Thank you, Bob, and thank you to all the families of September 11th victims
who traveled to the Capitol today to fight for an independent commission to investigate the attacks against America.
Your loved ones were the first casualties in a new kind of war. We mourn their loss every day. Now, our abiding mission, in their name and yours, is to ensure that September 11th is in the future remembered as the beginning of a new era of awareness and security, and not as the precursor to more and potentially more vicious acts of war against the American people.
The suffering you have experienced is beyond words, and beyond the ability of most of us to comprehend. And I know that nothing can heal your wounds except the abiding love of those you lost, the love of the family and friends who remain beside you, and the eternal love of God.
But we can help give you some peace of mind by answering many of the gnawing questions about the government failures preceding the attacks. That is the idea behind the proposal by myself and Senator McCain to establish an independent, non-political, blue-ribbon commission. Only a truly independent commission – working in an environment free of politics, and mostly out of the glare of TV cameras like these – can do justice to these crucial questions.
The joint congressional intelligence committees are doing important work that must continue – but intelligence failures are just a subset of what went wrong. An independent commission would investigate immigration, law enforcement, foreign policy, and more – and would also scrutinize the role of Congress itself.
Those who suggest that an independent commission would be some kind of circus haven?t been listening, or haven?t read our bill. All classified information would be kept classified. The proceedings would be serious and sober. By its very nature, the commission would not feed – but would help reduce – the appetite for the steady diet of speculation, accusation, and anxiety we?ve now grown so accustomed to over the past month.
To those detractors who say that a commission would distract us from the war on terrorism that must remain our number one focus, I respectfully say that?s exactly the opposite of what it would do. An independent commission would not drain a drop of time or talent from that fight, and would produce an invaluable document for all those who seek to build a safer nation.
I?m pleased that last week, President Bush announced his proposal to create a new, unified homeland security department – drawing heavily on the legislation that Senator Specter and I introduced last October.
Now, I hope that the Administration will have a similar evolution of mind and heart on the need to have a thorough, credible and independent analysis of how the attacks against our country happened. And this commission would find out just where our government went wrong so that in the future we can do right by the American people.
John F. Kennedy said, ?In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility; I welcome it.?
I know President Bush and others welcome this responsibility today as well. Let?s demonstrate that by not shrinking from this inquiry but by inviting it.
Thank you and God bless you.