Like politics, opposition to the war in Iraq is creating some strange bedfellows. Take the case of recently retired Air Force officer Karen Kwiatkowski. One of the administration’s fiercest critics, Senator Ted Kennedy, cites her as an authority on the Pentagon’s abuse of intelligence to make the case for war in Iraq. Salon.com’s new Washington Bureau chief, Sidney Blumenthal, ran a Kwiatkowski article about her days in the Pentagon under the heading “The New Pentagon Papers.”
Ironically, Blumenthal was scooped by Pat Buchanan’s magazine, the American Conservative, which ran her three-part series about life in Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon. She thinks Rumsfeld is a “neo-fascist.” Even before her retirement, she was posting articles under a pseudonym at Soldiers for the Truth, an Internet site devoted to problems in the military. She is a regular contributor to a libertarian website and has been favorably quoted by the U.S. Communist Party’s Peoples World Weekly newspaper.
Kennedy and the communists seem to value her insights on how the Pentagon mishandled intelligence during the run up to Operation Iraqi Freedom. In a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations on March 5, he quoted her as saying the Pentagon “cherry picked” intelligence to “make it sound more exciting.” “It was intelligence . . . it was propaganda.” For Kennedy, this proves that the administration was manipulating and distorting intelligence to justify the war on Iraq.
In her Salon article, she writes that she witnessed “firsthand” how the Pentagon manipulated and suppressed intelligence on Iraq. The goal, she writes, was to “promulgate falsehoods to Congress and the executive branch of the president.” Serving Pentagon officials and intelligence officers who opposed or disagreed with this policy were pushed out of their jobs or exiled. Other intelligence officers, she says, caved into the pressure and supported the Pentagon’s agenda.
But she can’t cite any specific examples of distorted intelligence. During her time in the Pentagon while all this was supposedly going on, she admits that she only saw “two apparent products.” One was a set of talking points that served as guidance for the preparation of policy papers and public statements by department officials. The talking points evolved, she says, but the only example of intelligence she cites involved 9/11 ringleader Mohammed Atta’s supposed meeting with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague. When the FBI “confirmed” that Atta was elsewhere, “that particular bullet was dropped entirely” from the paper.
The other example involved the notorious Niger uranium story. She says that she never saw any reference to Iraqi interest in Niger uranium in the talking points. And she claims that her colleagues were surprised to hear the President refer to “Niger” uranium in his State of the Union speech. Of course, he made no such reference, but only spoke of Iraqi interest in African uranium. But in the only two examples she cites, rather than manipulating intelligence, the talking points followed the CIA’s views on the subject. How is that manipulating or distorting intelligence?