Soldier for the Truth
Exposing Bush's talking-points war
by Marc Cooper
Busting the liars:
(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.
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