Gillibrand to be primed on 9-11

By Peter Duveen

PETER'S NEW YORK, March 27, 2008--Congressional initiatives to redeploy U.S. troops out of Iraq are not likely to bear fruit this year because President George W. Bush will almost certainly veto them, Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) said yesterday. Although she said she supports a small but continued presence of U.S. troops, Gillibrand held out hope that Iraqis will take more responsibility for their own security. Gillibrand answered questions on policy matters during and after a panel discussion at the Brunswick Elks Lodge in Troy, New York, on how residents of her district can save on their federal, state and local taxes.

Gillibrand said she supports measures to "redeploy the vast majority of our troops over the next year."

"Troops are being pushed to the breaking point," she said.

Under the current plan backed by Gillbrand, a small number of specially-trained U.S. forces would remain to assist the Iraqis, Gillibrand said it was up to the people of Iraq to take responsibility for their own security by "choosing peace over civil war." But she said "chances are minimum" that a change in policy can be effected during the last months of the Bush Administration, noting that legislation promoting troop redeployment was unlikely to garner the votes of two-thirds of both houses of Congress needed to override an anticipated presidential veto.

In addition to redeployment, Gillibrand said Democratic-backed measures being considered by Congress would relinquish permanent bases in Iraq as well as claims on that country's oil.

On other matters, Gillibrand said she strongly supported the development of alternative sources of energy, both to lessen American dependence on Middle East oil and to address environmental concerns. "All our Middle East policy is tied to oil," she said, adding that one of her goals was to "make this country energy independent."

On the environmental front, Gillibrand said she would take away tax breaks for oil companies and redirect the funds for environmental research. :"Global warming is a serious issue," said Gillibrand, noting that in her own Congressional district, flooding has been a problem to a degree not seen in a hundred years, while hunters have noticed marked changes in migration patterns of birds.

Gillibrand said she opposed unfunded mandates such as those that accompanied the "No Child Left Behind" Act, which she said cost state and local government billions of dollars to implement. "It's not fair to taxpayers if you don't pay for it," she said, referring to Congress and the Bush administration.

On the topic of a new investigation into the events of September 11, 2001, Gillibrand said she would withhold comment until she obtained additional information on the issue.

A new book by Phillip Shenon of the New York Times indicates that the final report of the 9-11 Commission was unduly influenced by the commission's executive director, Philip Zelikow, whose extensive ties to the Bush Administration compromised the commission's independence. In a recent interview aired on C-SPAN, Shenon said officials bungled their jobs and that some people had been promoted for it. "I do not believe that this is necessarily a good thing for the government," he said. Groups representing a significant portion of the families of those who died in the events of that day have been clamoring for a new study, citing the commission's lapses in assigning accountability for the government's failure to protect America from the attacks on that day.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, the famous twin towers of New York's World Trade Center disintegrated after airliners crashed into each of them in what appeared to be a coordinated attack. A third building of the Trade Center complex later mysteriously also fell to the ground, while another airliner was said to have collided with the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., causing substantial damage to one part of that structure. Another airliner was said to have crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. The incidents were soon blamed by the government on a team of hijacker-terrorists of Middle East origin.

In the weeks that followed, anthrax bacterium was dispersed through the mails, resulting in several fatalities. No perpetrator was ever identified for the anthrax incidents. In 2002, the government formed an official commission to investigate the events of 9-11, and a final report was issued in 2004.

The traumatic spectacle of September 11 and its aftermath, in which thousands of people lost their lives, spawned a series of laws and a reorganization of the federal government ostensibly to protect Americans from terrorists. It was used to justify the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and the initiation of a global "war on terror," and was often cited by the Bush Administration in its push to invade Iraq, the U.S. occupation of which is now in its fifth year. Critics of the 9-11 Commission Report cite the importance of its subject in forming public policy and what are seen as major deficiencies and flaws in its findings, as reasons for reopening an investigation.


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