February 21, 2004

She would soon conclude that the OSP — a pet project of Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld — was more akin to a nerve center for what she now calls a “neoconservative coup, a hijacking of the Pentagon.”

You have not heard Karen Kwiatowski's name much on AnythingButSee, SeeBS, NotBeSeen, SeeNotNews or Faux News -- although she should be a household name by now...And why not? Because she is one of the most beautifully dangerous people in America. She is a patriot, and a warrior, a woman of principle, and yes, a true conservative. She has told the truth about the frabrication and distortion that Bush cabal ordered up to justify (howeverr flimsily) its foolish military adventure in Iraq...Her name, of course, is on the John O'Neill Wall of Heroes...She has been interviewed DemocracyNow! and written her story for the American Conservative. BUT if there were a truly free
press in America (i.e. free of corporatist influenc), her face would be on the cover of TIME, her story would be on the NYTwits front page AND she would be a guest on Larry King Lying...Share herstory with others...

Marc Cooper, LA Weekly: She would soon conclude that the OSP — a pet project of Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld — was more akin to a nerve center for what she now calls a “neoconservative coup, a hijacking of the Pentagon.”
Though a lifelong conservative, Kwiatkowski found
herself appalled as the radical wing of the Bush
administration, including her superiors in the
Pentagon planning department, bulldozed internal
dissent, overlooked its own intelligence and
relentlessly pushed for confrontation with Iraq.

Repudiate the 9/11 Cover-Up and the Iraq War Lies,
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Soldier for the Truth
Exposing Bush’s talking-points war
by Marc Cooper

Busting the liars:
Karen Kwiatkowski
(Photo by Jack Gould)

After two decades in the U.S. Air Force, Lieutenant
Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, now 43, knew her career as
a regional analyst was coming to an end when — in the
months leading up to the war in Iraq — she felt she
was being “propagandized” by her own bosses.

With master’s degrees from Harvard in government and
zoology and two books on Saharan Africa to her credit,
she found herself transferred in the spring of 2002 to
a post as a political/military desk officer at the
Defense Department’s office for Near East South Asia
(NESA), a policy arm of the Pentagon.

Kwiatkowski got there just as war fever was spreading,
or being spread as she would later argue, through the
halls of Washington. Indeed, shortly after her
arrival, a piece of NESA was broken off, expanded and
re-dubbed with the Orwellian name of the Office of
Special Plans. The OSP’s task was, ostensibly, to help
the Pentagon develop policy around the Iraq crisis.

She would soon conclude that the OSP — a pet project
of Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary
Don Rumsfeld — was more akin to a nerve center for
what she now calls a “neoconservative coup, a
hijacking of the Pentagon.”

Though a lifelong conservative, Kwiatkowski found
herself appalled as the radical wing of the Bush
administration, including her superiors in the
Pentagon planning department, bulldozed internal
dissent, overlooked its own intelligence and
relentlessly pushed for confrontation with Iraq.

Deeply frustrated and alarmed, Kwiatkowski, still on
active duty, took the unusual step of penning an
anonymous column of internal Pentagon dissent that was
posted on the Internet by former Colonel David
Hackworth, America’s most decorated veteran.

As war inevitably approached, and as she neared her
20-year mark in the Air Force, Kwiatkowski concluded
the only way she could viably resist what she now
terms the “expansionist, imperialist” policies of the
neoconservatives who dominated Iraq policy was by
retiring and taking up a public fight against them.

She left the military last March, the same week that
troops invaded Iraq. Kwiatkowski started putting her
real name on her Web reports and began accepting
speaking invitations. “I’m now a soldier for the
truth,” she said in a speech last week at Cal Poly
Pomona. Afterward, I spoke with her.

L.A. WEEKLY: What was the relationship between NESA
and the now-notorious Office of Special Plans, the
group set up by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and Vice
President Cheney? Was the OSP, in reality, an
intelligence operation to act as counter to the CIA?

KAREN KWIATKOWSKI: The NESA office includes the Iraq
desk, as well as the desks of the rest of the region.
It is under Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Bill
Luti. When I joined them, in May 2002, the Iraq desk
was there. We shared the same space, and we were all
part of the same general group. At that time it was
expanding. Contractors and employees were coming
though it wasn’t clear what they were doing.

In August of 2002, the expanded Iraq desk found new
spaces and moved into them. It was told to us that
this was now to be known as the Office of Special
Plans. The Office of Special Plans would take issue
with those who say they were doing intelligence. They
would say they were developing policy for the Office
of the Secretary of Defense for the invasion of Iraq.

But developing policy is not the same as developing
propaganda and pushing a particular agenda. And
actually, that’s more what they really did. They
pushed an agenda on Iraq, and they developed pretty
sophisticated propaganda lines which were fed
throughout government, to the Congress, and even
internally to the Pentagon — to try and make this case
of immediacy. This case of severe threat to the United

You retired when the war broke out and have been
speaking out publicly. But you were already publishing
critical reports anonymously while still in uniform
and while still on active service. Why did you take
that rather unusual step?

Due to my frustration over what I was seeing around me
as soon as I joined Bill Luti’s organization, what I
was seeing in terms of neoconservative agendas and the
way they were being pursued to formulate a foreign
policy and a military policy — an invasion of a
sovereign country, an occupation, a poorly planned
occupation. I was concerned about it; I was in
opposition to that, and I was not alone.

So I started writing what I considered to be funny,
short essays for my own sanity. Eventually, I e-mailed
them to former Colonel David Hackworth, who runs the
Web page Soldiers for the Truth, and he published them
under the title “Insider Notes From the Pentagon.” I
wrote 28 of those columns from August 2002 until I

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.

How did this atmosphere affect your work? To be
direct, were you told by your superiors what you could
say and not say? What could and could not be
discussed? Or were opinions they didn’t like just

I can give you one clear example where we were told to
follow the party line, where I was told directly. I
worked North Africa, which included Libya. I remember
in one case, I had to rewrite something a number of
times before it went through. It was a background
paper on Libya, and Libya has been working for years
to try and regain the respect of the international
community. I had intelligence that told me this, and I
quoted from the intelligence, but they made me go back
and change it and change it. They’d make me delete the
quotes from intelligence so they could present their
case on Libya in a way that said it was still a threat
to its neighbors and that Libya was still a
belligerent, antagonistic force. They edited my
reports in that way. In fact, the last report I made,
they said, “Just send me the file.” And I don’t know
what the report ended up looking like, because I
imagine more changes were made.

On Libya, really a small player, the facts did not fit
their paradigm that we have all these enemies.

One person you’ve written about is Abe Shulsky. You
describe him as a personable, affable fellow but one
who played a key role in the official spin that led to

Abe was the director of the Office of Special Plans.
He was in our shared offices when I joined, in May
2002. He comes from an academic background; he’s
definitely a neoconservative. He is a student of Leo
Strauss from the University of Chicago — so he has
that Straussian academic perspective. He was the final
proving authority on all the talking points that were
generated from the Office of Special Plans and that
were distributed throughout the Pentagon, certainly to
staff officers. And it appears to me they were also
distributed to the Vice President’s Office and to the
presidential speechwriters. Much of the phraseology
that was in our talking points consists of the same
things I heard the president say.

So Shulsky was the sort of controller, the
disciplinarian, the overseeing monitor of the
propaganda flow. From where you sat, did you see him
manipulate the information?

We had a whole staff to help him do that, and he was
the approving authority. I can give you one example of
how the talking points were altered. We were
instructed by Bill Luti, on behalf of the Office of
Special Plans, on behalf of Abe Shulsky, that we would
not write anything about Iraq, WMD or terrorism in any
papers that we prepared for our superiors except as
instructed by the Office of Special Plans. And it
would provide to us an electronic document of talking
points on these issues. So I got to see how they

It was very clear to me that they did not evolve as a
result of new intelligence, of improved intelligence,
or any type of seeking of the truth. The way they
evolved is that certain bullets were dropped or
altered based on what was being reported on the front
pages of the Washington Post or The New York Times.

Can you be specific?

One item that was dropped was in November [2002]. It
was the issue of the meeting in Prague prior to 9/11
between Mohammed Atta and a member of Saddam Hussein’s
intelligence force. We had had this in our talking
points from September through mid-November. And then
it dropped out totally. No explanation. Just gone.
That was because the media reported that the FBI had
stepped away from that, that the CIA said it didn’t

Let’s clarify this. Talking points are generally used
to deal with media. But you were a desk officer, not a
politician who had to go and deal with the press. So
are you saying the Office of Special Plans provided
you a schematic, an outline of the way major points
should be addressed in any report or analysis that you
developed regarding Iraq, WMD or terrorism?

That’s right. And these did not follow the intent, the
content or the accuracy of intelligence . . .

They were political . . .

They were political, politically manipulated. They did
have obviously bits of intelligence in them, but they
were created to propagandize. So we inside the
Pentagon, staff officers and senior administration
officials who might not work Iraq directly, were being
propagandized by this same Office of Special Plans.

In the 10 months you worked in that office in the
run-up to the war, was there ever any open debate? The
public, at least, was being told at the time that
there was a serious assessment going on regarding the
level of threat from Iraq, the presence or absence of
WMD, et cetera. Was this debated inside your office at
the Pentagon?

No. Those things were not debated. To them, Saddam
Hussein needed to go.

You believe that decision was made by the time you got
there, almost a year before the war?

That decision was made by the time I got there. So
there was no debate over WMD, the possible relations
Saddam Hussein may have had with terrorist groups and
so on. They spent their energy gathering pieces of
information and creating a propaganda storyline, which
is the same storyline we heard the president and Vice
President Cheney tell the American people in the fall
of 2002.

The very phrases they used are coming back to haunt
them because they are blatantly false and not based on
any intelligence. The OSP and the Vice President’s
Office were critical in this propaganda effort — to
convince Americans that there was some just
requirement for pre-emptive war.

What do you believe the real reasons were for the war?

The neoconservatives needed to do more than just
topple Saddam Hussein. They wanted to put in a
government friendly to the U.S., and they wanted
permanent basing in Iraq. There are several reasons
why they wanted to do that. None of those reasons, of
course, were presented to the American people or to

So you don’t think there was a genuine interest as to
whether or not there really were weapons of mass
destruction in Iraq?

It’s not about interest. We knew. We knew from many
years of both high-level surveillance and other types
of shared intelligence, not to mention the information
from the U.N., we knew, we knew what was left [from
the Gulf War] and the viability of any of that. Bush
said he didn’t know.

The truth is, we know [Saddam] didn’t have these
things. Almost a billion dollars has been spent — a
billion dollars! — by David Kay’s group to search for
these WMD, a total whitewash effort. They didn’t find
anything, they didn’t expect to find anything.

So if, as you argue, they knew there weren’t any of
these WMD, then what exactly drove the
neoconservatives to war?

The neoconservatives pride themselves on having a
global vision, a long-term strategic perspective. And
there were three reasons why they felt the U.S. needed
to topple Saddam, put in a friendly government and
occupy Iraq.

One of those reasons is that sanctions and containment
were working and everybody pretty much knew it. Many
companies around the world were preparing to do
business with Iraq in anticipation of a lifting of
sanctions. But the U.S. and the U.K. had been bombing
northern and southern Iraq since 1991. So it was very
unlikely that we would be in any kind of position to
gain significant contracts in any post-sanctions Iraq.
And those sanctions were going to be lifted soon,
Saddam would still be in place, and we would get no
financial benefit.

The second reason has to do with our military-basing
posture in the region. We had been very dissatisfied
with our relations with Saudi Arabia, particularly the
restrictions on our basing. And also there was
dissatisfaction from the people of Saudi Arabia. So we
were looking for alternate strategic locations beyond
Kuwait, beyond Qatar, to secure something we had been
searching for since the days of Carter — to secure the
energy lines of communication in the region. Bases in
Iraq, then, were very important — that is, if you hold
that is America’s role in the world. Saddam Hussein
was not about to invite us in.

The last reason is the conversion, the switch Saddam
Hussein made in the Food for Oil program, from the
dollar to the euro. He did this, by the way, long
before 9/11, in November 2000 — selling his oil for
euros. The oil sales permitted in that program aren’t
very much. But when the sanctions would be lifted, the
sales from the country with the second largest oil
reserves on the planet would have been moving to the

The U.S. dollar is in a sensitive period because we
are a debtor nation now. Our currency is still
popular, but it’s not backed up like it used to be. If
oil, a very solid commodity, is traded on the euro,
that could cause massive, almost glacial, shifts in
confidence in trading on the dollar. So one of the
first executive orders that Bush signed in May [2003]
switched trading on Iraq’s oil back to the dollar.

At the time you left the military, a year ago, just
how great was the influence of this neoconservative
faction on Pentagon policy?

When it comes to Middle East policy, they were in
complete control, at least in the Pentagon. There was
some debate at the State Department.

Indeed, when you were still in uniform and writing a
Web column anonymously, you expressed your bitter
disappointment when Secretary of State Powell — in
your words — eventually “capitulated.”

He did. When he made his now-famous power-point slide
presentation at the U.N., he totally capitulated. It
meant he was totally onboard. Whether he believed it
or not.

You gave your life to the military, you voted
Republican for many years, you say you served in the
Pentagon right up to the outbreak of war. What does it
feel like to be out now, publicly denouncing your old

Know what it feels like? It feels like duty. That’s
what it feels like. I’ve thought about it many times.
You know, I spent 20 years working for something that
— at least under this administration — turned out to
be something I wasn’t working for. I mean, these
people have total disrespect for the Constitution. We
swear an oath, military officers and NCOs alike swear
an oath to uphold the Constitution. These people have
no respect for the Constitution. The Congress was
misled, it was lied to. At a very minimum that is a
subversion of the Constitution. A pre-emptive war
based on what we knew was not a pressing need is not
what this country stands for.

What I feel now is that I’m not retired. I still have
a responsibility to do my part as a citizen to try and
correct the problem.

Posted by richard at February 21, 2004 05:12 PM