[Read Part 1.]
Karen Kwiatkowski began her military career as a second lieutenant in computer communications at Eielson Air Force Base, near Fairbanks, Alaska, supplying communications-security information for aircrews flying missions up and down the Soviet and Chinese border. After stints at Hanscom AFB, near Boston, Massachusetts; Torrejon Air Base, in Spain, near Madrid; and Aviano Air Base, in northern Italy, she moved to the National Security Agency, first as a systems acquisitions officer and, later, as a speechwriter for the director of the NSA. After serving at the NSA, she was stationed as a political-military analyst on sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East for the HQ Air Force staff at the Pentagon, and later for the secretary of defense as undersecretary for sub-Saharan African affairs. In May 2002, she was moved to the Near East South Asia (NESA) directorate.
Since she retired from the Air Force, in July 2003, after 20 years in the military, she has become a vocal critic of the war in Iraq and of U.S. Middle East policy and has garnered the attention of Senator Jon Kyl and columnist George Will, among others.
She holds a master’s degree in government from Harvard and another one in science management from the University of Alaska. She is currently working on her doctoral dissertation in world politics at Catholic University and is a part-time farmer and teacher.
Q: A lot of people seem to think that this war was really about oil. Is that accurate in your opinion? Can you expand on that? The idea that this war was solely about oil and not about terrorism or weapons of mass destruction or saving the people of Iraq from a cruel dictator?
A: It was not about terrorism, WMD, or saving the people of Iraq from a cruel dictator. Some of our allies are cruel dictators, support and fund terrorism, and sell lots of WMD (Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and others). It was not solely about oil as a material item, but it was about placement (permanently) of troops and U.S. bases in the oil-producing region such that we are in a position to control those nations’ management (or mismanagement in our eyes) of the oil. It is also about ensuring that OPEC remains on a petro dollar standard. As a heavily-in-debt and debtor nation, it is important to keep demand for dollars globally high among the world central banks. If petroleum is traded on dollars, then central banks will ensure they have plenty of dollars in reserve and not euros or other less useful currency. Iraq had switched to the euro from the dollar for their oil (Iraq in November 2000, before 9/11). OPEC meetings had occasionally discussed this as well. Also, as a way to decrease our military footprint in Saudi Arabia, we needed alternative bases nearby, and Iraq not only provided an ability to leave Saudi Arabia, which we are doing now; it allows us to leverage Iran and Syria militarily with ease. Lastly, this presence in Baghdad of an Israel-friendly force, and the construction of the Mosul-Haifa pipeline that was reputedly begun last summer, and possibly other pipelines to the Haifa oil refinery, can serve as an economic and military security benefit for Israel, our longtime ally in the Middle East.
Clearly, the reasons given to Congress and the American people publicly were not the real reasons—but real reasons do exist if you view the globe as your property, inhabited by people that have no right to govern themselves. The neoconservatives talk about democracy, but most have a deeply rooted contempt for it.
Q: In his speech to the U.N., one of the things Secretary Powell said regarding the U.S. claims that Iraq was a danger was, “What we’re giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence.” Up until he gave that speech, I thought of Colin Powell as sort of a rational voice in all this. What is your opinion of Colin Powell’s speech to the U.N.? Where did it come from?
A: The speech came from the sum creativity of OSP and Chalabi, with a cooperative George Tenet adding some cover. That Powell gave it apparently meant that the rest of the pro-war administration had convinced him, and his choice was to either resign in protest or support the president’s wishes. He apparently decided to support the president by going along with him.
Q: On March 14, on Meet the Press, Colin Powell said that the case he made for war at the U.N. “reflected not some political spin. It reflected the best judgment of the intelligence community, and judgment that had been consistent over many years, the same information that in a National Intelligence Estimate the intelligence community had presented to the Congress.” Based on what you know from working with the NESA, what’s your opinion of that statement?
A: He is kidding himself, because the truth (especially for him, a man who served in Vietnam and co-authored the Powell/Weinberger doctrine that was gutted in this latest war) is unbearable. He made his bed, and is trying to ensure it stays as comfortable as possible.
Q: I was telling people from the beginning of this war that this wasn’t a war with Iraq; it was an economic war with the euro. I tend to make up a lot of stuff to seem smarter than I am, but how far off is that? Do you think the neocons understand this and that’s part of the motivation?
A: You are not far off. The euro may yet sink under its own weight, and its long-term future remains to be seen. But certainly since it was launched 10 or so years ago, it has become for many investors a stable and likable currency, while the dollar has gotten an ugly rep, due to our own high level of debt and deficit spending, and the fact that, post-Cold War, we have been picking fights with everyone, and we are producing less and less of real value each year—in fact, we retain global dominance in high-tech weaponry but in little else. Not an attractive combination for an investor. It could indeed have been about setting ourselves up to ensure the EU never approaches our global throw-weight.
Q: Why not just tell the people of the U.S., “Here is why we are going to war”? Tell them the truth? Is there a place for truth in this sort of thing?
A: It may be that we actually prefer to be lied to. But I think the reason the White House didn’t use the real reasons is because all of those reasons each carry with them a hundred nonwar solutions. In too much debt? Pay it down and stop spending. Have a dollar that no one wants? Pay it down, stop selling excessive T-bills, create some real value and productivity in the economy—in a word, compete. Want bases in the Middle East, pay for them, make new friends, do without, change your strategy for influencing those folks. Oil is the easiest—because those who have oil must sell it, and the marketplace is the best regulator and guarantor of our energy needs. High oil prices in fact drive renewable energies, so even that isn’t always all bad. The honest approach is also the peaceful approach, as it usually is.
Q: In one of your columns, you wrote:
Creating an experimental imperialistic war on the backs of the all-volunteer military and the reserves while arrogantly lying about why it is required is downright criminal.
The crime of omission occurs when you violate or disregard your accepted duties and responsibilities. Public servants are far more likely than most to be prosecuted for crimes of omission.
And while we won’t get the choice, prosecution now would probably be a lot more interesting than reading their revisionist McNamara’esque memoirs in 2020!
Do you think there is a legal basis for criminal charges to be brought against the architects of the Iraq war? Where do the charges go? Perle? Rumsfeld? Cheney? Wolfowitz?
A: I think Cheney should be impeached, Bush as well, for lying and attempting to deceive in order to go to war. Rumsfeld may be protected, as he worked for them, the Nuremberg defense, as with Perle. Perle, however, should probably be in jail for profiteering, but so far he hasn’t been charged—this would be in a criminal or civil court. Because we have a Republican Congress, Bush is safe, as Clinton would have been given a Democrat Congress. More recently, we have reports of information-leaking and possible espionage in the Pentagon, and some of these same policymakers are said to be under FBI investigation. In a fair and objective world, some people will go to jail for their role in creating and implementing the Bush foreign policy.