Ph.D, Lt. Col. USAF (ret.)
Dott Clarke Koch: Dr./Lt. Col. Kwiatkowski, you are admired and respected the world over for bringing out facts about clandestine fabrications devised in the Pentagon preceding the preemptive military strike on the Middle Eastern sovereign country of Iraq. When you observed, firsthand, those false bullet points being constructed and then passed on to the media -- bullet points that today are resulting in massive deaths in Iraq, you reacted negatively. Was it your commitment to the U.S. Constitution, trampled on by the Pentagon-Few, that enabled you to remain loyal to America?
Dr./Lt. Col. Kwiatkowski: I was raised to tell the truth, as most kids are, and this commitment to being truthful and honest and direct was strengthened and reinforced by my two decades in the military. Interestingly, I once discovered after I retired that it is actually illegal under the UCMJ for a commissioned officer or NCO to tell a lie! Of course, the need to be honest is well understood by those in the military. Further, military officers and NCOs do swear an oath to defend the Constitution against enemies foreign and domestic. This is a very old oath, and our forefathers understood that challenges to the rule of law would often come from within the system, and that these threats should always be resisted and countered.
Many others inside the Pentagon saw exactly what I saw in 2002 in the run up to war in Iraq, but most decided that this, too, would pass, or that the risk or retaliation was not worth the effort, or that no matter what they said it would make no difference. I was prepared to retire. I was mentally ready to step away from the system, and frankly, I could not live with myself if I failed to speak up. I did not plan, upon my retirement, to seek a job within the defense establishment or the federal government, and I had no massive debt related to housing or college for my children that would impel me to seek a high paying secure second career. I was mentally and economically prepared to be truthful and to go public, and I did that. Many Americans embrace the idea of the independent American patriot, the Marlboro Man image, but they underestimate or forget the almost irresistible power of economic and social dependency that keeps people marching along even when they know it is wrong or destructive to the very principles we cherish. This applies to whistleblowers in the private sector as well.
Koch: Integrity was implicitly trashed in the gut corridors of the Pentagon during the summer of 2002 in Washington. A select few propagandists executed a rush to war by manufacturing a basketful of false premises. To be blunt: They tossed a pack of lies to the American people. Have government leaders, in the past, hoodwinked the people in such a manner or is this episode of deception a new phenomenon in our nation?
Kwiatkowski: It is not new at all. The Indian wars in the 1800s were presumably about liberty and freedom against evil that threatened our way of life. The Civil War was probably unnecessary to either save the Union or to end slavery -- peaceful means existed and were well understood at the time to do both of those things. But that was not the government story then, or now. The USS Maine caught fire in the Havana harbor, most historians agree by accident, but it did not stop President McKinley and the Hearst media empire of the late 1800s from stirring up a public clamor in support of the first serious colonial exercise by America in the Philippines.
Woodrow Wilson was infamous for the efforts he pursued from the bully pulpit to engage American troops in World War I, and that war almost ended before he was able to lie believably enough to get our boys deployed. It still took a draft. World War II is replete with similar propaganda for war generated by Washington, and we are all familiar with the Cold War fabrications and constitutional disregard whether it be the LBJ Tonkin Gulf, the Nixon adventures in Laos, Bush I in Panama and Iraq, Clinton in Bosnia and Kosovo, and now Bush ll in Afghanistan and Iraq, and even Syria and Iran. Incidentally -- the U.S. has been reported by multiple sources for over a year to be conducting special forces missions and reconnaissance inside the sovereign territories of Iran and Syria.
Sadly, none of this hoodwinking is new. The difference today is that powerful images (like the twin towers collapsing) are harnessed very effectively by a massive federal government machine. The federal budget totaled $8.3 billion in 1900 -- in 2003 it was almost $2.2 trillion. The federal government has increased 265-fold in just over a century. Think of it this way: if our government were the same size as it was in 1900, our federal budget today (adjusted for inflation) would be $105.6 billion -- not $2.2 trillion. Our central government is 21 times bigger and more powerful than it was, in real terms, in 1900. Because of this, any administration has a vastly increased ability to control information, to leverage elected representatives through promises of federal money or threats of financial punishment to various districts, to create propaganda, and to pursue foreign wars that Americans would otherwise immediately reject and oppose. And this is exactly what presidential administrations do, better than ever before.
Koch: In your judgment, what is the ultimate significance of the release of the British Downing Street Memos that exposed the intentions of George W. Bush to invade Iraq, long before the American people were informed? Are the British dead scared that Bush and Tony Blair will drag them into war with other sovereign nations?
Kwiatkowski: I provided my statement for the Conyers committee on June 16, 2005, and it can be found at www.afterdowningstreet.org . The various British MI-6 memos from meetings with the Bush administration in 2002 confirm that the decision to go to war was made earlier than the Congress and the American people were aware, that intelligence would consciously be shaped and massaged to justify an Iraq invasion plan already secretly approved by the Bush administration, that illegal military acts of war were secretly being taken against Iraq in the summer of 2002, and that senior members of the British government had major concerns about the U.S. administration approach, its planning for war and the aftermath in Iraq, and the legality of the invasion. That these concerns were ignored by both British and American decision-making is frightening to say the least. The memos also provide important official evidence that will help in any efforts to impeach members of the Bush administration, and Bush himself, for high crimes.
Are the British people concerned about other unnecessary wars led by the Bush/Blair leadership act? I think they are, and while Blair was affirmed as Prime Minister in the recent elections, the voters expressed a loss of confidence in his leadership. It is worrisome that they did not reject Blair outright, and this tells me that the cost of imperialistic and debt accumulating foreign policies is not completely worrying the British voters.
Koch: Now that America has control, though fragile, over the Iraqi oil fields and has constructed new air bases on Iraqi soil, is the Bush policy creating permanency there? How likely is the Bush administration to extend military occupation to Iran and Syria? If likely, is that policy just another imperial, hubristic power grab?
Kwiatkowski: We have new air force, army and naval bases in Iraq, but our control over our own military operations, as well as oil field and oil export facilities, is much less than fragile. In some cases, the existence of our large military presence and our attempts to control and operate oil fields and pipelines serves to increase violence and lawlessness, and provides new and easy targets for the Iraqis and others who wish we would just get out.
The idiocy of the plan to pursue the neoconservative aims in Iraq -- better geostrategic military positioning vis a vis Iran, Syria, and Israel by occupying Iraq and emplacing a friendly government there -- is today obvious to those in the military as well as the general public. It is an endless slog, to use the words of Rumsfeld, and expensive in treasure on both sides. How likely is the present administration to extend military occupation to Iran and Syria? We have already extended our military influence to both these countries -- we have interfered with politics and territory already in both of these countries, and have technically conducted acts of war against Tehran and Damascus via secret overflights and military incursions into their respective sovereign territories. We are actively working with the regional opponents of both Iranian and Syrian regimes to insight political violence and overthrow. Amazingly, towards this end, the Bush administration lends support to an Iranian terrorist group known as the MEK, the same group that Saddam Hussein supported to do the same thing during the Iran/Iraq war and afterwards.
Our policy in the Middle East -- incidentally a policy that we have pursued off and on since before World War ll -- is indeed imperial and hubristic. Bush ll is not a visionary -- he is doing in an obvious, moralistic, heavy-handed, and falsely justified way what American presidents and administrations have done for over 60 years in the Middle East, at least in terms of the oil exporting nations there. Israel brings a new perspective to our traditional way of dealing with Middle Eastern oil exporters, and we use Israel, just as Israel uses us, to pursue certain regional security objectives. Some U.S. and Israel security objectives in the region are the same; however, it is important to recognize that many Bush policies have been extremely dangerous and destructive to the political process, the economy and the security of the State of Israel.
Thus, to understand what we are doing in the Middle East, we need to look at the larger global economic and military positioning envisioned and articulated by the neoconservatives who hold sway over American foreign policy these days. This policy included political and economic domination of Iran and Syria, and eventually Saudi Arabia if the House of Saud crumbles. It is not over, and I think this is what George W. Bush really means when he insists that we stay the course in the region. Many thousands more will die before constitutional rule of law is established in either Iraq, or Washington.