George W. Bush’s decision to appoint Henry A. Kissinger to chair the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks has drawn sharp criticism, including angry charges that it is an “insult” to the families of the 3,000 people who died.

Bush and his administration stonewalled from the beginning all demands that an independent commission be named to probe the failures of the FBI, CIA, U.S. Customs and other federal agencies to avert the tragedy despite ample advance warnings that an attack was imminent. The families of the victims played a leading role in pressuring Bush to yield but his choice of Kissinger exposed the White House determination to derail any real probe of the crime, critics charge. He named former Maine Democratic Senator George Mitchell as vice chair of the commission.

“We have a commission only because of the hard work by many family members, but this commission is an insult to the families,” said David Potorti, spokesman for September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. His brother, Jim Potorti, died in the World Trade Center. “Kissinger is the ultimate Washington insider investigating the ultimate Washington insider failure, which is how our government failed to protect us from the Sept. 11 attacks,” he told the World in a phone interview from his home in Cary, N.C..

While Peaceful Tomorrows has not taken a formal position, the office has been flooded with calls from family members expressing dismay at Bush’s choice, he added.

“Kissinger is probably the only person in Washington more secretive than George W. Bush. There is much of his public record that he has refused to make public. That information belongs to the people, not to him,” Potorti said.

He cited Kissinger’s role in ordering CIA covert support for fascist General Augusto Pinochet in the 1973 coup d’etat that killed Chilean President Salvador Allende. “Kissinger’s role in the overthrow of a democratically elected government in Chile is a painful irony not only for us but for people all over the world,” Potorti said. “People of more than 200 nationalities died in the World Trade Center. The Sept. 11 attacks were against humanity, not just against the United States. In order for the conclusions of the commission to be taken seriously, we need someone who is trusted by people all over the world. The opinion of Kissinger is pretty poor. It means we won’t get the answers we need.”

Just before the Chile coup, Kissinger said, “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.” That comment dovetails perfectly with the Bush doctrine of unilateral, preemptive war.

Potorti participated in a vigil in front of the White House on Thanksgiving Day in solidarity with other victims of terrorism around the world and to protest the Bush-Cheney drive toward war on Iraq. Potorti told reporters, “We ask the administration to stop using the deaths of our family members as a reason to kill other innocent civilians already suffering under the regime of Saddam Hussein.”

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