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Commentary :: DNC
Conspirators of the Iraq war
08 Apr 2004
A high-ranking military officer reveals how Defense Department extremists
suppressed information and twisted the truth to drive the country to war.
The New Pentagon Papers
By Karen Kwiatkowski
Salon



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 secretar
y 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.



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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.





© : t r u t h o u t 2004

This work is in the public domain
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