The new Pentagon papers

Why do so many Americans mistakenly continue to believe, as polls show, that Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda were working together and that Iraq was involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks?

Could it be because high-ranking administration officials are still making that charge? As recently as January, Vice President Dick Cheney stated “there’s overwhelming evidence there was a connection between Al Qaeda and the Iraqi government.” He touted a memo from the Pentagon as the “best source” on the subject.

Testifying Tuesday before the Senate Armed Service Committee, CIA Director George Tenet said, rather feebly, he’d learned of Cheney’s remark only the night before, that the CIA “did not agree with the way the data was characterized in that document,” and that he intended to contact Cheney to caution him about its conclusions.

Now comes a devastating report from the source, a juicy tell-all published on titled “The New Pentagon Papers.” It was written by Karen Kwiatkowski, a now-retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who, until July 2003, was at the Pentagon’s Near East South Asia directorate. There she witnessed firsthand the formation of the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans, the source of virtually all the manipulated data the Bush administration used to justify its rush to war in early 2003.

She watched a cabal of neoconservative hawks “through suppression and distortion of intelligence analysis promulgate what were in fact falsehoods to both Congress and the executive office of the president.”

What emerges from Kwiatkowski’s report is a picture of an agency driven not by the search for truth in a complex, shape-shifting world, but rather by ideologues determined to paint Iraq as an immediate threat to the United States, convinced that intervention there would be a cakewalk, and believing firmly in America’s right to take pre-emptive action anywhere in the world.

The OSP had a direct pipeline to the offices of Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other high-ranking officials in the Bush administration.

No effort was made, Kwiatkowski argues, to sell the country on the real reasons for invading Iraq—"more bases from which to flex U.S. muscle with Syria and Iran, and better positioning for the inevitable fall of the ruling regional sheikdoms.”

And the president? "Bush says he wants the truth, but it is clear he is no more interested in it today than he was two years ago."