Transfixing Power of Image - Karen Kwiatkowski
this article was posted on May 12, 2004, Karen Kwiatkowski has become
the target of a smear campaign that includes hit pieces published
by the American Enterprise Institute and the National Review Online.
She has also been subject to "blatantly false" accusations
by Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona. Kwiatkowski's response is
the Arab man is forced to masturbate, his Pfc. dominatrix bids
us to watch. Don’t take my word for it. There are images
everywhere online, in print, and on TV of military abuse American-style — death
in shrink wrap, prisoners on leashes, bleeding wounds and scars.
what a grand distraction it is. Just when George W. Bush was nearly
cornered by Congress with a $700 million scandal that would have
potentially sunk his reelection — if not impeached him — we
are awed by the power of image.
Abu Ghraib prison scandal is a media feeding frenzy,” Karen
Kwiatkowski says. “It’s dominating the news. It's dominating
Congress. What happened is a terrible thing…an awful thing.
It was also VERY predictable.”
An old women ridden like a donkey by soldiers? US military gang
bangs? Why would Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski say these vile acts
two decades in the US Air Force, Kwiatkowski was
working as a desk officer at the Defense department in the spring
of 2002. That’s when she received an education in propaganda
and the art of misdirection. Kwiatkowski watched in disgust as
the Neoconservative wing of the Bush administration, including
her superiors at the Pentagon Planning Department, ignored internal
dissent, disregarded its own intelligence and arrogantly pushed
for a war with Iraq. Kwiatkowski calls it a "Neoconservative
coup, a hijacking of the Pentagon."
Abu Ghraib? It’s just part of the pattern of the military
adventure Neocons call “The War on Terror.”
Ghraib is not a surprise,” Kwiatkowski tells me on Weekly
Signals, a KUCI radio show I co-host with Mike Kaspar. “This
is not a case of ‘oh my god I can’t believe Abu Ghraib
has prisoners that were being mistreated by American guards.’ That’s
not a surprise at all. It is symptomatic of the overall brutality
of this occupation.”
you’re outraged by outrage or just simply outraged, that
occupation has turned into a Lynchian nightmare where images of
coffins are trumped by images of prison abuse which, in turn, are
trumped by images of beheading.
says. “But think about the news that just went off the radar
because this came up. The Pentagon had illegally spent over $700
million in preparing for the Iraq war when Congress had never authorized
it. That’s an impeachable offense. That’s the kind of
offense that gets presidents, vice-presidents and secretarys of
week ago, this was front page news. Congress was getting ready to
dig into it. Then suddenly from Abu Ghraib we have photographs.”
not to take anything away from the excellent reporting of Seymour
Hersh and others who helped to break the prison scandal. It
does, however, point out how the image can overwhelm the word.
an important subject for the news media to tackle,” Kwiatkowski
says.”But I think it’s more important for the media
to look at what story was displaced. What it displaced was an actual
crime committed by this administration that could get people impeached.
And that went off the radar.”
story that went off the radar was launched by Bob Woodward in his
of Attack. According to Woodward the President shortchanged
anti-terror operations against al-Queda by $700 million in July
2002. Where did the money go? With no authorization from Congress,
Bush and the Neocons clandestinely began to finance the invasion
of Iraq. The President apparently diverted funds to fight terrorism
from one of the two supplemental spending bills passed after September
11 and left lawmakers "totally in the dark."
is the kind of thing where people get caught,” Kwiatkowski
says about the diversion of funds. “The Bush administration
was extremely worried about it. I think they still are. There’s
paper work and a trail of accountability. Congress takes a special
pride in its ability to make law. When a law and the intent of Congress
is violated they take that personally. They get angry. There was
some righteous anger that was developing on this particular story.”
there was. As Eric Alterman put it in The
Nation on April 22, "The United States Constitution is
meaningless to these people: The Bush Administration decided to
lay out $700 million on a 'massive, covert public works program'
in Kuwait in 2002, even though, as Woodward aptly notes, they did
not inform Congress. This is a violation of Article 1, Section
9, Clause 7 of the Constitution, which vests the power of the purse
in Congress, along with various statutes that bar the executive
from unilaterally moving money out of areas explicitly mandated
by spending bills. It is, moreover, an explicit violation of the
post-9/11 emergency supplemental bill, which gave the President
discretion to direct the $40 billion it appropriated but specifically
required him to 'consult with the chairmen and ranking minority
members of the Committees on Appropriations prior to the transfer'
of any funds. There is no evidence of any such consultation, and
indeed the White House is not claiming any exists."
appropriations stuff is sure boring. Now, instead, we have Iraq
prison porn to watch. Bush calls it “cruel and disgraceful
abuse.” He is "deeply disgusted” by this “affront
to the most basic standards of morality and decency.” Yeah,
it got my attention, too. Like many others, I read about it months
said the administration knew that some of this abuse was going on,” Kwiatkowski
says. “The Abu Ghraib story had been out there since the fall.
We had already done an Army investigation. Taguba’s
report was preceded by several other reports and Article 32
hearings in December and October. The Red Cross, the international
media and al Jazeera were all talking about it. But somehow
it’s not news in America until the administration decides
that it’s news in America.”
when it became news, it couldn’t have happened at a better
time for Bush. With images of POW abuse in the headlines, the $700
million scandal disappeared from the front page.
misdoings and misdeeds are sometimes hard to follow,” Kwiatkowski
says. “It’s much easier to be concerned about the kinds
of things that we’re seeing in the news today.
not going so far as to say that the Neocons planned the release
of these photos, but what I’m saying is that they can be beneficial
to the administration. They’re going to make the most of it.
If this keeps Congress from looking at the true illegalities of
this administration and instead focuses their attention on blaming
a bunch of idiot soldiers for a prison scandal — who are going
to, in turn, blame their abuses on lack of training — then
this could work out great for the administration.”
except for Donald Rumsfeld, right? He’s a goner for sure.
will hold his job,” Kwiatkowski says. “The Bush administration’s
best bet is to hope that the 50% of the American population who
don’t care will simply be happy that the President is ‘standing
firm.’ The more we focus on the faces of those people who
committed the prison abuses, the more the attention is off of the
real criminals… like Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld and Cheney and
— Nathan Callahan,
May 12, 2004