SOME WHISTLEBLOWING.

15 MARCH 2004: SOME WHISTLEBLOWING.

The new Pentagon papers

A high-ranking military
officer reveals how Defense Department extremists suppressed information
and twisted the truth to drive the country to war.

 

– – – – – – – – – – – –

By Karen Kwiatkowski

Salon.com

March 10, 2004  | 
In July of last year, after just over 20 years of service, I retired as
a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force. I had served as a communications
officer in the field and in acquisition programs, as a speechwriter for
the National Security Agency director, and on the Headquarters Air Force
and the office of the secretary of defense staffs covering African affairs.
I had completed Air Command and Staff College and Navy War College seminar
programs, two master’s degrees, and everything but my Ph.D. dissertation
in world politics at Catholic University. I regarded my military vocation
as interesting, rewarding and apolitical. My career started in 1978 with
the smooth seduction of a full four-year ROTC scholarship. It ended with
10 months of duty in a strange new country, observing up close and personal
a process of decision making for war not sanctioned by the Constitution
we had all sworn to uphold. Ben Franklin’s comment that the Constitutional
Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia had delivered “a republic, madam, if
you can keep it” would come to have special meaning. 


   In the spring
of 2002, I was a cynical but willing staff officer, almost two years into
my three-year tour at the office of the secretary of defense, undersecretary
for policy, sub-Saharan Africa. In April, a call for volunteers went out
for the Near East South Asia directorate (NESA). None materialized. By
May, the call transmogrified into a posthaste demand for any staff officer,
and I was “volunteered” to enter what would be a well-appointed den of
iniquity. 


    The education
I would receive there was like an M. Night Shyamalan movie — intense,
fascinating and frightening. While the people were very much alive, I saw
a dead philosophy — Cold War anti-communism and neo-imperialism — walking
the corridors of the Pentagon. It wore the clothing of counterterrorism
and spoke the language of a holy war between good and evil. The evil was
recognized by the leadership to be resident mainly in the Middle East and
articulated by Islamic clerics and radicals. But there were other enemies
within, anyone who dared voice any skepticism about their grand plans,
including Secretary of State Colin Powell and Gen. Anthony Zinni. 

    
From May 2002 until February 2003, I observed firsthand the formation of
the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans and watched the latter stages of
the neoconservative capture of the policy-intelligence nexus in the run-up
to the invasion of Iraq. This seizure of the reins of U.S. Middle East
policy was directly visible to many of us working in the Near East South
Asia policy office, and yet there seemed to be little any of us could do
about it. 


     
I saw a narrow and deeply flawed policy favored by some executive appointees
in the Pentagon used to manipulate and pressurize the traditional relationship
between policymakers in the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies. 


    
I witnessed neoconservative agenda bearers within OSP usurp measured and
carefully considered assessments, and through suppression and distortion
of intelligence analysis promulgate what were in fact falsehoods to both
Congress and the executive office of the president. 


    
While this commandeering of a narrow segment of both intelligence production
and American foreign policy matched closely with the well-published desires
of the neoconservative wing of the Republican Party, many of us in the
Pentagon, conservatives and liberals alike, felt that this agenda, whatever
its flaws or merits, had never been openly presented to the American people.
Instead, the public story line was a fear-peddling and confusing set of
messages, designed to take Congress and the country into a war of executive
choice, a war based on false pretenses, and a war one year later Americans
do not really understand. That is why I have gone public with my account. 


    
To begin with, I was introduced to Bill Luti, assistant secretary of defense
for NESA. A tall, thin, nervously intelligent man, he welcomed me into
the fold. I knew little about him. Because he was a recently retired naval
captain and now high-level Bush appointee, the common assumption was that
he had connections, if not capability. I would later find out that when
Dick Cheney was secretary of defense over a decade earlier, Luti was his
aide. He had also been a military aide to Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich
during the Clinton years and had completed his Ph.D. at the Fletcher School
at Tufts University. While his Navy career had not granted him flag rank,
he had it now and was not shy about comparing his place in the pecking
order with various three- and four-star generals and admirals in and out
of the Pentagon. Name dropping included references to getting this or that
document over to Scooter, or responding to one of Scooter’s requests right
away. Scooter, I would find out later, was I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the
vice president’s chief of staff. 


     
Co-workers who had watched the transition from Clintonista to Bushite shared
conversations and stories indicating that something deliberate and manipulative
was happening to NESA. Key professional personnel, longtime civilian professionals
holding the important billets in NESA, were replaced early on during the
transition. Longtime officer director Joe McMillan was reassigned to the
National Defense University. The director’s job in the time of transition
was to help bring the newly appointed deputy assistant secretary up to
speed, ensure office continuity, act as a resource relating to regional
histories and policies, and help identify the best ways to maintain course
or to implement change. Removing such a critical continuity factor was
not only unusual but also seemed like willful handicapping. It was the
first signal of radical change. 

    
At the time, I didn’t realize that the expertise on Middle East policy
was not only being removed, but was also being exchanged for that from
various agenda-bearing think tanks, including the Middle East Media Research
Institute, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and the Jewish
Institute for National Security Affairs. Interestingly, the office director
billet stayed vacant the whole time I was there. That vacancy and the long-term
absence of real regional understanding to inform defense policymakers in
the Pentagon explains a great deal about the neoconservative approach on
the Middle East and the disastrous mistakes made in Washington and in Iraq
in the past two years. 


    
I soon saw the modus operandi of “instant policy” unhampered by debate
or experience with the early Bush administration replacement of the civilian
head of the Israel, Lebanon and Syria desk office with a young political
appointee from the Washington Institute, David Schenker. Word was that
the former experienced civilian desk officer tended to be evenhanded toward
the policies of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel, but there were complaints
and he was gone. I met David and chatted with him frequently. He was a
smart, serious, hardworking guy, and the proud author of a book on the
chances for Palestinian democracy. Country desk officers were rarely political
appointees. In my years at the Pentagon, this was the only “political”
I knew doing that type of high-stress and low-recognition duty. So eager
was the office to have Schenker at the Israel desk, he served for many
months as a defense contractor of sorts and only received his “Schedule
C” political appointee status months after I arrived. 


    
I learned that there was indeed a preferred ideology for NESA. My first
day in the office, a GS-15 career civil servant rather unhappily advised
me that if I wanted to be successful here, I’d better remember not to say
anything positive about the Palestinians. This belied official U.S. policy
of serving as an honest broker for resolution of Israeli and Palestinian
security concerns. At that time, there was a great deal of talk about Bush’s
possible support for a Palestinian state. That the Pentagon could have
implemented and, worse, was implementing its own foreign policy had not
yet occurred to me. 


     
Throughout the summer, the NESA spaces in one long office on the fourth
floor, between the 7th and 8th corridors of D Ring, became more and more
crowded. With war talk and planning about Iraq, all kinds of new people
were brought in. A politically savvy civilian-clothes-wearing lieutenant
colonel named Bill Bruner served as the Iraq desk officer, and he had apparently
joined NESA about the time Bill Luti did. I discovered that Bruner, like
Luti, had served as a military aide to Speaker Gingrich. Gingrich himself
was now conveniently an active member of Bush’s Defense Policy Board, which
had space immediately below ours on the third floor. 


    
I asked why Bruner wore civilian attire, and was told by others, “He’s
Chalabi’s handler.” Chalabi, of course, was Ahmad Chalabi, the president
of the Iraqi National Congress, who was the favored exile of the neoconservatives
and the source of much of their “intelligence.” Bruner himself said he
had to attend a lot of meetings downtown in hotels and that explained his
suits. Soon, in July, he was joined by another Air Force pilot, a colonel
with no discernible political connections, Kevin Jones. I thought of it
as a military-civilian partnership, although both were commissioned officers. 


    
Among the other people arriving over the summer of 2002 was Michael Makovsky,
a recent MIT graduate who had written his dissertation on Winston Churchill
and was going to work on “Iraqi oil issues.” He was David Makovsky’s younger
brother. David was at the time a senior fellow at the Washington Institute
and had formerly been an editor of the Jerusalem Post, a pro-Likud newspaper.
Mike was quiet and seemed a bit uncomfortable sharing space with us. He
soon disappeared into some other part of the operation and I rarely saw
him after that. 

     
In late summer, new space was found upstairs on the fifth floor, and the
“expanded Iraq desk,” now dubbed the “Office of Special Plans,” began moving
there. And OSP kept expanding. 


      
Another person I observed to appear suddenly was Michael Rubin, another
Washington Institute fellow working on Iraq policy. He and Chris Straub,
a retired Army officer who had been a Republican staffer for the Senate
Intelligence Committee, were eventually assigned to OSP. 


    
John Trigilio, a Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, was assigned to handle
Iraq intelligence for Luti. Trigilio had been on a one-year career-enhancement
tour with the office of the secretary of defense that was to end in August
2002. DIA had offered him routine intelligence positions upon his return
from his OSD sabbatical, but none was as interesting as working in August
2002 for Luti. John asked Luti for help in gaining an extension for another
year, effectively removing him from the DIA bureaucracy and its professional
constraints. 


    
Trigilio and I had hallway debates, as friends. The one I remember most
clearly was shortly after President Bush gave his famous “mushroom cloud”
speech in Cincinnati in October 2002, asserting that Saddam had weapons
of mass destruction as well as ties to “international terrorists,” and
was working feverishly to develop nuclear weapons with “nuclear holy warriors.”
I asked John who was feeding the president all the bull about Saddam and
the threat he posed us in terms of WMD delivery and his links to terrorists,
as none of this was in secret intelligence I had seen in the past years.
John insisted that it wasn’t an exaggeration, but when pressed to say which
actual intelligence reports made these claims, he would only say, “Karen,
we have sources that you don’t have access to.” It was widely felt by those
of us in the office not in the neoconservatives’ inner circle that these
“sources” related to the chummy relationship that Ahmad Chalabi had with
both the Office of Special Plans and the office of the vice president. 


    
The newly named director of the OSP, Abram Shulsky, was one of the most
senior people sharing our space that summer. Abe, a kindly and gentle man,
who would say hello to me in the hallways, seemed to be someone I, as a
political science grad student, would have loved to sit with over coffee
and discuss the world’s problems. I had a clear sense that Abe ranked high
in the organization, although ostensibly he was under Luti. Luti was known
at times to treat his staff, even senior staff, with disrespect, contempt
and derision. He also didn’t take kindly to staff officers who had an opinion
or viewpoint that was off the neoconservative reservation. But with Shulsky,
who didn’t speak much at the staff meetings, he was always respectful and
deferential. It seemed like Shulsky’s real boss was somebody like Douglas
Feith or higher. 


     
Doug Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy, was a case study in how
not to run a large organization. In late 2001, he held the first all-hands
policy meeting at which he discussed for over 15 minutes how many bullets
and sub-bullets should be in papers for Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. A year
later, in August of 2002, he held another all-hands meeting in the auditorium
where he embarrassed everyone with an emotional performance about what
it was like to serve Rumsfeld. He blithely informed us that for months
he didn’t realize Rumsfeld had a daily stand-up meeting with his four undersecretaries.
He shared with us the fact that, after he started to attend these meetings,
he knew better what Rumsfeld wanted of him. Most military staffers and
professional civilians hearing this were incredulous, as was I, to hear
of such organizational ignorance lasting so long and shared so openly.
Feith’s inattention to most policy detail, except that relating to Israel
and Iraq, earned him a reputation most foul throughout Policy, with rampant
stories of routine signatures that took months to achieve and lost documents.
His poor reputation as a manager was not helped by his arrogance. One thing
I kept hearing from those defending Feith was that he was “just brilliant.”
It was curiously like the brainwashed refrain in “The Manchurian Candidate”
about the programmed sleeper agent Raymond Shaw, as the “kindest, warmest,
bravest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known.” 

    
I spent time that summer exploring the neoconservative worldview and trying
to grasp what was happening inside the Pentagon. I wondered what could
explain this rush to war and disregard for real intelligence. Neoconservatives
are fairly easy to study, mainly because they are few in number, and they
show up at all the same parties. Examining them as individuals, it became
clear that almost all have worked together, in and out of government, on
national security issues for several decades. The
Project for the New American Century and its now famous 1998 manifesto
to President Clinton on Iraq is a recent example. But this statement was
preceded by one written for Benyamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party campaign in
Israel in 1996 by neoconservatives Richard Perle, David Wurmser and Douglas
Feith
titled “A Clean Break: Strategy for
Securing the Realm.” 


    
David Wurmser is the least known of that trio and an interesting example
of the tangled neoconservative web. In 2001, the research fellow at the
American Enterprise Institute was assigned to the Pentagon, then moved
to the Department of State to work as deputy for the hard-line conservative
undersecretary John Bolton, then to the National Security Council, and
now is lodged in the office of the vice president. His wife, the prolific
Meyrav Wurmser, executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute,
is also a neoconservative team player. 


    
Before the Iraq invasion, many of these same players labored together for
literally decades to push a defense strategy that favored military intervention
and confrontation with enemies, secret and unconstitutional if need be.
Some former officials, such as Richard Perle (an assistant secretary of
defense under Reagan) and James Woolsey (CIA director under Clinton), were
granted a new lease on life, a renewed gravitas, with positions on President
Bush’s Defense Policy Board. Others, like Elliott Abrams and Paul Wolfowitz,
had apparently overcome previous negative associations from an Iran-Contra
conviction for lying to the Congress and for utterly miscalculating the
strength of the Soviet Union in a politically driven report to the CIA. 


     
Neoconservatives march as one phalanx in parallel opposition to those they
hate. In the early winter of 2002, a co-worker U.S. Navy captain and I
were discussing the service being rendered by Colin Powell at the time,
and we were told by the neoconservative political appointee David Schenker
that “the best service Powell could offer would be to quit right now.”
I was present at a staff meeting when Bill Luti called Marine Gen. and
former Chief of Central Command Anthony Zinni a “traitor,” because Zinni
had publicly expressed reservations about the rush to war. 

    
After August 2002, the Office of Special Plans established its own rhythm
and cadence separate from the non-politically minded professionals covering
the rest of the region. While often accused of creating intelligence, I
saw only two apparent products of this office: war planning guidance for
Rumsfeld, presumably impacting Central Command, and talking points on Iraq,
WMD and terrorism. These internal talking points seemed to be a mélange
crafted from obvious past observation and intelligence bits and pieces
of dubious origin.
They were propagandistic in style, and all desk
officers were ordered to use them verbatim in the preparation of any material
prepared for higher-ups and people outside the Pentagon. The talking points
included statements about Saddam Hussein’s proclivity for using chemical
weapons against his own citizens and neighbors, his existing relations
with terrorists based on a member of al-Qaida reportedly receiving medical
care in Baghdad, his widely publicized aid to the Palestinians, and general
indications of an aggressive viability in Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapons
program and his ongoing efforts to use them against his neighbors or give
them to al-Qaida style groups. The talking points said he was threatening
his neighbors and was a serious threat to the U.S., too. 


    I
suspected, from reading Charles Krauthammer, a neoconservative columnist
for the Washington Post, and the Weekly Standard, and hearing a Cheney
speech or two, that these talking points left the building on occasion.
Both OSP functions duplicated other parts of the Pentagon.
The facts
we should have used to base our papers on were already being produced by
the intelligence agencies, and the war planning was already done by the
combatant command staff with some help from the Joint Staff. Instead
of developing defense policy alternatives and advice, OSP was used to manufacture
propaganda for internal and external use, and pseudo war planning. 


    As a
result of my duties as the North Africa desk officer, I became acquainted
with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) support staff for NESA. Every
policy regional director was served by a senior executive intelligence
professional from DIA, along with a professional intelligence staff. This
staff channeled DIA products, accepted tasks for DIA, and in the past had
been seen as a valued member of the regional teams. However, as the war
approached, this type of relationship with the Defense Intelligence Agency
crumbled. 


    

Even the most casual observer could note the tension and even animosity
between “Wild Bill” Luti (as we came to refer to our boss) and Bruce Hardcastle,
our defense intelligence officer (DIO). Certainly, there were stylistic
and personality differences. Hardcastle, like most senior intelligence
officers I knew, was serious, reserved, deliberate, and went to great lengths
to achieve precision and accuracy in his speech and writing. Luti was the
kind of guy who, in staff meetings and in conversations, would jump from
grand theory to administrative minutiae with nary a blink or a fleeting
shadow of self-awareness. 


     
I discovered that Luti and possibly others within OSP were dissatisfied
with Hardcastle’s briefings, in particular with the aspects relating to
WMD and terrorism. I was not clear exactly what those concerns were, but
I came to understand that the DIA briefing did not match what OSP was claiming
about Iraq’s WMD capabilities and terrorist activities
. I learned that
shortly before I arrived there had been an incident in NESA where Hardcastle’s
presence and briefing at a bilateral meeting had been nixed abruptly by
Luti. The story circulating among the desk officers was “a last-minute
cancellation” of the DIO presentation. Hardcastle’s intelligence briefing
was replaced with one prepared by another Policy office that worked nonproliferation
issues. While this alternative briefing relied on intelligence produced
by DIO and elsewhere, it was not a product of the DIA or CIA community,
but instead was an OSD Policy “branded” product — and so were its conclusions.
The message sent by Policy appointees and well understood by staff officers
and the defense intelligence community was that senior appointed civilians
were willing to exclude or marginalize intelligence products that did not
fit the agenda. 


     
Staff officers would always request OSP’s most current Iraq, WMD and terrorism
talking points. On occasion, these weren’t available in an approved form
and awaited Shulsky’s approval. The talking points were a series of
bulleted statements, written persuasively and in a convincing way, and
superficially they seemed reasonable and rational. Saddam Hussein had gassed
his neighbors, abused his people, and was continuing in that mode, becoming
an imminently dangerous threat to his neighbors and to us — except
that none of his neighbors or Israel felt this was the case.
Saddam
Hussein had harbored al-Qaida operatives and offered and probably provided
them with training facilities — without mentioning
that the suspected facilities were in the U.S./Kurdish-controlled part
of Iraq.
Saddam Hussein was pursuing and had WMD of the type that
could be used by him, in conjunction with al-Qaida and other terrorists,
to attack and damage American interests, Americans and America
except the intelligence didn’t really say that.
Saddam Hussein had
not been seriously weakened by war and sanctions and weekly bombings over
the past 12 years, and in fact was plotting to hurt America and support
anti-American activities, in part through his carrying on with terrorists


although here the intelligence said the opposite.
His support for
the Palestinians and Arafat proved his terrorist connections, and basically,
the time to act was now. This was the gist of the talking points, and it
remained on message throughout the time I watched the points evolve. 


    But evolve
they did, and the subtle changes I saw from September to late January revealed
what the Office of Special Plans was contributing to national security.
Two key types of modifications were directed or approved by Shulsky and
his team of politicos. First was the deletion of entire references or bullets.
The one I remember most specifically is when they dropped the bullet that
said one of Saddam’s intelligence operatives had met with Mohammad Atta
in Prague, supposedly salient proof that Saddam was in part responsible
for the 9/11 attack. That claim had lasted through a number of revisions,
but after the media reported the claim as unsubstantiated by U.S. intelligence,
denied by the Czech government, and that Atta’s location had been confirmed
by the FBI to be elsewhere, that particular bullet was dropped entirely
from our “advice on things to say” to senior Pentagon officials when they
met with guests or outsiders. 


     The
other change made to the talking points was along the line of fine-tuning
and generalizing. Much of what was there was already so general as to be
less than accurate. 


    
Some bullets were softened, particularly statements of Saddam’s readiness
and capability in the chemical, biological or nuclear arena. Others were
altered over time to match more exactly something Bush and Cheney said
in recent speeches. One item I never saw in our talking points was a reference
to Saddam’s purported attempt to buy yellowcake uranium in Niger. The OSP
list of crime and evil had included Saddam’s attempts to seek fissionable
materials or uranium in Africa. This point was written mostly in the present
tense and conveniently left off the dates of the last known attempt, sometime
in the late 1980s. I was surprised to hear the president’s mention of the
yellowcake in Niger in his 2003 State of the Union address because that
indeed was new and in theory might have represented new intelligence, something
that seemed remarkably absent in any of the products provided us by the
OSP (although not for lack of trying). After hearing of it, I checked with
my old office of Sub-Saharan African Affairs — and it was news to them,
too. It also turned out to be false. 


     It
is interesting today that the “defense” for those who lied or prevaricated
about Iraq is to point the finger at the intelligence. But the National
Intelligence Estimate, published in September 2002, as remarked upon recently
by former CIA Middle East chief Ray McGovern, was an afterthought.

It was provoked only after Sens. Bob Graham and Dick Durban noted in August
2002, as Congress was being asked to support a resolution for preemptive
war, that no NIE elaborating real threats to the United States had been
provided. In fact, it had not been written, but a suitable NIE was dutifully
prepared and submitted the very next month. Naturally, this document largely
supported most of the outrageous statements already made publicly by Bush,
Cheney, Rice and Rumsfeld about the threat Iraq posed to the United States.
All the caveats, reservations and dissents made by intelligence were relegated
to footnotes and kept from the public. Funny how that worked. 

    Starting
in the fall of 2002 I found a way to vent my frustrations with the neoconservative
hijacking of our defense policy. The safe outlet was provided by retired
Col. David Hackworth, who agreed to publish my short stories anonymously
on his Web site Soldiers for the Truth, under the moniker of “Deep Throat:
Insider Notes From the Pentagon.” The “deep throat” part was his idea,
but I was happy to have a sense that there were folks out there, mostly
military, who would be interested in the secretary of defense-sponsored
insanity I was witnessing on almost a daily basis. When I was particularly
upset, like when I heard Zinni called a “traitor,” I wrote about it in
articles like this one. 


    In November,
my Insider articles discussed the artificial worlds created by the Pentagon
and the stupid naiveté of neocon assumptions about what would happen
when we invaded Iraq. I discussed the price of public service, distinguishing
between public servants who told the truth and then saw their careers flame
out and those “public servants” who did not tell the truth and saw their
careers ignite. My December articles became more depressing, discussing
the history of the 100 Years’ War and “combat lobotomies.” There was a
painful one titled “Minority Reports” about the necessity but unlikelihood
of a Philip Dick sci-fi style “minority report” on Feith-Wolfowitz-Rumsfeld-Cheney’s
insanely grandiose vision of some future Middle East, with peace, love
and democracy brought on through preemptive war and military occupation. 


     I
shared some of my concerns with a civilian who had been remotely acquainted
with the Luti-Feith-Perle political clan in his previous work for one of
the senior Pentagon witnesses during the Iran-Contra hearings. He told
me these guys were engaged in something worse than Iran-Contra. I was curious
but he wouldn’t tell me anything more. I figured he knew what he was talking
about. I thought of him when I read much later about the 2002 and 2003
meetings between Michael Ledeen, Reuel Marc Gerecht and Iranian arms dealer
Manucher Ghorbanifar — all Iran-Contra figures. 


     In
December 2002, I requested an acceleration of my retirement to the following
July. By now, the military was anxiously waiting under the bed for the
other shoe to drop amid concerns over troop availability, readiness for
an ill-defined mission, and lack of day-after clarity. The neocons were
anxiously struggling to get that damn shoe off. That other shoe fell with
a thump, as did the regard many of us had held for Colin Powell, on Feb.
5 as the secretary of state capitulated to the neoconservative line in
his speech at the United Nations — a speech not only filled with falsehoods
pushed by the neoconservatives but also containing many statements already
debunked by intelligence. 


    War
is generally crafted and pursued for political reasons, but the reasons
given to the Congress and to the American people for this one were inaccurate
and so misleading as to be false. Moreover, they were false by design.
Certainly,
the neoconservatives never bothered to sell the rest of the country on
the real reasons for occupation of Iraq — more bases
from which to flex U.S. muscle with Syria and Iran, and better positioning
for the inevitable fall of the regional ruling sheikdoms. Maintaining OPEC
on a dollar track and not a euro and fulfilling a half-baked imperial vision
also played a role.
These more accurate reasons for invading and
occupying could have been argued on their merits — an angry and aggressive
U.S. population might indeed have supported the war and occupation for
those reasons. But Americans didn’t get the chance for an honest debate. 

     President
Bush has now appointed a commission to look at American intelligence capabilities
and will report after the election. It will “examine intelligence on weapons
of mass destruction and related 21st century threats … [and] compare
what the Iraq Survey Group learns with the information we had prior…”
The commission, aside from being modeled on failed rubber stamp commissions
of the past and consisting entirely of those selected by the executive
branch, specifically excludes an examination of the role of the Office
of Special Plans and other executive advisory bodies. If the president
or vice president were seriously interested in “getting the truth,” they
might consider asking for evidence on how intelligence was politicized,
misused and manipulated, and whether information from the intelligence
community was distorted in order to sway Congress and public opinion in
a narrowly conceived neoconservative push for war. Bush says he wants the
truth, but it is clear he is no more interested in it today than he was
two years ago. 


    Proving
that the truth is indeed the first casualty in war, neoconservative member
of the Defense Policy Board Richard Perle called this February for “heads
to roll.” Perle, agenda setter par excellence, named George Tenet and Defense
Intelligence Agency head Vice Adm. Lowell Jacoby as guilty of failing to
properly inform the president on Iraq and WMD. No doubt, the intelligence
community, susceptible to politicization and outdated paradigms, needs
reform. The swiftness of the neoconservative casting of blame on the intelligence
community and away from themselves should have been fully expected. Perhaps
Perle and others sense the grave and growing danger of political storms
unleashed by the exposure of neoconservative lies. Meanwhile, Ahmad Chalabi,
extravagantly funded by the neocons in the Pentagon to the tune of millions
to provide the disinformation, has boasted with remarkable frankness, “We
are heroes in error,” and, “What was said before is not important.” 


    Now we
are told by our president and neoconservative mouthpieces that our sons
and daughters, husbands and wives are in Iraq fighting for freedom, for
liberty, for justice and American values. This cost is not borne by the
children of Wolfowitz, Perle, Rumsfeld and Cheney. Bush’s daughters do
not pay this price. We are told that intelligence has failed America, and
that President Bush is determined to get to the bottom of it. Yet not a
single neoconservative appointee has lost his job, and no high official
of principle in the administration has formally resigned because of this
ill-planned and ill-conceived war and poorly implemented occupation of
Iraq. 


    Will
Americans hold U.S. policymakers accountable? Will we return to our roots
as a republic, constrained and deliberate, respectful of others? My experience
in the Pentagon leading up to the invasion and occupation of Iraq tells
me, as Ben Franklin warned, we may have already failed. But if Americans
at home are willing to fight — tenaciously and courageously — to preserve
our republic, we might be able to keep it. 

About the writer

Karen Kwiatkowski now lives
in western Virginia on a small farm with her family, teaches an American
foreign policy class at James Madison University, and writes regularly
for militaryweek.com on security and defense issues. 

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About Jay Babcock

I am the co-founder and editor of Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curator of the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was one of five Angelenos listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. Today, I live a peaceful life in Tucson, Arizona with Stephanie Smith. https://linktr.ee/jaywbabcock