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"Asking The Right Questions About Darfur, Sudan" Part III, Exclusive Q & A With Karen Kwiatkowski, Lt. Col. United States Air Force (ret.)

Col. Karen Kwiatkowski created shockwaves late last year and earlier this year when she gave an insider's perspective and exposed what has been characterized as the neoconservatives' "privatization of policy" at the Pentagon.

Before retiring Col. Kwiatkowski's final assignment was as a political-military affairs officer in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Under Secretary for Policy, in the Sub-Saharan Africa and Near East South Asia (NESA) Policy directorates.

Two weeks ago, Ms. Kwiatkowski again made headlines when she began to think out loud about the role of Sudan in United States foreign policy and the country's value to oil interests. In her article, "Why Sudan?" Karen Kwiatkowski offers a snapshot of possible ideological motivations and geopolitical consequences surrounding the crisis in Darfur.

As part of's special series, "Asking The Right Questions About Darfur, Sudan", the retired US Air Force, Lieutenant Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, granted Publisher Cedric Muhammad an exclusive interview regarding her inside perspective on the impact of neoconservatives and their potential designs and interests on Africa and Sudan.

Karen Kwiatkowski's commentaries are archived at


Cedric Muhammad:What, in essence is the neoconservative agenda of foreign policy, and the role that America plays in fulfilling the vision that guides and shapes that agenda?

Karen Kwiatkowski: Neo-conservatism is a globally oriented and idealistic perspective on
foreign policy that sees America as the righteous and pre-eminent force
in international politics. Not just a player, but the only important
player. Neoconservatives deprived of American's strong globally
oriented military would just be a minority view on foreign policy that
many would understand clearly to be part of the Cold War: outdated and
force-oriented in a world more driven by trade, self-determination, and
real desires for self-rule not just a bland and meaningless concept of
"democracy." Neoconservatives are inspired by utilitarian ethics, where
the ends justify the means. The ends, for neoconservatives include
western style democracy in every country, implemented by force if
current [selected] governments don't fit the neoconservative worldview.

Obviously -- neo-conservatism contains the same elements of hypocrisy as
anti-communism did during the Cold War. Then, we backed dictators and
human rights abusers contrary to American values in order to promote a
"higher good" of anti-communism. Our reluctance to criticism South
Africa's apartheid government reflected our 20th century anti-communist
values, and in doing so rejected both 17th century constitutional and
modern civil rights oriented American values. Today, neoconservatives
embrace Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, as well as human rights abusers in
China and Israel, because it serves a larger purpose. In a sense this
is simply old time Machiavellian realism, dressed up in a "desire" for
global democracy. Given that Iraq was not granted democracy after we
ousted Saddam, the realism (interests over values) factor in
neo-conservatism has trumped its purported idealism.

I recommend that people read Irving Kristol's own explanation for the
philosophy here:

Cedric Muhammad: Do you see the war in Iraq as an event driven by oil or one driven by
an idea that the Middle East needs to be remade?

Karen Kwiatkowski: It is driven by both. A desire to reshape the Middle East is imperative
to neoconservatives only because we are so dependent on the region --
for oil, and for the security of Israel, something we are committed to
preserving with our own policies and our own military. Without Israel's
security crisis (today largely brought on by its own policies and
practices) and our dependency on Middle Eastern oil and gas, you would
have America speaking of the Middle East as we speak of much of Africa
or parts of Asia. We'd say "Wouldn't it be nice if the countries there
had democracy, good governments, economic growth and good health" but we
would not occupy militarily those countries, topple their leadership,
and destroy what self-determined order they were developing in their
societies. We might help in other ways, and we might not. The problem
with neo-conservatism as a philosophy is that it fails to understand or
even recognize the power of humanity, history and sociology -- instead
it blindly believes that order may be permanently imposed from outside,
that democracy and freedom can be mandated, and that people cannot
actually be trusted with their own resources. Observers will note that
we kept Iraqi state control of the oil industry because we wish to
maintain control over the state/and its oil, for our interests, not
necessarily those of the Iraqis. We do not trust the Iraqis with their
biggest value asset, and this lack of trust in real democracy, real
self-determination reflects the elitism of national interests that is
another key to understanding neo-conservatism, and why it is applied
first and foremost to the Middle East.

Cedric Muhammad: How was U.S. foreign policy privatized at the Pentagon and who were
the major player(s) involved - individuals and private institutions?

Karen Kwiatkowski: I have written at length on this, as have many others. My Salon article
gives my take on it.

The major players involved in America's foreign policy in the Middle
East specifically are the members of the Project for a New American
Century, ( and the American Enterprise
Institute ( These advocacy groups are complimented by the extreme
alliance of the bulk of the Conrgess, both parties equally, who are
beholden to the very powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee
(AIPAC) (see Neoconservative organizations as well as
pro-Likud Israeli lobbyists have long advocated what George W. Bush has
actually done -- invasion of Iraq, proposed invasion and manipulation of
Syria and Iran, still being worked even after the disastrous Iraq
experience, and aggressive handling of all countries (allies and non
allies) who oppose our (and Israel's) foreign policies. In the Pentagon,
the ideologues like Doug Feith, Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz push
for an academic style neoconservative reshaping of the Middle East, but
the fundamental support for their aggressive and expensive program comes
from business interests as shaped by guys like Cheney, James Baker III,
Rumsfeld, the CEOs of Enron and Worldcom, as an example. Think about
Iraq in 2002/3. Saddam had in November 2000 changed his oil exports
from the dollar to the Euro, and the whole world was not only tiring of
the expensive sanctions on Iraq, The UN inspectors were ready to concede
(and had already conceded) that Saddam had cooperated with the disarming
and the inspections regime. Only the US and UK insisted that he "wasn't
cooperating." France, Russia, China (the rest of the UNSC) was already
greasing the trade and development skids in anticipation of a lifting of
sanctions -- yet if sanctions were lifted under Saddam's rule, no US or
UK companies would get a single oil or any other contract, except for
the odd small one. Once we toppled Saddam and replaced his bureaucracy
with our own, we changed the oil sales back to the dollar (May 2003) and
the US government now authorizes all the contracts, and grants them to
US and UK (and other coalition of the willing members) at USG
discretion. While the American taxpayer subsidizes the war and
occupation of Iraq, major US firms get no-competition or low competition
contracts worth billions. This is not free trade or democracy, but it
is democratic corporatism, something that apparently substitutes for a
constitutional Republic these days.

The Invasion of Afghanistan follows even more obvious gas/oil pipeline
negotiation failures between American companies and the Taliban -- and
the invasion plans for Afghanistan were drafted and updated in the summer
before 9-11, based on other national interests. Our bases in
Afghanistan track perfectly with the path of the trans Afghanistan gas
pipeline, and will provide tax funded security for American oil
interests. It wouldn't be so bad or so insulting to the average
American if the government didn't use the cover of democracy and
liberation and fighting terrorism.

Cedric Muhammad: Are the neoconservatives, to your knowledge, concerned about what has
been called the growing "Islamicization of Africa"?

Karen Kwiatkowski: Yes they are. Neoconservatives (both those who come to the philosophy
from a pro-Israel and global socialism perspective and those who come to
it from a Christian right perspective) have long identified Islam as
part of the problem. Clearly, the Islamic influences that worry them
are radical, anti-American Wabbahist Sunni Islam (in Africa most Islamic
schools are Saudi funded Wabbahist, not Shia), but most Americans tend
to lump it all together. In terms of Iraq, Shia Islam (Moqtada al Sadr,
for example) is seen as a threat to Americans there, and in Afghanistan
and globally, it is more Sunni inspired "bin Ladin" Islam. It becomes
easy to set up the whole of Islam as the enemy, and frankly that is part
of the strategy, I am afraid. The real issues across the Middle East of
poverty, poor governance, lack of freedom in the domestic economies and
in education, are not addressed, because frankly we trade with those
lousy governments, and arm them, and it isn't in the American elite's
interest to encourage the kind of unpredictable change and political
evolution that will bring in real democracy and self governance to many
of these middle eastern countries. Beyond that, the everyday Israeli
apartheid policies towards the Palestinians is shoved in the face of
every Arab, of all religious persuasions, and it is beyond unjust -- it
is seen as a daily crime against millions of people that the US actively
and tacitly supports. Americans don't understand the basic religious or
Israeli-Palestinian issues, and they do not pay attention to the reality
of American foreign policy. Neoconservatives seem quite happy with this
blurring of focus. Islam presents a challenge to neoconservatives in
part because it offers an alternative working social system to what they
advocate (secular democracy, a-historical modernism, big government
globalism, and ethical relativism disguised as love of democracy).

Cedric Muhammad: In what ways would the neoconservative view of Sudan be similar to
their view of Iraq?

Karen Kwiatkowski: The neoconservative view would be "This is an anti-American government
with oil we ought to control or manage. It should be dealt with
militarily and with Americans on the ground, in the interests of
American prosperity and because we can." In the end, the people of Sudan
might be "liberated" and "democratized." More likely, we'd enter the
country, gain a military base or two, safe behind barricades and high
tech surveillance, while all around civil war would ensure, and if you
can imagine it, increased suffering for the poor in Sudan, both in the
Islamic north and the Christian and animist South.

Cedric Muhammad: Is there a feeling among any Zionist-neoconservatives that Sudan is a
threat to Israel or the vision of a remodeled Middle East? Are any
other African nations viewed this way?

Karen Kwiatkowski: It seems as if any Islamic oriented state is seen as a threat to Israel,
as are many European Christian states like France and Germany, and many
peace oriented states like some of the Scandinavian countries. States
like Russia who have the capability at some future date to leverage
Israel's policies, are also a threat. To understand Likud politics in
particular is to understand a national siege mentality. All states may
be seen as enemies of Israel, at least by the Likud party
interpretation. Islamic governed states in the region are simply first
in line and most convenient to name as "threats." Obviously, Israel is
capable of behaving maturely with Islamic oriented and secular states
like Turkey and Morocco, and even non-secular Iran with whom they have
worked in the past. Nigeria (because of oil, corruption, and a rapidly
growing Islamic population) might be included here as a state that
Israel can deal with while not naming it a threat. Sudan border states
Uganda and Chad may fall into this category, and in fact these states'
own interests may be an influential factor in the neoconservative and
Christian right support for interference with Sudan's government.

Cedric Muhammad: How do you see what is happening in Darfur, as it relates to oil
interests in Africa and the peace process underway in the Sudan?

Karen Kwiatkowski: I am not an expert in the process of the civil war and haven't tracked
closely the various peace efforts in the past. Generally civil wars
break out over not social injustice or religious injustice alone, but
when those conditions are simultaneously matched by economic/resource
injustice. The American civil war was inflamed by religious and social
issues, particularly slavery -- but the reasons for organized secession
(and the North's military response to it) were tariff and resource
disadvantages presented to southern business/political leaders by the
northern business/political leaders. Generally, civil wars need both
angry people and angry elites -- and often they are angry about totally
different things. I think the ebbs and flows in the peace process in
Sudan relate to perceived interests (the militarily powerful north) and
the south's ability to disrupt or impact those interests. Southern
Sudan is about government funded oil extraction facilities and
pipelines, and rebel attacks on the same. It is far more difficult to have
a national reconciliation, to really agree to cohabit and share
governing power, share resources, than it is to simply keep the war
going. The length of the civil war in Sudan and its tactics, including
outside aid provided to both sides, and the terrible poverty that
results for the people in the whole country is reminiscent of the almost
30 year Dos Santos-Savimbi rivalry in Angola. In Angola, the government
facilitated US oil exports, and we played both sides, effectively
extending the civil war. In Sudan, China (a competitor for oil) has the
government oil concessions, and the American Christian right and
anti-Islamic terrorist populism at home may align with domestic oil
interests to shape the Sudan situation in a less divided way on the US
side. Whether this makes it more likely to erupt violently, or more
likely to come to the peace table, we shall see. Interestingly -- we
see oil interests linked in American policies overseas, but the bulk of
the oil extracting companies are not strictly national but globally
oriented, and they are conservative -- meaning they tend to prefer no
political change or slow political change, and this conservatism is
rejected by neoconservatives, who press for rapid change at the point of
a gun, if needed. Anti-Americanism abroad hurts American oil companies,
just like it hurts other American brands and Americans themselves.
What I am trying to say is neo-conservatism is the danger, along with
big business connections/imbeddedness with our national government, but
not big business per se. McDonald's and Coke aren't seeking to align
themselves with neoconservatives, and many American oil companies are
concerned at the long term damage and increased costs to their
businesses worldwide that neoconservative policies are causing.

Cedric Muhammad: Do you see the Sudan as a battleground for a geopolitical and
economic competition between China and the United States, or South East
Asia and the United States? If so, how might it play out over the next
decade, in Sudan and other parts of Africa?

Karen Kwiatkowski: It could be, depending on what oil is projected to be yet undiscovered
in Sudan, and its perceived ease of extraction. I think that if George
W. Bush is rejected as President in November, you will see a more
conservative foreign policy (not modern "Republican" but with more
simple caution and care applied to our decisions and actions abroad).
The elimination of the majority of key neoconservatives from the foreign
policy corridors and in the Pentagon will help America to gain a
deliberate and thoughtful approach to the hotspots in the world, and
Sudan will be one we look at in 2005. Without overt neoconservative
advocacy, Sudan will probably be seen less as a battlefield and more as
a place where people from African and non African countries can try to
help Sudanese people, and provide some equity in resource
development/flows in that country. The idea that certain leaders are
vulnerable and should be toppled would be the neoconservative
perspective on what to do about Sudan. This approach would be pursued
by a second Bush administration, but probably not by a Kerry

There is a problem in east-west relations -- US and China specifically.
We are both competitors for fossil fuels, and yet China competes in a
self sufficient way, paying its own way as it goes, and the United
States, never more so than under George W. Bush, has financed everything
with debt -- a huge percentage of which is purchased monthly by the
Chinese government (and its banks). In the 1970s, Mexico broke an
unwritten rule and declared it would not, could not pay its debt
service. The US bailed them out. We are in a position of doing the
same thing as Mexico did sometime in the next decade or so -- but the
only country who might bail us out is not our ally. We might not like
the terms Asia grants us in 2015.

In terms of our own policies in Africa, I think we will see attempts to
further cement trade relationships with African countries that produce
valuable resources we wish to leverage -- oil, gas, timber, uranium,
cobalt, etc. Unfortunately, the new model relationships, despite the
rhetoric, don't promise real change for the people in many African
countries as a result of America's shifting interests. Puppet
governments (by force or threat of force) friendly to the United States
may be the more convenient (although more expensive) avenue for American
foreign policy, as we already see in Iraq and Afghanistan, and possible
Syria, Sudan and even Iran if Bush is granted a second term in November.

Part I: Exclusive Q & A With Professor Sean O'Fahey

Part II : Exclusive Q & A With Joe Madison, President, Sudan Campaign

Monday, August 16, 2004

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The views and opinions expressed herein by the author do not necessarily represent the opinions or position of or Black Electorate Communications.

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