To the Editor:
In Monday’s paper, the News wrote (“Levin brings smarts to intelligence committee,” 2/9) that it was puzzled by the “seemingly meaningless” protest of Bush’s decision to appoint Levin to his commission on intelligence failures leading up to the Iraq war. The News criticized the protestors for not “giving adequate attention to the issue.” On the contrary, I think the News could have better served its readers had it given adequate attention to the protestors’ grievances rather than trying to write the protestors off by saying they were “protesting for the sake of protesting.”
So now, please, let me tell you why I, like over 20 others, skipped dinner on Friday and headed out to the protest at Woodbridge at 20 minutes’ notice. There are many things about Bush’s appointments — not just of Levin, but of all seven people he has appointed thus far to the commission — that bother me deeply. First of all, I am deeply disturbed by the fact that Bush himself gets to appoint the panel that will investigate, in effect, whether or not he misled the nation. Such a commission can hardly be called “independent.” Since when does the defendant get to handpick the prosecution?
Furthermore, the News itself noted that only one of the seven people who have been named to the nine-member commission thus far has any previous intelligence experience. This statement itself should set off alarm bells. If Bush is serious about investigating intelligence failures, shouldn’t the members of the commission have expertise in that area? And this, in my mind, is Levin’s main shortcoming, and one that he shares with five others on this commission. Levin is a very smart man, but his area of expertise is economics, not U.S. foreign policy or intelligence. Unlike this one, the commissions Levin has previously served on that the News pointed out were economic in nature. His qualifications in this field seem much more suspect, as do those of five others. As such, this commission lacks more than just experience — it lacks legitimacy.
My third problem with the panel is its time frame. It’s expected to report its findings by March 31, 2005 — after the election. While it makes sense to allow the commission ample time to thoroughly conduct its investigation (especially in light of the inexperience of those serving on it), one has to put this in perspective: Bush himself appointed a panel with very little expertise to determine whether or not he did something wrong, and its findings will not be made public until after the election. It seems to serve Bush’s ends a little too well.
I am disappointed first and foremost with Bush for making a mockery of one of the most important commissions in American history. I am disappointed in Levin because he has agreed to be complicit in this travesty. Rather than taking a principled stance and rejecting Bush’s offer, he has agreed to serve on a commission that will more likely that not be used as a means to sweep Bush’s troubles under the rug rather than giving the American people the answers they deserve.
Saqib Bhatti ’04
February 9, 2004
The writer is a member of the Yale Coalition for Peace