Thursday, 11 March 2004

The new Pentagon papers

We're just conspiracy nuts. They had a perfectly good reason to go to war. These aren't the droids we're looking for...

A high-ranking military officer reveals how Defense Department extremists suppressed information and twisted the truth to drive the country to war.

In July of last year, after just over 20 years of service, I retired as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force. I had served as a communications officer in the field and in acquisition programs, as a speechwriter for the National Security Agency director, and on the Headquarters Air Force and the office of the secretary of defense staffs covering African affairs. I had completed Air Command and Staff College and Navy War College seminar programs, two master's degrees, and everything but my Ph.D. dissertation in world politics at Catholic University. I regarded my military vocation as interesting, rewarding and apolitical. My career started in 1978 with the smooth seduction of a full four-year ROTC scholarship. It ended with 10 months of duty in a strange new country, observing up close and personal a process of decision making for war not sanctioned by the Constitution we had all sworn to uphold. Ben Franklin's comment that the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia had delivered "a republic, madam, if you can keep it" would come to have special meaning.

In the spring of 2002, I was a cynical but willing staff officer, almost two years into my three-year tour at the office of the secretary of defense, undersecretary for policy, sub-Saharan Africa. In April, a call for volunteers went out for the Near East South Asia directorate (NESA). None materialized. By May, the call transmogrified into a posthaste demand for any staff officer, and I was "volunteered" to enter what would be a well-appointed den of iniquity.

The education I would receive there was like an M. Night Shyamalan -- intense, fascinating and frightening. While the people were very much alive, I saw a dead philosophy -- Cold War anti-communism and neo-imperialism -- walking the corridors of the Pentagon. It wore the clothing of counterterrorism and spoke the language of a holy war between good and evil. The evil was recognized by the leadership to be resident mainly in the Middle East and articulated by Islamic clerics and radicals. But there were other enemies within, anyone who dared voice any skepticism about their grand plans, including Secretary of State Colin Powell and Gen. Anthony Zinni.

From May 2002 until February 2003, I observed firsthand the formation of the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans 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 U.S. 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.

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 U.S. 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.

While this commandeering of a narrow segment of both intelligence production and American foreign policy matched closely with the well-published desires of the neoconservative wing of the Republican Party, many of us in the Pentagon, conservatives and liberals alike, felt that this agenda, whatever its flaws or merits, had never been openly presented to the American people. Instead, the public story line was a fear-peddling and confusing set of messages, designed to take Congress and the country into a war of executive choice, a war based on false pretenses, and a war one year later Americans do not really understand. That is why I have gone public with my account.

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