The big story on Fox News last night was Karen Kwiatkowski, the Pentagon whistleblower who wrote this exclusive insider's account in Salon about how the administration manufactured its case for war in Iraq. From the transcript, it's clear Kwiatkowski doesn't change the mind of "The Big Story" host John Gibson, who goes on to call Kwiatkowski an anarchist and sympathizes with the counterpoint guest, an RNC spokesman who has zero inside information about the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans but joins us to provide political cover for the administration. What is the GOP to do "when people like that are talking and scoring points with people in the public," Gibson wonders?
You know Gibson's desperate when he belittles valid concerns about Iraqi exile Ahmed Chalabi's role in the march to war by saying Kwiatkowski "saw Chalabi around the office, didn't like him and thought he was a punk."
Fox doesn't have the transcript on its Web site, so we pulled it from Nexis. For sake of space, we trimmed just a bit:
KWIATKOWSKI: My concern is that George Tenet is absolutely correct. The facts that he had were not even used. The facts that were used to make up the propaganda, the content of the presidential speeches in the fall of 2002, much of that information was never produced by the CIA. It was information from other sources.
GIBSON: Well, right. But why do you call it propaganda? I mean, people who are elected to make decisions about the safety of the nation have to make a prudent decision based on the information they see. Why would you characterize the information they see and what they say about their decisions as propaganda instead of prudent decisions? What do you know?
KWIATKOWSKI: Yes. Well, prudence does not enter into the things that were said in the fall of 2002 to the Congress and to the American people. That was very imprudent as we know now, as the president has had to backtrack on many of those things. So, prudence doesn't enter it.
GIBSON: Wait a minute, are you saying that war was such a grave error that today Saddam Hussein should still be running Iraq?
KWIATKOWSKI: I like how you put that question.
GIBSON: Well, what's the answer?
KWIATKOWSKI: I'm no fan of Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein should not be running Iraq but the Iraqi people should be the ones that make that decision not ...
GIBSON: But Ms. Kwiatkowski, what you seem to be saying is, yes, I want it both ways, I want Saddam Hussein gone but I want to criticize the president for doing it because I don't like the reasons he cited for doing it.
KWIATKOWSKI: You know what? I don't like the lies that are being called reasons. Ok? There are some very valid reasons for this country to have gone in and toppled Saddam Hussein. None of those reasons were presented by the president or the vice president ...
GIBSON: Tell me what you think were good reasons.
KWIATKOWSKI: There are good reasons that some people may or may not agree with, and one of them is to change our geo-strategic military footprint in the Middle East, to reduce our dependency on bases that we currently have in Saudi Arabia.
GIBSON: Rights, but as a political military analyst, would you guess that would have convinced the world that that was a good reason for war?
KWIATKOWSKI: To me, it's irrelevant if it convinced the world. Like the president says, this country doesn't need to convince the world to go and do something in its own interests
GIBSON: I don't understand why you're criticizing the president for acting on information he saw, characterizing that information as lies and at the same time you're saying you agree what he did.
KWIATKOWSKI: Frankly, I don't agree with him going into Iraq and toppling Saddam Hussein when he did based on lies. The fact that Saddam Hussein may have needed to have been toppled at some point by his own people. This is something the United states could have supported in any number of ways, but he chose not to. He chose to put in a force and he based it on false information, most of which he's already identified as being false information.
GIBSON: What was false? Was it false that Saddam Hussein was murdering his own people? Was it false ...
KWIATKOWSKI: Him and 50 other guys, half of which are our allies. Yes. How about this question? How about this question? Mushroom clouds over St. Louis? Do you think that's reasonable? That is not reasonable and that's not what the intelligence community gave him.
GIBSON: You know, Ms. Kwiatkowski, I've gone over the State of the Union address and the address to the United Nations and so forth. I didn't see anything about mushroom clouds over St. Louis.
KWIATKOWSKI: Did you look at the October 11 Cincinnati speech ...
GIBSON: Let me ask you, you are criticizing the president for going to war and it appears as a lieutenant -- a lieutenant colonel, you are claiming you saw all of the information the president had and can make a judgment about whether he made the right decision on that information or not. How do you know this?
KWIATKOWSKI: I'll tell you what. I'm a citizen of the United States. Ahmed Chalabi, I saw him in the office, he was a key source of information. He has admitted as much. He has said if his information was wrong, it doesn't matter. Well, you know what, we have 130,000 troops in Iraq. It does matter. OK, false pretenses, it matters. The president has made a grave error and he owes it to the American people to fully explain what he's doing.
GIBSON: Retired US Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski. Thanks.
GIBSON: For another perspective, Cliff May is a former communications director for the Republican National Committee. Cliff, today's big question, well, what do you have to say?
CLIFFORD MAY, FMR RNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Let me tell you a dirty secret of Washington, John, that you probably know. In any administration, there are people in the bureaucracies, in the State Department, in the Defense Department, who disagree with the policies of the president. Now, sometimes they manage to hang up their politics on the door as they walk in. Sometimes they resign and sometimes they do what she did which is to write anonymous articles and make an effort to undermine the administration for which she was working. And I'm afraid that's what she did. And she wrote for some very, and does, radical associations from Lyndon LaRouche, to Lincoln (ph) Rockwell to Guerrilla News Network, where she was guerrilla of the year, to Liberation News Service, to DangerousCitizen.com.
GIBSON: That's the guest I just had on?
MAY: Yes, that is the guest. Let me read something she said. She knew what she was doing was wrong, I think. She wrote the following -- "Hardcore anarchists and other purists might criticize me for not just throwing a few grenades over the office dividers and letting the chips fall where they may, but by this time I had already submitted my retirement request and I wanted to spend the money, not time in Leavenworth." She also said, John, that some American government policies makes consideration of anarchism or violent revolution attractive. Incremental change may not be possible. Again, I ...
GIBSON: But Cliff, what do you do when you have people like her out there saying the president lied about why we went to war, I saw everything the president saw, I'm telling you it was a lie. I saw Ahmed Chalabi around the office. I didn't like him. I thought he was a punk, and he lied. What do you do when people like that are talking and scoring points with people in the public?
MAY: Boy, that's a good question. I'm not sure I have a very good answer.
GIBSON: You have to have, Cliff, because she's doing it.
MAY: I know she is. I think you're right. I think that people in the administration, not just me, need to say this sort of talk at a time when we're at war is really a very bad idea. And these people are saying things that are simply not true. As you point out, we have numerous intelligence agencies. We have a lot of information that goes to the president. And by the way, people need to understand that intelligence is not a clear picture. It's an inkblot test.
GIBSON: But is this an example -- is that woman we just had on, the anarchist, as you describe, is this an example of those people who did not agree with the intelligence assessment and who formed the consensus in the CIA that Iraq wasn't as bad as the vice president, the president, the secretary of defense thought it were? Is that who was saying, no, no, we're not going to give you permission to go to war on these reasons because we won't form a consensus that these reasons are right.
MAY: That's not really their job. The job of the intelligence ...
GIBSON: But that's it, isn't it?
MAY: What they are supposed to do -- what is supposed to happen is you're supposed to gather intelligence, analyze intelligence by a different group of people, and then make policy based on it. We have a lot of it right now for a very specific reason, and that is after 9/11, this president set a lot of policies that we pursued in the past haven't really worked. And that's why 9/11 happened, we need to change our policies. That means that everybody who helped form those earlier policies had an investment in them and was very reluctant to see any kinds of changes. There are people in the administration, I'm sorry to say, and I've heard this -- who say, look, the White House, if that is the Christmas help -- if we just wait a while, it'll be gone and we can continue to do what we've always done so well.
GIBSON: Clifford May, president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Cliff, thanks a lot, appreciate it.