Since I retired to the gentle Shenandoah Mountains, I’ve noticed some strange goings on in Washington. This makes me indistinguishable from most of my neighbors. But I am different.
When I left the Pentagon, after an honorable twenty year military career, I was angry about what I thought were lies that some folks I worked for were putting out as truth. It bothered me even more because it seemed like they were lying on purpose, in order to get a little war, a little oil, a little financial advantage, the odd basing right. Damn lying government officials always bothered me, but I had never met any face-to-face until I worked in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Obviously, my decision — which was to go public with what I saw as soon as I could, and sooner — was not designed to promote my employment with certain institutions. For example, the American Enterprise Institute did not seek my contribution to the American enterprise. Cliff May at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies was not interested in my defense of this democracy. I didn’t receive a feverish call from Eleana Benador begging to represent me.
I didn’t get a call from the National Review or the Washington Times, or the Times’s Insight Magazine, or from Frontpagemag. The New York Post was not competing to headline my story. Neither was the New York Times.
In 2002, what I saw, and what many of us saw, was terribly dismaying. But none of us know the future, and perhaps, somehow, maybe, we were wrong about what we were seeing, hearing, experiencing. You can bet we all prayed that we were.
But today, in 2004, all of us who observed, worried, commiserated, and the few who spoke out against the neoconservative agenda have been proven correct. Not just 100% accurate, dead on, and rock solid. Over the top correct. What we saw was literally the tip of the god-forsaken iceberg.
Richard Clarke saw it coming, Paul O’Neill saw it. Rand Beers saw it. Joe Wilson saw it, and American national security has been seriously compromised by the Bush team’s brutal, ham-fisted and criminal retaliation against him. General Toni Zinni saw it coming, and tried to prevent it. The Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity warned again and again. Even Iraq weapons inspector Scott Ritter tried to caution the administration. None of these folks are leftists, crazies, anti-Semites, or Larouchies. They are simply outstanding public servants who served and continue to serve their country with honor and courage.
None on this list, nor the hundreds of others who recognized what was happening in American foreign policy as it unfolded in 2002 and 2003, or myself, take the slightest bit of pleasure in being right. No one wanted the President, Vice President, Secretaries of State and Defense to play brazen hustlers in expensive suits.
No one in America wanted a brash and dangerous foreign policy pursued for the narrow and counterproductive interests. No one dreamed that in a modern information age, a war could be conducted for reasons never to be honestly shared with those same Americans who would send their beloveds to fight and die.
The price for speaking out against any government program is often to be vilified, attacked, slandered, smeared and discredited. Neoconservative circular logic says those who disagree with their prescriptions must be crazy, because to be sane is to know — to feel — that neoconservative political desires are innately beneficent, noble and wise. Every critic of the lies leading to war has received similar, almost identical, treatment by neoconservatives, through whispering campaigns, quiet threats, false statements and newsy articles and opinion pieces built around a smear.
But the worm turns. Today, neoconservatives are finding it increasingly difficult to discredit the slumbering multitude now waking up and speaking out. They need a new trick, but the old pony can only stomp his feet.
Soldiers returning from Iraq are speaking out. Soldiers under courts martial for violation of Geneva Conventions are calling witnesses from the White House and top civilians in the Pentagon. Soldiers retiring and those in academic environs are joining the criticism of Bush’s war in Iraq with measured and credible voices. Serious government advisors and intelligence analysts are coming forward with valid and scathing criticism.
It turns out we are not freeing Iraq, and it appears we never intended to. Iraqis are freeing themselves, in a slow, evolving and increasingly confident exercise of national liberation, and self-determination. It is ugly and dangerous and it kills them as it kills us. Neoconservatives hate Ben Franklin, with his silliness about Republics. But Iraqis have taken Franklin’s words to heart. They know if they sacrifice a little liberty for a little security, they will have neither.
This reality doesn’t concern loyal neoconservatives. Only other people’s children are dying and being maimed, and other people don’t have value in the neocon calculator. But when special prosecutors come knocking, and FBI agents approach burdened with technical gear and detailed statements from witnesses, neoconservatives begin to get nervous. Who will sell them out? Who will cop a plea? Who will defect first, second and deluge? When the President and the Vice President contract private criminal attorneys, we wonder if the neocon pony has a new trick we haven’t yet seen.
Still, predictable attacks on those who calmly and honestly critique the administration’s foreign policy continue, even as neoconservatism’s star travels the path of Ahmad Chalabi’s own career, from crook to liar to statesman wannabe to liar and crook.
The latest hysterics are from Anthony Gancarski with Front Page Magazine. We’ve seen it before. He couldn’t find time to talk to me while his smear was being copied word for word from the AEI playbook, but he had plenty of time afterward to converse with me via email. He explained that he had done his research to his usual fine level, and that wouldn’t necessarily include an interview with or any questions for me. Truly, what smear would?
He also suggested that I ought to reject what I saw with my own eyes and get on board with the neoconservatives.
Ignore the facts, and get on board. Now where have I seen this before? Wait a minute! That’s how neoconservative foreign policy is developed! It’s how they handle dissent within their political group! And it’s how they attack their critics! My friends, what we have here is a used up, unhappy one-trick pony, and the only question left is which one of us is going to make the call to PETA?
Karen Kwiatkowski [send her mail] is a retired USAF lieutenant colonel, who spent her final four and a half years in uniform working at the Pentagon. She now lives with her freedom-loving family in the Shenandoah Valley, and writes a bi-weekly column on defense issues with a libertarian perspective for militaryweek.com.