Karen Kwiatkowski is a life-long conservative and career military officer who achieved the rank of Lt Colonel. A year ago, just before and again just after the invasion of Iraq, she wrote letters critical of the Bush Admin’s handling of intelligence from the viewpoint of an active-duty officer working at the political/military desk responsible for Iraq and attached to what had become the Office of Special Plans (OSP), the pseudo-intelligence service VP Cheney had Defense Undersecretary Doug Feith set up to “stovepipe” the bogus information from Ahmad Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress (INC) straight to the top, deliberately by-passing the regular IC who were telling Cheney that Ahmad was a fake and his information was bogus.
Kwiatkowski witnessed first-hand the politicization of that intelligence and, as one of the few true conservatives who refused to sell out their principles for the sake of political cover, she rebelled against what she called a “neoconservative coup, a hijacking of the Pentagon.” So angry was she at what she considered a betrayal of conservative values, especially the innate conservative respect for the Constitution, that she felt she had to abandon her career and leave the military in order to resist the “expansionist, imperialist” policies of the radcons.
Marc Cooper of the LA Weekly interviewed Kwiatkowski in some depth, and the result is both a fascinating and a frightening testament from an insider with deep beliefs and an active conscience. I suspect that if we were to meet, Karen and I would disagree on a great many issues but it’s clear to me that we would share something that all true liberals and all true conservatives have in common–an abiding respect, even veneration, for the values on which this country was founded and the document that codified those values into law: the Constitution.
Here is an excerpt from that interview. Conservative or liberal, read it and weep for what was done to your country, and for such arrogant, greedy reasons.
There you were, a career military officer, a Pentagon analyst, a conservative who had given two decades to this work. What provoked you to become first a covert and later a public dissident?Like most people, I’ve always thought there should be honesty in government. Working 20 years in the military, I’m sure I saw some things that were less than honest or accountable. But nothing to the degree that I saw when I joined Near East South Asia.
This was creatively produced propaganda spread not only through the Pentagon, but across a network of policymakers — the State Department, with John Bolton; the Vice President’s Office, the very close relationship the OSP had with that office. That is not normal, that is a bypassing of normal processes. Then there was the National Security Council, with certain people who had neoconservative views; Scooter Libby, the vice president’s chief of staff; a network of think tanks who advocated neoconservative views — the American Enterprise Institute, the Center for Security Policy with Frank Gaffney, the columnist Charles Krauthammer — was very reliable. So there was just not a process inside the Pentagon that should have developed good honest policy, but it was instead pushing a particular agenda; this group worked in a coordinated manner, across media and parts of the government, with their neoconservative compadres.
How did you experience this in your day-to-day work?
There was a sort of groupthink, an adopted storyline: We are going to invade Iraq and we are going to eliminate Saddam Hussein and we are going to have bases in Iraq. This was all a given even by the time I joined them, in May of 2002.
You heard this in staff meetings?
The discussions were ones of this sort of inevitability. The concerns were only that some policymakers still had to get onboard with this agenda. Not that this agenda was right or wrong — but that we needed to convince the remaining holdovers. Colin Powell, for example. There was a lot of frustration with Powell; they said a lot of bad things about him in the office. They got very angry with him when he convinced Bush to go back to the U.N. and forced a four-month delay in their invasion plans.
General Tony Zinni is another one. Zinni, the combatant commander of Central Command, Tommy Franks’ predecessor — a very well-qualified guy who knows the Middle East inside out, knows the military inside out, a Marine, a great guy. He spoke out publicly as President Bush’s Middle East envoy about some of the things he saw. Before he was removed by Bush, I heard Zinni called a traitor in a staff meeting. They were very anti-anybody who might provide information that affected their paradigm. They were the spin enforcers.
Colin Powell was hated for taking the UN seriously and Anthony Zinni was a “traitor” because he dared to have misgivings about the radcons’ pre-digested agenda and slapdash planning.
Kwiatkowski quietly but forcefully demolishes the labored fictions that the radcons presented as “reasons” for the invasion and demonstrates with compelling clarity that every single excuse proffered to justify the invasion is bogus. In the process, she paints a picture from the inside of the blind, ideological, faith-based fantasies that got us into this mess because the corporate media refused to report honestly what the radcons were up to.