Inside the War Party

A cornered rat will fight to the death, squealing and clawing and baring its yellowed fangs – just like Max Boot in today’s (Thursday’s) Los Angeles Times, who lashes out at war opponents with rat-like ferocity. He doesn’t say they’re wrong, he doesn’t dispute the facts: instead, he employs a time-honored device straight out of the neoconservative playbook: he tries to smear them as being from “the fringe.”

Karen Kwiatkowski served over 20 years in the U.S. Air Force: as a communications officer, a speechwriter for the National Security Agency, and a Pentagon specialist on Africa, with two master’s degrees. She retired recently, a Lt. Colonel, and during her last months in the service had been writing articles about her tour of duty at the Near East South Asia (NESA) directorate in the run-up to war, where she witnessed the neoconservative coup that seized control of the policy apparatus. Now a columnist at militaryweek.com, Kwiatkowski, who saw her job as “apolitical,” was clearly radicalized by what she saw. As she puts it in a recent article in Salon:

“From May 2002 until February 2003, I observed firsthand the formation of the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans [OSP] 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 US 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.”

Kwiatkowski’s fascinating piece gives us a glimpse into the arcane world of Pentagon analysts, the people who provide the background material that is supposed to undergird American foreign policy. Their task is to take raw intelligence and translate it into a comprehensive reflection of reality. Their analysis will then, in theory, inform the making of the policy. But in the period leading up to the Iraq war, it didn’t work that way. The old school analysts were summarily purged, and, as Kwiatkowski relates, a whole new gang was installed in their place: what these new appointees lacked in knowledge and experience they more than made up for in their party-lining views:

“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 US 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.”

Particularly interesting is Kwiatkowski’s portrait of the neocons as personalities: “Wild Bill” Luti, arrogant and insufferable, the frenetic Douglas Feith, defense undersecretary for policy, “a case study in how not to run a large organization,” Abram Shulsky, OSP director, “a kindly and gentle man” whose real boss, it seemed to her, was “someone higher” in the organization.

Kwiatkowski is the neocons’ worst nightmare: a patriotic military officer who saw how they manipulated intelligence – when they didn’t create it out of whole cloth – to support a predetermined conclusion, and is willing to talk about it. In a classic case of psychological projection, Boot lashes out at Kwiatkowski as … having “an agenda.” Reiterating her charges, he writes:

“Sounds pretty damning, doesn’t it? Those aren’t the words of a political opponent; that’s the judgment of a presumably disinterested military professional. Except that Kwiatkowski’s judgment doesn’t look so disinterested when you examine her views more closely.

“Since her retirement in March 2003, she has become a prolific contributor to isolationist publications like the American Conservative, Pat Buchanan’s magazine, and lewrockwell.com, an ultra-libertarian website. Pretty much all her work is devoted to uncovering “neoconservative warmongers” who have supposedly taken over US foreign policy.”

Applying the same smear-and-jeer method to Boot, one might say that he is a prolific contributor to war-crazed publications like the Weekly Standard, and is fairly described as an “ultra”-neoconservative who advocates the establishment of what he refers to as an “American Empire.” Kwiatkowski describes herself as an “Edmund Burke conservative,” and it is hard to see how the neo-Jacobin Max Boot, of all people, can dismiss her as being from “the fringe.” That’s rich, coming from someone who once wrote an article for the War Street Journal bemoaning the lack of casualties in the Afghan war!

Boot, in impugning Kwiatkowski’s motives, is reversing cause and effect. In reading her articles, especially the early ones posted on Col. David Hackworth’s site, it is clear that she went through an ideological evolution: from seeing herself as a career military analyst who was just doing her job, what she witnessed, up close and personal, transformed her into a soldier for the truth.

The tide of post-war truth-telling is threatening to bury the neocons and their perpetual war agenda, and, in desperation, they seek to discredit their accusers, without disputing the facts. Boot opines that “many retired national security bureaucrats claiming President Bush lied about Iraq have a not-so-hidden agenda.” Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, he avers, is “the best known,” and he can’t be trusted because he’s “an ideologue.” But what sort of ideologue are we talking about here? Boot cites Wilson as saying “neoconservatives and religious conservatives have hijacked this administration, and I consider myself on a personal mission to destroy both.” So it turns out he’s an anti-ideologue. Oh well, same difference: a cornered rat can’t afford to make fine distinctions.

Boot segues into a denunciation of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), which has been running exposures of the way in which intelligence was manufactured to make the case for war. Readily admitting that “Ray Close, David MacMichael and Ray McGovern, who make up VIPs steering committee, have many decades of intelligence experience among them,” nevertheless, Boot avers, they, too, must be discounted because:

“What is seldom mentioned is where the VIPS-ters publish most of their anti-Bush screeds: on Counterpunch.org, a conspiracy-mongering website run by Nation columnist Alexander Cockburn. VIPs even has an e-mail address at Counterpunch, which is so extreme that it has run an article suggesting that the only major difference between George W. Bush and Adolf Hitler is that ‘Bush simply is not the orator that Hitler was.'”

The idea that Counterpunch is “a conspiracy-mongering website” is a complete fabrication, as anyone who cares to pay a visit can plainly see. Very far from offering up the latest news on the Bilderberger-Illuminati-Masonic Secret Masters of the Universe, Alex Cockburn runs a site dedicated to the old-style free-wheeling politics of the pre-post-modern left, before it was taken over by professional victimologists and “humanitarian” interventionists. Nary a Bilderberger nor a Freemason in sight.

But of course what Boot is referring to is all the research, featured not only in Counterpunch but also in “mainstream” media analyses, identifying what – and who – went wrong with our intelligence procedures in the prelude to the Iraq war. At least two congressional committees, and a couple of Washington grand juries, are now following the trail of lies back to the source. Are they, too, engaging in “conspiracy-mongering?”

Just look at the ideologically diverse group of writers who have detailed the neoconservative penetration of the governmental apparatus, and charted the diversion of the American ship of state on a new course of Empire: Michael Lind, Pat Buchanan, Elizabeth Drew, Paul Craig Roberts, Joshua Micah Marshall, the conservative scholar Claes Ryn, the liberal columnist William Pfaff, and myself, to name a few, in venues as vastly different as Mother Jones and the American Conservative Union. What “agenda” other than getting at the truth about why we went to war could motivate such a disparate group?

The lies that snagged us into conquering and occupying Iraq are now being exposed as the fabrications of a small and very dedicated group of policy analysts and political appointees embedded in the secondary tiers of the national security bureaucracy. The postwar collapse of the case for invading Iraq is occurring against the backdrop of continuing casualties and unrest in the region, and the bills are beginning to come in. Who got us into this mess is a matter of pressing concern, and a source of potential embarrassment to the Republicans in Congress, who are beginning to ask questions. Kwiatkowski’s testimony about the role of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the Vice President’s chief of staff, in the stovepiping of false “intelligence” to the White House and Congress, should be enough to provoke renewed impetus for a congressional investigation. The neocons will get their come-uppance, before long, although there is sure to be a lot of twisting and trying to wriggle out of it before the decisive blows are landed.

Boot claims that all these retirees from the national security bureaucracy come to the table with their various “agendas,” but what about those presently serving? Take CIA Director George Tenet, who, before a Senate committee, disputed tall tales of Iraqi WMD and links to Al Qaeda peddled by the Vice President and the neocon network inside the administration. Is he, too, a “conspiracy-monger”? Has he ever been cited in Counterpunch, or, worse, The American Conservative?

Boot and his fellow neocons can run, but they can’t hide, and they certainly won’t get away with such balderdash. The day of reckoning is coming, and much sooner than they think. They had better switch their allegiance from Bush to a Kerry-McCain ticket before their defection seems too much like sour grapes.

Read more by Justin Raimondo

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com, and a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He is a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and writes a monthly column for Chronicles. He is the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].