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April 2, 2006
Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski
U.S. Air Force, 1983-2003
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Info: She discusses her opinion of the build up to war in Iraq from her position in the Near East/ South Asia policy office at the Pentagon. Also, we discuss her service in the Air Force, why she choose to leave the military and the current state of the military-industrial complex.


Uncorrected transcript provided by Morningside Partners.
C-SPAN uses its best efforts to provide accurate transcripts of its programs, but it can not be held liable for mistakes such as omitted words, punctuation, spelling, mistakes that change meaning, etc.
BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Karen Kwiatkowski, how did you get involved in a movie, ”Why We Fight?”
LT. COL. KAREN KWIATKOWSKI, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET.): Well, Eugene Jarecki, the director, called me up and said, ”I’d like to come out and talk to you. This was in 2004 I think. He - I had spoken out against the war. I had been in the Pentagon. He knew my name. He had read some of the things that I had written, and felt that I had something to contribute. I really did not know anything about the project that he was putting together. I said yes. He came out to the house and filmed.
LAMB: How long were you in the United States Military?
KWIATKOWSKI: Twenty years, United States Air Force.
LAMB: What was your rank when you left?
KWIATKOWSKI: Lieutenant Colonel. I retired in the summer of 2003 as a Lieutenant Colonel.
LAMB: At what time in 2003?
KWIATKOWSKI: My retirement date was effective 1 July, but I left the Pentagon basically two days after we invaded Iraq, and I had moved my retirement date up specifically because of my experience in that final tour in the Pentagon at the Office of Secretary Defense Policy.
LAMB: Why did you come out against the war?
KWIATKOWSKI: Well, I was actually against the war when I was in the Pentagon, and the reason had to do with what I felt to be lies, not so much lies told to the American people, but lies, in fact, promulgated on us inside the Pentagon. I worked in Near East-South Asia Policy. Doug Feith was our boss, over me and 1,000 other people in Policy. The Office of Special Plans had been formed from our office, staffed with political appointees, and they were producing, in the fall of 2002 and ’03, and the winter and spring of 2003, talking points for us to use in our own papers, and those talking points did not match the intelligence that we had previously used to put together our papers and our work. So, I felt that we were being lied to.
Now, it was made worse when I saw the president and vice president make speeches and heard what they were saying because it seemed as if they were also speaking from these same talking points. And so, that means, in my view, they were also lying to the American people.
LAMB: Why did you go in the military in the first place?
KWIATKOWSKI: Well, I had a four-year ROTC scholarship back in 1978 when I graduated high school. Went into the Air Force. I originally intended to stay four years, my commitment, and get college paid for because I didn’t have money to pay for college, and, like a lot of people, went into the military for an education. It was a good life. I enjoyed it very much. I did communications and computer work for the first 15 years, then when into political military analysis-type work, which is also very rewarding and very wonderful. I got to see the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the post-Cold War era. I felt it was wonderful. But, that very final tour, when I was moved up in May of 2002, to actually see how Middle East policy was being made, was being driven, when I got a glimpse into the real agenda, I definitely - yes, I - at that point, very unhappy and I had to leave. And I did leave, and I retired.
LAMB: Where did you grow up?
KWIATKOWSKI: North Carolina, the mountains of North Carolina, Appalachia.
LAMB: And Reserve Officer’s Training Corps, what school?
KWIATKOWSKI: I went to Clemson the first 3-1/2 years, and I got married in college to a civilian, who remained a civilian that whole time, still married to him, Hap. Hi, Hap. And he - because of where he lives I had to move. I transferred, and I graduated from University of Maryland, College Park. That’s where I got my first - my bachelor’s degree.
LAMB: I’m going to show a clip from the movie, and the reason this movie is making the rounds, it’s gone through - I believe through HBO, it’s now in theaters, and it’s called ”Why We Fight,” and it’s got people from both sides of the fence, although it seems to have a point of view. But, here’s you and others from - let’s just look at a little clip here.
KWIATKOWSKI: Okay.
(BEGIN VIDEO)
KWIATKOWSKI: ”Why We Fight” was actually the title of a series of World War II films that were done by one of the great directors.
UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: Master of the art of motion picture entertainment, Frank Capra.
KWIATKOWSKI: The Frank Capra film even back then were propaganda, to kind of build up a war fever.
UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: Americans fighting.
KWIATKOWSKI: But, given that it was during a global world war, there were a lot of reasons that Americans embraced.
UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: We’re fighting for liberty, the most expensive luxury known to man.
KWIATKOWSKI: Today, if you went downtown to my local town and you asked five people why we’re fighting in Iraq, you’d get five different answers.
UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: Why do we fight? I’m not quite sure, but I think it’s for power and control, for greed.
UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: I’m not sure if we’re fighting for the oil or not. We could be. We could not be. The government has more knowledge than I know.
UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: I think everybody has a different idea why we’re there, and a lot of people think we shouldn’t be.
KWIATKOWSKI: What we’re seeing is a disconnection of our American foreign policy from the citizen, from the average American citizen.
UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: Why do we fight?
UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: I wish we didn’t. I wish we didn’t. Sometimes you have to, though.
(END VIDEO)
LAMB: What’s going through your mind when you look at that?
KWIATKOWSKI: I think it’s an honest appraisal of - particularly what the people are saying. People really don’t know, and we love our country. You know, we want to do the right thing. We think very highly of ourselves as Americans, and I think we should. And yet, we do things that we don’t understand, and it’s a mystery, I think, to a lot of people, particularly Iraq. I think particularly Iraq, and I think that’s what was on my mind certainly as I participated in that film.
LAMB: Where were you on 9/11?
KWIATKOWSKI: In the Pentagon, in our office. We were actually - at the moment that the Pentagon was struck, we were in my boss’s office watching television, and we were looking at one tower that was damaged and burning, and then - and we actually witnessed on television, it was very surreal. I’m sure many, many millions of people who watched that felt very surreal. We saw it on TV and then, within minutes, it seemed we heard a huge boom and looked out over our window into the interior of the Pentagon. Pentagon roof looked like it had a huge fireball on it. I mean, we saw the fireball. Didn’t know where it came from, had no concept of - that something had actually hit much lower and exploded through four stories. And we - you know, we left the building and congregated actually - most of the people in my office and myself included were able to - for whatever reason, we were - when we exited, we were over on that side. We could - and we stood on the grass in that beautiful day and saw the gash in that Pentagon. You know, just an amazing day.
LAMB: On that day, had you done any work at all toward going into Iraq before that?
KWIATKOWSKI: No. On that day I had not. On that day I worked in Sub-Saharan African affairs, and that’s where I had been for the previous year and a half. So, my focus was Sub-Saharan Africa policy as it relates to Pentagon interests. I had not done anything on Middle East, and was pretty much just like an average citizen with regards to our Middle East policy.
LAMB: What was the reaction around your fellow officers and all, and other civilians after 9/11?
KWIATKOWSKI: I think pretty typical of what the rest of the country was going through. There was certainly a sense of unification. There was certainly a sense of shock and anger, a need to retaliate.
Quite frankly, I’m not - I was not an expert on Afghanistan or the Middle East at that time, although I had worked Middle East issues. And it seemed to me very logical that our initial strike-back would be at Afghanistan. I mean, they said Osama was there, the Taliban was being funded by Osama, they were harboring him. Made a lot of sense. I had no real problems with the thing on Afghanistan. It made sense to me, and I think it made a lot of sense to a lot of people.
Now, even at this point, looking back at Afghanistan, there are some problematic issues there with our relationship with the Taliban. I mean, we had only months before that given them a great big award for cutting the poppy production. Colin Powell himself I think presented it to them. So - but at the time, very much on board with the Afghanistan strike. Made sense. The talk about Iraq began within Pentagon corridors, as you know, as we all know now, from reading people’s memoirs and that kind of thing, that Iraq was on the horizon.
It was something that - and I’ll tell you, a lot of people in the Pentagon who had been part of Desert Storm or had participated in the no-fly zone enforcement over the entire Clinton period and early George Bush period, you know, they felt, ”Yes, we ought to finish that. I think there’s clearly a military sense that we ought to finish something we started.” I didn’t share that. I did not share that at all. But, there were a lot of people in the military very supportive of taking action on Iraq, but not for the reasons I think that the administration offered up for us.
LAMB: My memory on numbers are correct, there are something like 9,000 cars that park around the Pentagon, 17 miles of halls and about 25,000 people. What’s it like to be a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force in the Pentagon?
KWIATKOWSKI: Well, there’s a lot of us. There’s a lot of Lieutenant Colonels. We are nothing like a Lieutenant Colonel on a regular military base or in a smaller unit. We’re really a dime a dozen. It’s a lot of fun, actually, to be an officer, a middle grade or upper grade field grade officer in the Pentagon. It’s fun. You do things that seem to be important, things that engage your interest, that challenge you intellectually. It’s fun. It is a lot of fun. A lot of people don’t like the Pentagon itself, but there’s a lot to be said for an assignment there. And certainly, the ones that - where I worked in Office of Secretary Defense, very highly coveted assignment. Certainly you have to interview for those assignments normally and be selected, and they’re highly valued, and we do have a good time. We feel like we’re part of something in that sense.
LAMB: How long after September the 11th, 2001, did you stay in the Pentagon?
KWIATKOWSKI: Well, I finally left in May - I’m sorry, in March of 2003, but it was in May of 2002 that I was moved from Sub-Saharan African Affairs into Near East-South Asia, and that’s really when my eyes began to be opened about how our policy towards invading, destroying and occupying Iraq, although I’m not sure if that’s the right order, but I began to be aware of something else that was going on, which was very, very different from what I had seen in the previous 19 years, and I think that’s really - you know, when you have a shock, when suddenly you have a veil pulled away and you see something - and it was inconsistent with my values as a military officer.
You know, we swear an oath to uphold the Constitution. We have a sense that the people in the Pentagon will be very apolitical. Certainly, the political bosses reflect any administration, the administration that places them there, and that’s fine. But, I saw a type of politicization almost from the very first week of my assignment in Near East-South Asia policy, which really violated the idea of an apolitical military. This was an agenda-setting organization, and the agenda was war. The agenda was an invasion of Iraq. I’m not sure the agenda was nation-building in Iraq. We did very little planning. There was very little that emanated from the Pentagon in any practical way that would have prepared us for what came after toppling Saddam Hussein. But, certainly the agenda amongst the political appointees there, almost a little nest of very ideologically motivated folks.
And neo-conservatism is a word that we’ve all come to know and not necessarily love, but neo-conservatism is a part of that. The neo-conservative agenda preceded George Bush’s presidency. Certainly the plans of it were envisioned by neo-conservatives for Iraq, had been talked about for many, many years, and these plans included his destruction and a changing of Iraq, a transformation somehow of that country.
LAMB: Let’s go back to the movie, just I think some excerpts so people can get a flavor for what this movie’s about. Bill Kristol is one of those that’s labeled a neo-conservative. He may argue with that label, but he’s definitely - his father was a neo-conservative. But, let’s listen to what - a little bit of what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO)
KRISTOL: When September 11th happened, the president and his top advisors said to themselves, correctly I think, ”We need to rethink American foreign policy,” and I think that would have happened even without a September 11th. But, September 11th was really the event that changed American foreign policy.
KWIATKOWSKI: While I was in the Pentagon when we got hit. You know, I - yes, it did change. It was a very dramatic and terrible thing, and it does change your perspective. But, the war in Iraq had nothing to do with the war on terrorism. That was a huge leap, a manufactured leap in order to implement a very calculated and pre-developed foreign policy.
(END VIDEO)
LAMB: When you sat down to do this movie, how long did you talk on film?
KWIATKOWSKI: Oh, Eugene came twice to the house, probably took 2-1/2 hours.
LAMB: And what was the context? Did you know who you were going to fit in with?
KWIATKOWSKI: Absolutely not. I didn’t even know what film he was making. At the time, in 2004-late 2003, because I had spoken out, I’m a conservative, actually a registered Libertarian, but my dissent about this war made me attractive to a great many people who opposed the war.
So, I had lots of people making documentaries, and some of them were probably much more ideologically oriented, much more anti-Bush documentaries. And so, quite frankly - and I never said no. If they came - if they drove two hours to my house and set up and didn’t inconvenience me or the family, we - I would do it. I would tell them the truth, and I told everybody pretty much the same story. I really didn’t know what Eugene was doing and, when he told me later about the documentary and the fact that he’d done well at the Sundance Film Festival, I mean this documentary actually was very well done, and it was apolitical.
I was happy to see that it was kind of apolitical, and a really nice piece of work, almost a historical work in some ways. I had no idea, though, at the time what he was doing. And when he told me he had to come back because he needed to get one or two more things, I’m just like, ”Oh, my God, please. Please don’t come back.” But, I mean he’s a great guy, but I just - you know, and I’m very happy with what he did with the information that he had. I really like how he wove many story lines together, and he’s got a lot of real stories in there, and I’m just a small, I think, part of that film.
LAMB: Conservative. Explain your conserve.
KWIATKOWSKI: Traditional conservative. I grew up in a Barry Goldwater household, OK, so what I thought Republicans were was Barry Goldwater. What I thought Republicans were was Ronald Reagan at his very first electoral campaign when he ran on a very Libertarian Goldwater and - Goldwater-type platform. That’s what I thought Republicans were, and I came from a Republican family, and that’s what I thought it was. And I held to that until the mid-’90s, and I realized that even then, even though I never had heard the term ”neo-conservative,” had no idea they’d been around for 40 years, I didn’t know, and I never even understood anything about it.
I did change parties to the Libertarian party, and the choice was either to become a Libertarian or a Constitutionalist because these were the two parties that most closely matched what I - the way I had been brought up. So, in a sense, I’m one of those boring people that don’t change their - they don’t - I didn’t really learn anything. I’m the same - I’m politically the same as I was when I was 14 years old, which is, I guess, sad in a way, but anyway, the party left me. The Republican Party left me.
Neo-conservatism does not have its roots in conservatism, and I think Bill Kristol would probably be the first to tell you that. He knows the story. It has its roots in more grand ideologies than traditional conservatism. In fact, you can go all the way back to Trotsky and some of the Marxist thinkers and find some of the roots of neo-conservatism.
But strangely, neo-conservatism found a home in the Republican Party as it began to shape itself about 35 years ago. And you know Bill Buckley, big old - I mean, I shouldn’t say old, but the grandfather of National Review, started out, was a conservative magazine. And early on, the National Review and Buckley were a big part of this whole idea that Bill Kristol mentions of reshaping our foreign policy, rethinking how it is that America deals with the world. And when - and in the directions that he’s talking about, it wasn’t 9/11, OK, I’m sorry. Kristol’s wrong on that. 9/11 is a nice event that gets everybody awake and allows for possibilities of change, but this refocusing of American foreign policy as a unilateral power, as a shaper of not just ourselves but of others, this comes about early on, 35, 40 years ago. Neo-conservatism is a big part of it.
LAMB: Let me give the audience, who hasn’t seen the documentary, a little bit of an idea. They have a trailer that they put out, which gives you all kinds of scenes so that people can see what this particular documentary generates in the way of discussion.
LAMB: Again, what are you thinking as you watch that?
KWIATKOWSKI: I like Ike. I - a lot of wisdom there from the folks from years ago. I think the numbers do speak for themselves, and it is kind of dangerous. It is kind of dangerous to have this huge, huge investment, and it just reminds me of what Madeline Albright said, our Secretary of State under Clinton, said to Colin Powell when he was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. They were arguing about what to do, how to become involved in the world’s first humanitarian war in Bosnia and Kosovo, this whole Balkan area. And Albright told Powell, according to Powell’s book, anyway, that, ”Well, what’s the point of having a great big military if you’re never going to use it?” And according to Powell’s book, My American Journey, I think he said, ”I almost had an aneurysm,” very much a negative reaction to that.
But, I think the temptation is that why would you build these great things unless you’re going to make them useful for something? And of course, as McCain says, that we should promote democracies if we’re capable of it. And, you know, I don’t really argue that we should not promote democracy, but what we have is a disconnect of the ends and the means. You know, what we’re doing in Iraq I think totally demonstrates that. We are promoting democracy in many ways at the point of a gun, and - because that’s what we have. That’s what we have to use.
LAMB: How many people - how many Lieutenant Colonels and Colonels and people that you knew in the Pentagon think or thought like you did?
KWIATKOWSKI: Well, I can tell you I was instructed on neo-conservatism by a fellow Navy Captain, an 06 in the Navy.
LAMB: What’s his name?
KWIATKOWSKI: You know, I can’t remember. I worked with him. He went to Bahrain after that to command the Naval Support Group activity there. Very brilliant guy, had just come back from Harvard for one-year tour into the Office of Secretary Defense, again a coveted position. Very bright guy, brilliant guy. I was also instructed by an Army Colonel as to how some of the agendas put forth for the military were inconsistent with the military’s either capabilities or values. And so, I think in many ways, lots and lots of military people, not just officers, also enlisted, have a real sense that, while they’re very proud of our military and they love what they do, and of course certainly highly - devoted to this country, have a sense that there’s some misuse, maybe, of the military, or maybe some inappropriate use. And then certainly, I think when we start talking about changing how other people govern themselves and we talk about making the world a better place with flowers and puppy dogs, military is not the first tool that should come to mind but, unfortunately for America’s politicians, for our presidents - and I don’t mean just George W. Bush, a lot of presidents - the military comes to mind first.
LAMB: Go back to, what was it, May of 2002?
KWIATKOWSKI: That’s when I - yes.
LAMB: And you moved to the Office of Special Plans.
KWIATKOWSKI: I was not in the Office of Special Plans. I was assigned to the policy director, Near East-South Asia. From that office, there’s desks, Iraq desk, India desk, Pakistan desk, Afghanistan desk, North Africa desk, those kinds of things. The Iraq desk was beefed up during the summer of 2002, not with military people but mostly with political appointees from academia, from think tanks like the one that Bill Kristol works for, American Enterprise Institute, things like that, and also some contractors. These folks shared office space with us and, eventually, were kind of budded off as an expanded Iraq desk into the Office of Special Plans.
And we had a meeting with our boss, Bill Luti, August - late August I think of 2002, and he said, ”Our spacing problems are over. We’ve got new space. All those folks that have been coming in over the summer under Abe Schulsky, the - he’ll be their boss, the director. We’ll call it the Office of Special Plans. You’re not supposed to call it the Office of Special Plans because that might cause people to have questions.” It’s really - Bill Luti told us it’s really just the expanded Iraq desk.
LAMB: Who was Bill Luti?
KWIATKOWSKI: Bill Luti was the director of Near East-South Asian policy. He formerly worked for Dick Cheney. He was an aide to Dick Cheney when Cheney was the Secretary of Defense. He came over into the Pentagon from Dick Cheney’s staff. So, he is a political appointee. I consider him to be ideologically a neo-conservative but, regardless, very much on board with the ”Take Down Iraq” team on that aspect, very much pushing that. But, he was our boss. He was the boss of all of us. And in our staff meetings, of course, the Office of Special Plans folks, after they’re formed, come down to our staff meetings, and they - I consider them our sister office, and that’s how I describe them. I was not assigned into that office. I knew a lot of those guys because they shared space with us in the summer of 2002 and, of course, we saw them at our staff meetings and that kind of thing.
Now, I have to say this. Interestingly enough, I never thought of it at the time, but, two weeks after - two to three weeks after the Office of Special Plans was set up as the expanded Iraq desk, they moved the Iran desk up into it, and that of course was headed by Larry Franklin, now serving a dozen years for apparently - I’m not sure what he did. He gave some classified material to members of the Israeli lobby AIPAC. He’s - he plea-bargained down to 12 years, so I don’t know the extent of what he did.
LAMB: Did you know him?
KWIATKOWSKI: Yes, I knew him. He was in - I liked him. I liked Larry Franklin. He was a wild and crazy guy. He was the Iran desk, though, and he moved up into OSP, as well. So, OSP clearly was not simply focused on Iraq even in the fall of 2002.
LAMB: OSP, Office of Special Plans?
KWIATKOWSKI: Yes.
LAMB: You just - you wrote in 2004, ”Luti was known at times to treat his staff, even senior staff, with disrespect, contempt and derision.” Did he treat you that way?
KWIATKOWSKI: No, he treated me wonderfully. Treated me very nicely. But, I didn’t matter. I was not someone who was challenging him. I was one of many faceless, or mild-mannered Lieutenant Colonels who were doing their job and working hard for him, and he treated me very nicely. But, he - and when I say that, it’s not just the people that he worked with. That’s a personality trait and, unfortunately, many military officers and other people in civilian world tend to sometimes not treat their workers very well. But, Luti also was kind of notorious for saying bad things about higher-ups. He bad mouthed guys like Zinni, and there was an Admiral in the Pacific Command that, for some reason, didn’t do something he wanted (ph), a four-star Admiral, and here’s a retired Navy Captain, granted a senior executive service guy. But, you know, you just don’t - it’s contrary to good order and discipline. Again, it’s something that you notice. When you’ve been in the military 20 years, you notice it. It stands out at that level when you see it.
LAMB: You wrote one of the things that we don’t often hear from inside, that Bill Luti referred to the Chief of Central Command, Anthony Zinni, as a traitor.
KWIATKOWSKI: Former Chief of Central Command Anthony Zinni, Tommy Frank’s predecessor. Yes, he did, and right in front of the refrigerator that sat two feet from my desk.
LAMB: Does it worry you, by the way, that you’re telling me stories now at all?
KWIATKOWSKI: No. I mean, lots of - there’s lots of witnesses, OK? Now, I can tell you that Bill Luti is going to deny it. I know that he denied it. He said that he never did that, but he did do that. Now, to Bill Luti’s credit, he often said things that he probably wanted to forget after he said them. But yes, there was a huge contempt, and Bill Luti is not the only one. But, among the neo-conservatives in and out of the Pentagon and, of course, you can read their writings even at the time, a huge sense of collective derision, collective contempt for people that were like Anthony Zinni, people that were saying, ”We need to sit down and think about what we’re saying. We need to see how this fits in with America’s national security interests. We need to be sure that what we’re saying about Iraq’s capability, Iraq’s connection to terrorism, and anybody else’s capability in connection to terrorism, we need to be sure that what we say is checked out.”
LAMB: What triggered you to be against this war? Do you remember the moment?
KWIATKOWSKI: Well, it was the summer of 2002. I had some concerns, even before, with the drumbeats for war, OK, but that was administration drumbeats, not inside the Pentagon. I had never met a neo-conservative, per se, who advocated this for these ideological reasons, this destructive chaos that Michael Ledeen likes to talk about.
LAMB: Who is Michael Ledeen?
KWIATKOWSKI: Michael Ledeen, he’s, well, a friend of Karl Rove’s, for one. He’s connected with Iran Contra, got in a little trouble in the Reagan Administration. He’s part of a deal - he did some Iran arms for Contra money deals. He’s that kind of a guy. And he works for the American. He is an adjunct or a member fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, which is a key institute. And I think even George Bush admitted that - proudly so, not admitted, he was happy that the American Enterprise Institute provided 25 or 30 people into this administration, very much a neo-conservative outfit, lots of big vision, lots of nice things about democracy and democracy promotion, that kind of thing.
But anyway, Ledeen is one of those guys. He was not, I don’t think, technically in the Office of Special Plans, but we saw him around, and he was a presence. And anyway, he’s - a lot of the things that these folks wrote outside the Pentagon reflected things that Bill Luti might say maybe in the heat of passion, very condemning of critics of anything that they were doing.
LAMB: In some of the writings that you’ve done, I notice that you connect the dots on all the different people and where they come from. I’m going to go down the list because it might be a good way for you just to give us a sense of who they were when you were in and around the Pentagon. David Schenker (ph).
KWIATKOWSKI: Dave Schenker (ph), yes. He was the political appointee, a category C political appointee who came in and replaced the civil service desk officer for Israel, Syria and Lebanon. And this sounds totally normal to anyone else except if you work in the Pentagon. Desk officers are rarely category C political appointees, and the reason is they have to work really, really hard and they don’t get any credit for what they do. So, it was unusual to have Dave Schenker (ph) as a political appointee replacing this particular individual who had spent, I don’t know, a total of I think seven or eight years, both as an active duty military officer and then as a retired officer civil servant, working Israel and Syrian-type issues.
But, in any case, Schenker’s (ph) a good guy, certainly a neo-conservative. He’s very, very pro-Israel, nothing wrong with that. But - and he worked extremely hard. I mean, the guy worked all the time. Worked on the weekends, worked late at night, just a totally dedicated guy, nice guy. But, characteristic of the way the agenda was made in the Pentagon, and one of the key ways that it was made, was by replacing key people with ideologues who didn’t need to be convinced, and certainly would pose no challenge to anything that needed to be put forth.
Now, having said that, the Israel/Syria/Lebanon desk was, as far as I can tell, not a key player in what we were doing in Iraq.
LAMB: But, you did suggest that a lot of people, or enough people so that your references came from the Washington Institute.
KWIATKOWSKI: Yes, Washington Institute for Near East Affairs, sure, yes. That’s another very pro-Israel think tank, which puts forth lots of papers on what Israel should do and what America should do as Israel’s ally. And a lot of the things that they advocate, as well as a number of other think tanks, is precisely what we ended up doing in 2003, and that is to destroy Iraq.
LAMB: But, if you get on their Web site and look at their advisory board, the names, almost all of them are recognizable. The Washington Institute for Near-East Policy, Warren Christopher, Larry Eagleburger, Alex Hague, Alexander Hague, Max Kempleman, Jean Kirkpatrick, Sam Lewis, Edward Luttwak, Robert McFarland, Marty Parris (ph), Richard Perle, James Roach, George Shultz, Paul Wolfowitz, Michael Mandelmaun (ph), James Woolsey and Mortimer Zuckerman.
KWIATKOWSKI: Yes, those - and those are just the top guys. If you go down to the next level, you’re going to see guys that I actually know who were assigned into the Pentagon doing political appointed type work on policy, yes. Yes, very influential. And really, if you want to study neo-conservatism, you’ve got quite a few key names there, as well as some folks that people would consider to be more traditional conservatives. But, I can tell you, I’ll tell you something about George Shultz, that - there was a fax that came into the office. It wasn’t for me. I happened to get it, and I looked at this fax. It was a short note from George Shultz, who was on - who at that time, I don’t know if he still is - but he was on the Defense Policy Board, along with Richard Perle. It was a fax, a copy of a fax that he had sent to Don Rumsfeld in June of 2002, June of 2002 I believe it was. It was the summer of 2002.
And on this fax, it was a short, one-note thing, from Shultz to Rummy. Basically, we have to get together and talk about what we do after the victory in Iraq, and this was in the summer of 2002, long before even the president and the vice president had begun their round of why we fight-type propaganda speeches.
LAMB: As you started seeing this, did you take notes?
KWIATKOWSKI: I took nothing. I didn’t take notes. I did not take anything really out of the Pentagon with me, certainly no classified. I did not do an Ellsworth-type thing with the Pentagon papers, nothing like that. I mean, it’s really unfortunate that I didn’t, but it never occurred to me. Again, 19 years, 20 years in the military, you’re kind of in a mode, and I didn’t even - it didn’t occur to me that I should do that. What I did do, though, out of my frustration is I wrote essays, short little essays initially for myself. This was started in August of 2002 when I realized that we were going to war and we were making up stories about why. It was really unstoppable, very frustrating. And I wrote little short essays for me, and then I sent them to some of my friends in the Pentagon, and they thought they were funny and interesting, and they were sardonic.
LAMB: Anonymous?
KWIATKOWSKI: Well, it was when I sent them to my friends, obviously they weren’t anonymous. And then, I did get those published later as I wrote them, for about seven months at - the deceased - recently deceased Colonel David Hackworth. He has a Web site called soldiersforthetruth.org. It’s still there, the Web site is, of course. And he agreed to publish these essays that I was writing pretty much on a weekly basis of what I saw this week in a kind of a dark humor kind of way. He agreed to publish them anonymously. Being in the military, he understood perfectly well.
LAMB: How did you contact him?
KWIATKOWSKI: E-mailed him. He has a Web site. I sent him an e-mail. I said, ”Hey.”
LAMB: Did you ever talk to him?
KWIATKOWSKI: I never talked to him, and I’m - and I regret it to this day, because he is a wonderfully - well, he passed away last year, and I never met him and I never spoke to him. Only - our only contact was in an e-mail, and you would think, and I thought this as well, I said, ”Why would he agree? He doesn’t even know me. He knows nothing about me. He sees these essays. Why would he think that they might be true? Why would he think that they might be useful,” suitable for his Web site? And I realized a few weeks later, and as I thought - I understood totally well - Hackworth was totally connected into the Pentagon. He was totally connected into the United States Military, both retired, active duty, contractor, you name it, Hackworth knew lots of people. And apparently, when Hackworth saw my essays, some written very humorously, in fact all most all of them were sardonic in style, kind of like laugh so you don’t cry kind of things, he must have seen the truth in there because he had heard it from so many other people about what was happening. And so, I believe that’s why he did that.
But yes, he agreed to publish them anonymously. Had I put my name on those things, they - there were jokes made and references that were in poor taste, I’m sure, made to members of the administration and my own bosses, politically appointed bosses, that, while - you know, if we were all men about it, it would just be good laughs - in fact would have got me in big, big trouble, and I mean most likely court-martialed because of the sensitivity level. It was extremely high. Loyalty - and we all know from the Bush Administration his most important criteria is loyalty, and I think this warped sense of loyalty, not to the Constitution of course, which is what we as military officers swear to uphold, the Constitution, all enemies foreign and domestic, you know, you’ve got to remember that, the loyalty is not to that. The loyalty is to the people and to the agenda, and I think it’s reflected again in the fact that a lot of the key people were appointed in, pre-coded, preloaded with this view that it is in America’s interest to destroy Iraq and to build bases there, OK, which is exactly what we have done.
LAMB: Let me ask you about some other names. Lieutenant Colonel Bill Bruner (ph).
KWIATKOWSKI: Yes, Bruner (ph), a colonel. He made colonel shortly after I got there. Yes, Bill Bruner (ph) was one of the - of two active duty Air Force colonels who worked up in the Office of Special Plans. The other one was Steve Jones (ph), I think. Colonel Bruner (ph) ...
LAMB: Is it Kevin Jones (ph)?
KWIATKOWSKI: ... Kevin Jones (ph), yes, OK, Kevin Jones (ph). Colonel Bruner (ph), nice guy, but he never wore his uniform, always wore civilian clothes. And I asked him once why because, in fact, for several weeks I thought he was a civilian, and then they said he’s having a promotion party. And I’m saying, well, why? Civilians don’t have promotion parties. And it turned out he was a colonel being promoted to 06 in the Air Force. And I asked him why he never wore his uniform. He said, ”Well, I have lots of meetings downtown, you know, I have to do a lot of meetings downtown.” And I was told not by him but by co-workers, ”Well, he’s Chalabi’s handler. He’s the guy that sets up all the meetings with Chalabi (ph).” So, when they talk about the sources of some of the things that the president was saying and OSP was putting in our own talking points that they were handing out for us to use, they did have sources. They just weren’t legitimate intelligence sources. They were people like Chalabi and Chalabi’s friends, and people that Chalabi brought in and Curveball, of course the whole infamous episode with Curveball and the bad info that that source had comes right through this same ...
LAMB: Chalabi is who?
KWIATKOWSKI: Achmed Chalabi. He was the - a favorite of the neo-conservatives. Initially in the early ’90s, Chalabi was seen as a possible leader of - a challenger to Saddam Hussein, a friend of the United States. But, he is really kind of a self-promoter in a lot of ways, and the CIA worked with him initially in the early ’90s, and they started checking out his stories and his contacts and the things he was doing, and it really - they discredited him. But, the neo-conservatives never did. He was their - in their embrace and brought back into high esteem, really, in the Bush Administration, at least early on.
LAMB: Colonel Bruner (ph) was also a military aide to Newt Gingrich?
KWIATKOWSKI: At one time he was, yes, prior to this, sure. And Newt Gingrich, of course, sits on the Defense Policy Board, as well.
LAMB: Michael Makovsky, recent MIT graduate, you referred in 2004. You said it was David Makovsky’s brother. Why is that important?
KWIATKOWSKI: Yes. Well, David was - I think David’s with one of these think tanks. I think the ...
LAMB: Washington Institute.
KWIATKOWSKI: ... The Washington Institute. There he goes, yes, and he had been a publisher of some things in Israel, as well. So, a media guy
LAMB: He’d been a former editor for Jerusalem Post.
KWIATKOWSKI: There you go. So, he’s a media guy with a particular pro-Israel agenda. Again, not a thing wrong with that except that’s not how we make American foreign policy, OK? that’s not how we make American defense policy. We don’t call up our allies and say, ”Well, what would you like us to do next?” We don’t do that, OK? it’s not done and, if we lean or slip into that practice, then it needs to be corrected. And so, that’s why these things stick in my mind. That’s why these things I think are - should concern people.
LAMB: John - I’m not sure how to pronounce it - Trigilio (ph)?
KWIATKOWSKI: Trigilio (ph), yes.
LAMB: Defense Intelligence Agency analyst?
KWIATKOWSKI: Yes, John’s (ph) story is interesting, just a low-level guy like me, a civil servant, GS-14 I think it was, also an Air Force reservist. He is actually the only trained intelligence person, in my view trained being military intelligence trained person, who worked in OSP, Office of Special Plans. He was on loan to Bill Luti in the year of 2001-2002. His time of going back to his own organization, which was the Defense Intelligence Agency, he was basically on a career enhancement program. They wanted him back. They offered him two jobs. One was in the basement of the Pentagon in J2, and that’s our intelligence arm down there, and the other was back at Bolling Air Force Base, which is DIA headquarters.
Neither one of those jobs would have had him working on Iraq, and Iraq was heating up. So, he asked Bill Luti if Luti would step in and find a place for him. And Luti did that and, as far as I know to this day, John Trigilio (ph) still works in Near East-South Asia policy. So, he really, during the time that OSP was really, really working hard, in the fall of 2002 and spring 2003, Trigilio (ph) was a trained intelligence person working for Bill Luti in whatever way that he could. And I had numerous conversations with John (ph) in the hallway, I think almost habitually, after one of the president’s speeches, or the vice president’s speeches, where I heard crazy things coming out of the president’s mouth about capabilities that Saddam purportedly had.
And I remember talking to John (ph) after one of these briefings the day after. I said, ”Who’s feeding?” I said, ”You guys ought to be worried.” I said, ”Who’s feeding the president this information, because you should be concerned. This is not intelligence.” And he argued with me for a while, and finally, to end the argument, or conversation, as you’d have it, he said, ”Look, Karen.” He said, ”We have sources that you don’t have access to.” And quite frankly, when he told me that in the fall of 2002, I believe him. He probably does. He has better sources, things that I’m not seeing at the secret level he’s seeing at the top-secret level. That’s fine. But see, the bad thing is, after it all comes out, who were his sources? Well, Curveball, friends of Achmed Chalabi, Achmed Chalabi himself, basically to a man previously proven unreliable, sources that the CIA and DIA had rejected, for the most part. I mean, until pressured to go back and pull these little reports that were known not to be good.
LAMB: Did you find yourself arguing at all among your officers?
KWIATKOWSKI: Well, I would say discussing, not arguing.
LAMB: I mean, could you - were you intimidated?
KWIATKOWSKI: Most people - no. I’m kind of hard to intimidate I think in some ways. But certainly, political discussions, discussions of what this means, officers and enlisted people and civilians and lots of people in the Pentagon, we care about national security. We talk about national security. All the people I work with have all gone to the Naval War Colleges and the Army service schools and the Air Force war - you know, all the - these schools. So, we are intellectually oriented. We are debate-oriented. We are talking about what this means. And I didn’t find a lot of huge defense for what we were doing, but the default position in the Pentagon, and this is what I think a lot of Americans who today would say, ”Well, why doesn’t the - why didn’t the Pentagon people do something? Why didn’t they stand up?” Well, look, we take orders, OK? Our job is to submit to civilian control. That’s how it’s designed, that’s how it works best, and that’s how a Republic operates.
LAMB: But, you did go around that by writing those articles.
KWIATKOWSKI: Yes, yes. I did for the audience, for the audience that was - David Hackworth’s audience, OK? Soldiers For The Truth, the audience is veterans, I think for the most part. It is some soldiers, some soldiers active duty, so there’s a sense there that, ”Well, here I am making jokes about what we’re doing at the highest levels of the Pentagon, and maybe soldiers are reading it.” Yes, that’s true. But, his audience I think in many ways was a very well educated audience in terms of national security, and also an interested audience, a self-selected audience. I mean, Soldiers For The Truth. If I say Drudge Report, everybody knows who I’m talking about. If I say, sftt.org, do we know? No, we don’t. This - it’s a niche audience, really.
LAMB: Tell me about your family. You have kids?
KWIATKOWSKI: Four children.
LAMB: How old are they?
KWIATKOWSKI: Youngest one’s 15 and the oldest will be 22 here soon.
LAMB: Do you ever discuss this at home with them?
KWIATKOWSKI: Of course. They know everything but, when they were younger, during the time - I have to tell you, here’s how it worked. I carpooled, so the decompression zone from the Pentagon to the house is in your carpool. So, my carpool buddies heard everything I’ve ever written and 10 times more crap.
LAMB: And where is - how far do you live from the Pentagon?
KWIATKOWSKI: About 25 minutes - well, on the way home 45 to 50 minutes, so that’s your decompression zone. That’s when everyone tells their war stories from the day. And lots and lots of discussions there. My carpool buddies understood. And I’ll tell you, that’s really where you get an objective sense, because my carpool buddies, I had - I carpooled with two other colonels and a civilian who worked in missile defense - these guys didn’t see any of this intelligence, and they were much as I would have been had I never worked in Near East-South Asia. Their assessment was the president must know what he’s doing. Iraq, ”Certainly we’ve engaged with them before. Certainly they’re a problem. What are you saying, that they’re not a problem? We’ve been - you know, we’ve enforced these no-fly zones. They’ve been a problem for years. What do you mean they’re not a problem? We should solve it. We should finish it,” that kind of thing.
So, very much the attitude that, no matter why we’re doing it, whether it’s based on truth or lies or neo-conservative visions for the world or something else, it’s a good thing to do anyway. And I think that reflects how a lot of people in the Pentagon felt, and even to this day there are a lot of people that say, ”Well, it doesn’t really matter why we got there. It’s good that Saddam Hussein is gone.” I think that’s usually what people say. ”Well, aren’t you happy that Saddam Hussein is gone?” And it’s like as if that’s the American national security interest, you know, that we care about who runs other countries. I think we cared about who ran that country.
LAMB: What’s your husband do?
KWIATKOWSKI: He’s a farmer and an engineer by training, and a farmer. That’s what we do now. We live out in Shenandoah County and farm.
LAMB: We’re going to show you cut six from this movie, which shows a little bit of your farm, and you doing some farming.
KWIATKOWSKI: Oh.
(BEGIN VIDEO)
KWIATKOWSKI: You’ve got to realize, 20 years in the military, you’re trained always to respect authority, to be a team player. When the war started in Iraq, I hit a turning point in where my values as an officer diverged. I had to basically remove myself.
So, why we fight. I think we fight because too many people are not standing up saying, ”I’m not doing this anymore.”
(END VIDEO)
LAMB: The name of the move is ”Why We Fight.” Did you get any feedback since this movie’s been running in the theaters?
KWIATKOWSKI: Lots of feedback. People are looking up my e-mail address on the Internet and sending me e-mails saying they’re really moved by it. But of course, it’s - again, the people that are watching ”Why We Fight” right now are people that are connected in some way to the documentary world and connected in some serious way, interested in a serious way, in our foreign policy. That’s not everyone in this country, OK? We could never go to a number of wars that we’ve gone to if Americans were totally engaged with what goes on in Washington, and most of them are not. But, there has been - the last word that I got from a viewer was that they went to this movie, and it was standing room only, and that’s very different than it was when it first opened.
When it first opened I guess several months ago, I did get an e-mail from one person. They said, ”Oh, it’s a wonderful movie. I loved it. I really enjoyed this. I learned a lot, but there was no one else there. It was me and five other guys,” you know. The e-mail I got just recently was, ”I went to this movie, it was right around the corner, and it was standing room only. I brought my kids and I had to hold one in my lap because there was no seat.” So, that’s a little different, and if people are interested in becoming educated, I think ”Why We Fight” is a good way to start. I don’t think it’s a politically oriented movie, and I really - I have to say this - I think it’s wonderful in the way that it recognizes Dwight D. Eisenhower in some of the things that he said, particularly towards the end of his term, and that’s important for us to think back on.
LAMB: There is a clip - now, this is cut number three that I want to show you because Bill Kristol brings up something about where this all started.
(BEGIN VIDEO)
KRISTOL: Saddam Hussein, here’s the man. Here he is in his box. I wouldn’t exaggerate the influence of the project, the New American Century. It’s a very small think tank. But, in some respects, we argued for I suppose you might say elements of the Bush Doctrine before the Bush Doctrine existed, or before George W. Bush became president.
(END VIDEO)
LAMB: How important was the document that they wrote in 1998, New American Century?
KWIATKOWSKI: Yes, partly. They wrote a document called, ”Rebuilding America’s Defenses,” and I had seen it before just because it’s a document that’s something that we would see, because it’s about views of a post-Cold War world and what we should do. This is the kind of thing that people in the Pentagon think about. Didn’t think much of it until I saw the president’s national security strategy, his very first one that George Bush put out. Of course, we do read that, and it’s on the Web site, White House Web site. And when I read it, not just me but lots of people saw almost word-for-word lifting of phrases and ideas and concepts from the Project for a New American Century’s previous document, ”Rebuilding America’s Defenses,” which is - sounds a very benign name, ”Rebuilding America’s Defenses.” That’s fine.
But, what it calls for is very much what George Bush has more overtly called for, which is America at the top of the world, a unilateral approach and that kind of thing. Very, very similar. I think that Bill Kristol underestimates modestly the - he’s a very modest man, and so he is not going to give the project for New American Century too much, but you can find it in the words, and you can also find it in the members. The Project for New American Century brought many, many key leaders and key political appointees, people that were working on the Project for New American Century moved seamlessly into government, and that starts with Dick Cheney.
LAMB: Gene Jarecki, who directed this movie, has a - we’re going to use a long two-minute clip here, where it involves you and Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney and all, kind of wraps up the whole feeling around this war.
(BEGIN VIDEO)
KWIATKOWSKI: The Office of Special Plans had one primary job, and that was to produce a set of talking points on the topic of Iraq, WMD and terrorism, and we were to use them in any document that we prepared exactly as they were written in their entirety. We were - all of us, myself included, very familiar with what the intelligence was saying about Iraq. But, the problem was, when you look at what was in these talking points, you could tell it was designed to convince the reader that Iraq and Saddam Hussein specifically constituted a major serious, terrible, evil threat to not just his neighbors but to the United States.
RUMSFELD: His regime has the design for a nuclear weapon, was working on several different methods of enriching uranium, and recently was discovered seeking significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
KWIATKOWSKI: And that would be the statement. He’s actively seeking it, and this is - this means that he’s a danger. But, the intelligence actually said that Saddam Hussein in the ’80s, in the late ’80s, actively sought fissionable materials in Africa, but he hasn’t done anything like that in the past 12 years. The statement, we act like he did it yesterday, taking bits of intelligence out of context without the qualifiers, without the rest of the story, and placing it as a bullet and presenting it as if it’s a factoid.
CHENEY: There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.
KWIATKOWSKI: And this was given to us, action officers, to use in papers that we would prepare for our higher-ups, to include guys like Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld.
RUMSFELD: The United States knows that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. The UK knows that they have weapons of mass destruction. Any country on the face of the earth with an active intelligence program knows that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.
(END VIDEO)
KWIATKOWSKI: These guys were manipulating public opinion, OK, creating falsehoods and fantasies to inspire fear in the American people so that they could have their war.
LAMB: What, in your opinion, is the motivator for all these people you’re talking about?
KWIATKOWSKI: Oh, there’s a couple different levels, but I think, for guys like Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, a lot of the neo-conservatives, even George W. Bush and certainly Cheney, the vision is that we are not really a republic anymore. We’re certainly not a limited state. We are the world’s most important and all-powerful state, and that we have certain rights. Yes, we have certain responsibilities, but I think the rights are what drive them. And those rights include the right to do what we want, to get what we need, to have what we want to have. I think that’s what it is and, you know, we’ve built very massive mega-bases, permanent. These are permanent military bases in Iraq. We’ve done that in other places, as well, in the Middle East, but certainly these - this construction project in Iraq, in fact most of the money has been for military construction of - for our use. I think that’s a big part of it, shifting our footprint.
And certainly, even long before George W. Bush, the Pentagon has been interested in, from a global perspective, shifting and reshaping our global military footprint, and Mesopotamia is just absolutely, you know, wonderful. It is the most strategic location. I don’t care if you’re talking about water, trade routes, oil, our neighbors, our friends, people that may be threats in the future that we want to leverage. Iraq is perfect for all those things. And so, from their perspective, from the neo-conservative perspective, there is this geo-political reshaping that needs to go on, and Iraq is part of that. And so, we make the decision and we do the thing, and we did the thing. And we’ve built the bases, and we’re not leaving Iraq for the - you know, for all that.
Now, there is the kind of universal value-driven issue with the neo-conservatives about global democracy and that everyone has a right to self-government, but that to me seems very, very superficial because, certainly, you look at our allies, and of course this has been brought up numerous times. But, I mean, the friends that we have are those that do what we say, and if they’re Saudis or if they’re guys like Musharraf, who conducted a military coup, or other people that are less than savory and they’re not Democrats, that’s OK if they do what we need to do.
LAMB: More than once you mentioned Dwight Eisenhower. Here’s 18 seconds of this speech he gave January 17, 1961, his farewell address. It’s quoted often. Here’s President Eisenhower.
(BEGIN VIDEO)
EISENHOWER: In the counsels of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.
(END VIDEO)
LAMB: Does this worry you today? And what aspects of it worry you?
KWIATKOWSKI: Well, the orientation of our economy. If you think about a lot of jobs going offshore and different shifting. You know, we’re more service-based. There’s one big industry that we still produce a lot of, and that is our defense industry, and we still do very, very well at that. We don’t outsource too many of our defense manufacturing jobs. We may outsource every other manufacturing jobs, but defense will be the last to go. So, what happens is, in a democracy, Congress needs to get re-elected, and they have constituents, and those constituents need jobs, and our shifting towards this has given a militaristic foreign policy and a pro-military. I don’t really call it pro-defense because it doesn’t really mean much about defense. It’s offense, in most cases.
But, this emphasis, this need, it’s kind of connected. It’s like you said, it’s the military industrial, and he wanted to say Congressional complex, because there’s kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, in a way. I mean, we need the jobs. Those jobs happen to be producing military weapons. In order to justify that, we have to have a use for those military weapons. Now, this sounds very simplistic and, oh, it really can’t be this way, and maybe it’s not this way. But, what’s weird and what’s strange and compelling is that Eisenhower said what he said in 1961, so he must have seen something as - from his perspective that said this was going to happen, this was a possibility. And I think it’s come true, just as he predicted.
LAMB: Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Air Force for how many years when it was all over?
KWIATKOWSKI: Twenty years.
LAMB: How much speaking do you do now?
KWIATKOWSKI: Actually, very little. I teach part-time, so I’m kind of - I still have kids at home. I don’t speak out very much. I do write. I write essays occasionally.
LAMB: And how - I mean, are you angry about all this? Are you - how do you approach it?
KWIATKOWSKI: I’m actually - well, yes, I’m angry, as a normal citizen would be. I’m frustrated because the worst things that I thought might happen did happen, in terms of Iraq and the conduct of our foreign policy. In fact, right now we’re talking about doing something similar, I guess in some way, to Iran from our bases in Iraq, using that forward capability. So, it’s very concerning to me that I couldn’t stop anything, that whatever I did, the small amount that I did meant nothing. It really - truly I think that it did. It stopped nothing. I think the juggernaut is in full sail, and I’m not sure how it can be controlled, and that bothers me a great deal.
LAMB: One last question. Where’s the name Kwiatkowski from?
KWIATKOWSKI: It’s a Polish name, from my husband.
LAMB: What was your maiden name?
KWIATKOWSKI: Unger. Unger. U-N-G-E-R, Unger. Proud of it.
LAMB: Karen Kwiatkowski, we’re out of time. Thank you very much.
KWIATKOWSKI: OK. Well, thanks for having me.
END



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