despite 9/11 Investigations"
- "Is That All There Is?: On the 9-11 Commission's Findings -- or Lack of Them"
- "An Excuse-Spouting Bush Is Busted by 9/11 Report"
- "Whitewash': 9/11 Director Gave Evidence to Own Inquiry"

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Scott Harris is executive producer of Between The Lines, which can be heard on more than 35 radio stations. This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines ( http://www.btlonline.org) for the week ending Aug. 6, 2004. This Between The Lines Q&A was compiled by Anna Manzo and Scott Harris.

PRINT INFORMATION: For reprint permission, please email betweenthelines@snet.net.

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