Stone, Sand, and the Writ of History
It was only later that he came to understand that mæddursjúkur doesn't mean "homesick," it means "depressed"; and the implication is that a depressed person is crazy: mæddur constellates with "mother," no doubt; but it also constellates with "mad," as in the madness of the insane.
Most of the languages of Europe, and some even elsewhere, all derive from a hypothetical modeling language called "Proto-Indo-European," supposedly spoken thousands of years ago by tribes living around the Black Sea before a diaspora sent them in all directions, giving rise to many languages and language groups. The Indo-European languages are strikingly similar in many ways, but it wasn't until the 18th Century that the similarities began to be noted as phenomenally regular rules with respect to how consonants and vowels are changed in pronunciation from one language to another. Words carry meaning; but they also carry history, most importantly, the history of how peoples long ago saw the world and how modern speakers code those same world views in their spoken languages. Everyone knows that words are the most important way to express thoughts; but what people don't notice so much is the words convey thoughts back to the speaker. Wordsthe way they relate to one another, the way they sound like one anotherare as much, if not more, a tool to teach their speakers how to see the world as they are a way for those speakers to tell others how the world is seen.
The word "hysterical" constellates with the word "hysterectomy," for example. Now, a hysterical person is crazy, but a person having a hysterectomy is necessarily a woman. It is that quality of being a womanof having a wombthat must bind with the quality of craziness that vexes some people. Being "mothersick" is an illness of mothers, but mothers are women; thus, to be mæddursjúkur is to be depressed, and therefore crazy, because that's a quality of people who are women.
On the other hand, languages of the Indo-European family have words for the qualities of men, as well: virtuous constellates with virile and even virgin, all to the effect of thought-casting men in these languages as good, honorable, and strong of body and will.
Karen Kwiatkowski was a lieutenant colonel tasked in her last assignment before retiring to Bush Administration appointee Douglas Feith as a military-political affairs liaison. Mr. Feith, a staunch neo-conservative, was deeply involved in crafting the policy to overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Working within the Pentagon, Mr. Feith used military intelligence facilities and results to the purpose of developing information that would then be passed on to political leaders within the United States as well as abroad.
While working within the office to which she had been tasked, Lt. Col. Kwiatkowski started writing, first under pseudonym, then under her own name, about what was happening in Mr. Feith's office, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Under-Secretary for Policy. In both broad stroke and in precise detail, she described not only the systematic construction of refined data presentations that were to be passed up the chain of command, but she also gave specific information about the removal of information in a systematic, calculated, and sustained and ultimately successful effort to construct from the whole cloth of ideology what would appear to be unambiguous, stark, empirical evidence that Saddam Hussein had to be removed, and that the removal was urgent lest the threat he posed become catastrophe.
On more than one occasion, Lt. Col. Kwiatkowski stated something far more troubling, but her words would be not be understood to most civilians, and perhaps not even to some military personnel. She described what she called the erosion of "good order and discipline" in the Office of the Under-Secretary. That term is not just a collection of words used in an off-hand manner. "Good order and discipline" is a military concept, a way of conducting affairs at all times and in all situations to ensure not merely procedural integrity, but survival itself. On the battlefield, "good order and discipline" is what distinguishes a professional soldiering class from a violent, armed mob. More importantly, if a group of soldiersbe it a squad or a battalionbecomes subject to overwhelming countervailing force, it is the "good order and discipline," and only the "good order and discipline," that keeps the worst of all possible emotions from overcoming the soldiers: if panic sets in, it is only a matter of timeperhaps no more than secondsbefore the troops start to scatter; and if they scatter, they will then be cut down in their flight. It is "good order and discipline" that prevents a difficult, perhaps impossible, battlefield situation from becoming a rout.
Karen Kwiatkowski saw good order and discipline slipping away, as Mr. Feith and his ideologically sympathetic underlings pulled the work of his office away from professionalism and objectivity, and towards abject advocacy. The wholesale disposal of his portfolio meant nothing to this man who was there to pull in data and from it manufacture disinformation to disseminate to people of substantial influence. Karen Kwiatkowski was in no way vague: her descriptions went all the way down to describing manipulations within PowerPoint presentations.
Karen Kwiatkowski, more than two years ago, described not just the lie that was being created to lead America to war, but exactly how and by whom it was being created as a monolithic, indisputable, compelling call to war. She named names. She cited documents. She detailed events. She did all of that. In a March, 2004, retrospective entitled "The new Pentagon papers" in Salon, the now-retired lieutenant colonel wrote, in part, as follows:
- From May 2002 until February 2003, I observed firsthand the formation of the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans and watched the latter stages of the neoconservative capture of the policy-intelligence nexus in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. This seizure of the reins of U.S. Middle East policy was directly visible to many of us working in the Near East South Asia policy office, and yet there seemed to be little any of us could do about it... I saw a narrow and deeply flawed policy favored by some executive appointees in the Pentagon used to manipulate and pressurize the traditional relationship between policymakers in the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies.
And now, somehow, some politicians in Washington stand shockedjust shockedby leaked British memos revealing British policy-makers saying that the Iraqi war was started on "fixed" intelligence.
Lieutenant Colonel Kwiatkowski didn't whisper what she knew into a reporter's notebook. She didn't preen herself before cameras. She did not swagger on the American stage as a polemic. She wasn't even given the dignity of being part of the craven cry to "Support Our Troops" because everyone knows that real troops are the ones with guns out there doing the "real" military stuff, not the tens of thousands behind the scenes doing everything they can to ensure that "good order and discipline" are maintained.
She spoke her peace as the streams of patriot blood prepared to pool and then flow, eventually coursing their way through the cities, the towns, the prairies, the hills, and the very psyche of an America taken to war on lies whose crafting she exposed to anyone who would have listened. Now, those streams of blood come down as a roiling tide to this day; and the people of importance stand at the banks not in groveling atonement for what they allowed, but rather in denial or its miserable cousin, outrage. And that blood of some seventeen hundred Americans and a hundred thousand Iraqis is paid in the miserly fee of controversy.
Now, in this moment, the people who matter will carve into granite what will come to be the history of this age, while the words of Karen Kwiatkowski wash away in forgotten winds of yesterday.
After all, Lieutenant Colonel Kwiatkowski was just mæddursjúkur, anyway, now wasn't she?
The Dark Wraith has spoken.