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An Interview with Karen Kwiatkowski
In July, 2003, Karen
Kwiatkowski retired as a lieutenant colonel from the U.S. Air Force, having
served since 1978. From May, 2002, to February, 2003, Karen Kwiatkowski served
in the Pentagon’s Near East and South Asia directorate (NESA). Dr. Kwiatkowski
presently teaches at James Madison University, and writes regularly for
Interviewed by Omar Khan
read the interview of Dr. Kwiatkowski's blistering and revealing comments about
the neo-conservatives, Bolsheviks, fascism and the Bush Administration agenda in
Iraq and beyond.
OK: Could you say something about your reasons for joining the
Air Force some 20 years ago?
they gave me a full ROTC scholarship, and I needed money to go to college. That
was the deal. I was happy to do it actually. I had applied for navy and army,
and the one that I got was Air Force.
My dad had served in the navy for
4 years in, I guess, the late 50s. And he used to always talk about how great
the military was. So we were pretty disposed to the military, but I joined the
Air Force because they’re the ones that coughed up the money for
So military service has been a tradition in your
family for at least two generations.
definitely looked highly upon in my family. Actually, I have two brothers,
both—one was for his career in the navy, just retired. The other was in the
marines for about seven or eight years.
What do you mean when you’ve elsewhere referred
to the military as an apolitical
KK: When I refer
to the military as apolitical, that’s because, as an institution, it’s supposed
to be. But it’s kind of political in the sense that if you’re what’s called a
conservative—usually you’re in good company when you’re in the military. You’re
around a lot of people that care about some of those basic things. So there’s
that aspect. But technically apolitical.
We swear an oath to the
constitution—to defend it against enemies, both foreign and domestic. They’re
words, but every time you get promoted you have to retake the oath. So it does
make you think about the constitution. You’re reminded of it in a way that other
people in other jobs are not reminded of it. So we have this constant idea—it’s
kind of reinforced to us throughout our careers: what we’re supposed to be
we’re all about.
How did you see whistleblowing in terms of these
KK: You’re oath
is not to a political party, it’s not to an institution, but to an idea: to a
constitutional republic. So we have a president who serves for 4-8 years.
has—according to the constitution—limited duties that he takes care of. We have
a legislature; and a judiciary. So if you care about those things, and you’re
out to preserve that balance—to respect that balance rather than persons—you
don’t think of it as whistleblowing, you think of it as, you know, my loyalty is
to what is right, to how these things are supposed to work. I was working pretty
closely with those who lied to the American people into buying an unnecessary
war, an illegal war, I think. But my loyalty is
not to those people—whether those people are the president, Republican or
Democrat, whether those people political appointees, whether those people are
civil servants. The loyalty is to the system, and the system is set up in such a
way to prevent stupid things from happening in foreign policy.
What do you mean when you characterize
neoconservatism as a dead philosophy of anticommunism?
KK: In 2002,
before I was actually working with people doing Near East policy and seeing and
meeting these neoconservatives—I didn’t even know what a neoconservative was. I
began to look at who these individuals were, what they were doing before in our
government, and what they cared about politically. These are the same guys that
are responsible for Iran-Contra. They don’t care about the law. They are
liberals at home—very much not a traditional conservative political perspective
domestically, but closer to the
more Social Democratic approach, somewhat like our Democratic party used to be,
domestically; but, in terms of foreign policy, very hawkish, extremely hawkish,
extremely aggressive—black and white, murder, death, kill basically. I hate to
say that, but that’s what it is: they have to die so we can
Intervention oriented foreign
policy, which is not conservative either. This is kind of the political home of
The Cold War was perfect for this
crowd; and this crowd made their political bones during that time. These guys
were the hardcore anticommunists even within the Reagan administration. Richard
Perle actually left the administration in 1986 based on Reagan’s overtures and
receptivity to Gorbachev. Perle, Wolfowitz, Armitage, Rumsfeld, Cheney—all these
guys, though not always in the exact same way, had a place in the Reagan administration
as hardline hawks, even though many of them were not Republicans. In fact
Richard Perle to this day is a registered Democrat.
What is your view of the legacy to which the
neocons are heirs?
intellectual fathers of neoconservatism—what shapes their approach
internationally—are the Bolsheviks. International revolution, international
change—radical change, global revolution. And these same terms, these same
ideas—of international change, revolution, transformation—these are the words of
Michael Ledeen and some of the other articulators of neoconservatism. And the
actual people, and they’re not ashamed to really say this, but guys like Irving
Crystal and other intellectuals of the 30s had
actually been Bolsheviks.
One of the characterizations of
neocons today is that they are neo-Jacobins—philosophically, this idea that
people are the same, all want the same thing, and should have the same thing.
That ‘same thing’ in a modern neoconservative view is this idea of ‘democracy.’
But is it really democracy that they want, or is democracy simply a Trojan
horse. Certainly for Iraq, George Bush has been left with one story as to why we
If they had democracy, they’d take
a vote, and we’d be kicked out of there immediately.
Certainly we don’t want them to
have democracy, because then they’ll make us leave. So it’s unclear that
democracy is a goal, but that’s what they talk about: the God of Democracy. So
it’s not like Trotskyism in the sense that they’re not advocating global
communism but they are advocating universal, radical—and in effect,
catastrophic—change. And this is kind of a clear thread for many
So the neoconservatives are not
new; during the Reagan era, the ‘Cold War’ was their vehicle for
credibility—this evil enemy that we must face, or else the end of the world is
coming. They cannot work without this global enemy, almost a kind of class
warfare. You can’t just have a mere enemy; it has to be a monstrous enemy,
something that can destroy us. They’ve found that in, or rather cultivated it,
in what is called ‘Islamic Fascism.’ Unfortunately this doesn’t exist. No one
advocates it. No one articulates it. In the 1930s, Hitler had fascism and he
talked about it. Islamic Fascism is a made up thing. . But it doesn’t matter:
what matters is that it’s useful in generating fear, and serves that same larger
purpose—providing a platform from which to operate.
Now you can follow the money too.
The neocon philosophy provides a construct within which we can—‘we,’ being the
establishment, corporatism—can move. So you have this construct that talks of
‘fear’ ‘protection,’ ‘security.’ Which are used to advocate
intervention—intervention for security, what Iraq was effectively sold
‘intervention for American security.’
Please say a little bit about your experience in
KK: I worked four
and a half years for the Pentagon. Between May of 2002 and March of 2003, I
worked in Near East South Asia (NESA) bureau in the Pentagon, which worked
alongside The Office of Special Plans (OSP)—a group of twenty-five people or so
in August 2002—under Bill Luti. It was dissolved in August 2003—about four
months after the invasion and the mission accomplished declaration by the
Its job had been done.
idea with Iraq was to destroy Iraq. It was not to rebuild it, turn it into a
democracy. It was simply to take a country that had no navy, no airforce, and a
very small—you know—fourth rate army and turn it into a country with no navy, no
airforce, and no army. We did this, and OSP did its part in promoting that. Once
it was done there was no need for OSP.
One of the amenities with which we
were provided as staff officers were talking points—Saddam Hussein, WMD, and
terrorism. If there is anything that you’d need to research on Iraq, you’d only
need to take verbatim from the latest version of what OSP had produced on any
one of these talking points. These same bullet points would of course be in
presidential speeches. I can only assume—since they were producing them for us,
on a very routine basis—I can only assume that OSP was the creative entity here in doing
The Defense Intelligence Agency
(DIA) had a staff of 6 or 7 people dedicated intelligence people who had no
other job than to support our boss, Bill Luti (Deputy under NESA and OSP). Their
only job was to answer Bill Luti’s questions and provide Bill Luti with the
intelligence that the intelligence community had, particularly DIA intelligence.
So the means by which a policy receives its information was perverted. It may
have been perverted before then, but I know that it was perverted in the time
that I was there, from May 2002 to March 2003. The DIA people were told: ‘no
this is not what I want to hear, go back and do a better job’.
This is what I saw as an observer.
Not as a person inside DIA. But I can tell you, I talked to these guys—who’d
come over to brief the lower level people on a routine basis:
They were always under pressure.
OSP saying, ‘I don’t need that, give me what I need,’ and DIA saying, ‘I can’t
give you something that doesn’t exist.’
I actually explained this to the
Senate staffers during the Phase I investigation of intelligence. They were
like: oh, whatever. Basically unwilling to entertain the possibility. But there
was clearly a huge contempt for information; what they did, instead was to ask
for exactly what they wanted to hear, probably about 95% of which was entirely
Anyone who talked of sanctions and
continual bombing of Iraq over a dozen years, or said that there’s no evidence
of Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Pentagon in 2002 was going to be told: I
don’t want to hear that, go back and find me something I can use. And if you
didn’t do that, like in the case of the DIA guy, who went back and looked and
couldn’t find anything, he was then disinvited from meetings. Bill Luti
briefing on Weapons of Mass Destruction, supposed to be prepared by the DIA—had
been historically prepared by the DIA guy, had been historically prepared by the
DIA guy. He didn’t like the way the DIA guy had done it, so transferred the
responsibility to a policy office, that of course exaggerated, presented a
threat that didn’t exist. But this made everybody happy, since Americans were
getting excited for war. A noble lie taken as far as it can go.
How does this fit into what you’ve called ‘grand
plans’ that today ‘walk the corridors of the
KK: This global
enemy—‘Islamic fascism,’ ‘Islamic terrorism,’ or whatever it is—enables war in
the Mideast. So the ‘grand plan’ is a Mideast transformation plan, which guys
like Michael Ledeen have been talking about for a long time.
Since we have this apocalyptic
enemy, it’s either us or them. So in Iraq: the money goes for ‘security’—
American bases, and police power to defend those bases. The things we’ve
destroyed we have not rebuilt or fixed. The things that we have protected have
been the Oil Ministry and the Finance Ministry.
This is from the very beginning.
Those bases in Iraq will be how we deal with (intimidate) the rest of the Middle
East. Keep those other countries in line—politically, economically, and in every
other way. This is clearly articulated, for example, in “A Clean Break: A New
Strategy for Securing the Realm,” actually written for Netanyahu: Iraq must
first be changed, and from there we will be able to
deal with our enemies—primarily, Syrians and Iranians. But this has nothing to
do with America, or with American interests—in my opinion, anyway. Who benefits
from this kind of foreign policy? This needs to become a topic that can be
publicly discussed. If we can’t talk about it, then we shouldn’t be paying for
it. What are they forecasting: something like 2 trillion dollars, or
for this war? This is not an insignificant amount of money.
So this question—Who benefits from
this kind of foreign policy?—needs to become a topic that can be publicly
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Posted February 23,
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