It’s quite amazing how some of the vicious thugs who lied through their teeth to get their war on Iraq are now expressing second thoughts on the wisdom of the enterprise they organized. At least those out of power, those who deftly stepped out of the limelight as the project went so horribly wrong. They now want to distance themselves from George Bush (perhaps with an eye on a future neocon-friendly Democratic administration).
Just listen to what Richard Perle, a key architect and advocate of the criminal invasion of Iraq (and registered Democrat), is saying about the war these days:
“The levels of brutality that we’ve seen are truly horrifying, and I have to say, I underestimated the depravity.” The “depravity,” he implies, of the Iraqis. He just didn’t realize that an American invasion would bring such nastiness out in those irrational, bloodthirsty people obsessed with doctrinal quarrels incomprehensible to the civilized westerner.
Defeat in Iraq, he acknowledges to a Vanity Fair journalist, is quite possible. Iraq might wind up a “failed state.” “And then, you’ll get all the mayhem that the world is capable of creating.” (You know how “the world” does that sometimes.) But Perle blames specific persons in the world as well, particularly George W. Bush.
“The decisions did not get made that should have been. They didn’t get made in a timely fashion, and the differences were argued out endlessly… At the end of the day, you have to hold the president responsible… I don’t think he realized the extent of the opposition within his own administration, and the disloyalty.”
I wonder if the president, should someone in his protective inner circle bring it to his attention, would consider this statement from the former chair of the Defense Policy Board, and one of his top military advisors, “disloyal.” (White House spokesman Tony Snow commented on the Vanity Fair article, “If the quotes are accurate, that means that they are at war with the advice that they gave some time ago.”) But who is Perle accusing of “disloyalty”? Staffers at Colin Powell’s State Department, which made the case for war -- in fear and trembling, suspecting it was all bullshit -- dutifully acted as team players. But they blocked the plan of Perle and other neocons to install Perle’s longtime friend and fellow disinformation artist Ahmad Chalabi as the post-invasion Iraqi hegemon. Maybe Perle thinks that in so doing they betrayed the president and the plan they had presented to him. Maybe he thinks a dictatorship headed by his buddy would have prevented all the “depravity” occurring in occupied Iraq.
That scumbag Chalabi is for his own part now declaring (from his luxurious London home), “The Americans sold us out.” “They chickened out,” he tells the New York Times Magazine. “The Pentagon guys chickened out… The Americans screwed it up.” Washington should have handed power over to him, but “America betrays its friends. It sets them up and betrays them. I’d rather be America’s enemy.”
Sweet. This convicted swindler, long fingered by the CIA as a charlatan, who after it became known that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction smugly pronounced his team “heroes in error,” is now turning on the regime that through its Office of Special Plans systematically disseminated his bogus case for the invasion up to March 2003.
How does Perle now assess his role as a relentless proponant of the invasion? “I think if I had been delphic, and had seen where we are today, and people had said, ‘Should we go into Iraq?,’ I think now I probably would have said, ‘No, let’s consider other strategies for dealing with the thing that concerns us most, which is Saddam supplying weapons of mass destruction to terrorists.’ … I don’t say that because I no longer believe that Saddam had the capability to produce weapons of mass destruction, or that he was not in contact with terrorists. I believe those two premises were both correct. Could we have managed that threat by means other than a direct military intervention? Well, maybe we could have.”
“If I had been delphic!” As though Perle’s record of selling a disastrous war of aggression can be excused by his lack of oracular insight! (Perle alludes to the oracle in Delphi in ancient Greece, a priestess of Apollo who could supposedly predict the future.) But Perle was hardly concerned with objective reality, past, present or future, as he feverishly sowed disinformation supporting war four years ago. In September 2002, just to give one example, he told the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore that “[9-11 hijack leader] Mohammed Atta met Saddam Hussein in Baghdad prior to September 11. We have proof of that, and we are sure he wasn’t just there for a holiday. The meeting is one of the motives of an American attack on Iraq.” Outright lies! Meanwhile quite a number of us were both exposing the warmongers’ lies for what they were, and accurately predicting dire consequences of an attack and occupation. Perle’s guilty as hell -- not of any failure to foresee a hellish future for the Iraqi people, but helping to produce that hell.
David Frum, former Bush speechwriter and father of the stupid phrase “axis of evil,” has also changed his tune. “It’s true I fear that there is a real danger that the U.S. will lose in Iraq,” he now says. “And yes I do blame a lot that has gone wrong on failures of U.S. policy.” Then there’s Kenneth Adelman, Perle’s Defense Policy Board colleague who famously proclaimed in a Washington Post editorial just before the Iraq attack that the invasion would be a “cakewalk.” Now this neocon propagandist blames Bush’s “national-security team” for being “incompetent,” having “enormous flaws,” and being altogether “…deadly, dysfunctional.” I wonder if he includes among the blameworthy his fellow neocon Abram Shulsky, the Machiavellian who served under Douglas Feith in the Office of Special Plans, and who now heads the Pentagon’s Iran Directorate?
Maybe Perle and Adelman would argue that such men don’t have enough influence, even though they have Dick Cheney’s support. In the Vanity Fair article, both Perle and Michael Ledeen, another neocon advocate of war on Iraq (and Iran) who has actively promoted lies towards that end, blame Condoleezza Rice and other women surrounding Bush for the administrations failures in Iraq. The neocons, some of whom have quietly deserted the sinking ship (Feith, Wolfowitz), or been driven out by legal problems or scandal (Perle, “Scooter” Libby) have apparently adopted the following defense strategy in the face of the Iraq disaster: blame the Iraqi people for being so damned violent, blame powerful women for misleading the commander in chief, and blame Bush now that he’s an unpopular lame duck and (maybe just a bit) less duped by neocon influence than he was in the year before the invasion of Iraq.
Perhaps Perle & Co., watching the polls, and considering the prospect that following a Democratic Party landslide in Tuesday’s elections Congressmen John Conyers might head up the House Judiciary Committee, worry that embarrassing investigations might reveal their specific histories in connection with this criminal war. It makes sense for them now to protest it wasn’t their fault, and that if things went wrong, it was the fault of the president, Pentagon “chickens,” or “disloyal” elements in the administration.
Of course there’s lots of blame to go around, the Democratic Party deserving much of it. But the neocon cabal operating in the Vice President’s office and in the Defense Department, articulating its views most trenchantly in the Weekly Standard and National Review, acted as the command center of the prewar propaganda campaign and as what Colin Powell has called “a Gestapo office” and “a separate little government” sidelining the State Department. It’s nice to see this cabal in disarray, uttering recriminations, soberly admitting that it might lose its ventures. But it’s not down yet, nor likely to be downed as the result of a Democratic win in the midterm elections. Stephen Hadley, John Hannah, Elliott Abrams, David Wurmser and other neocons remain in the administration, frenziedly preparing for an attack on Iran, while Hillary pillories Bush for downplaying the Iranian threat. The neocons are quite capable of working with the Democrats (Joe Lieberman, for example) and are surely strategizing carefully to keep plans for regime change in Iran and Syria on track regardless of the outcome of Tuesday’s balloting.
Gary Leupp is a Professor of History, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion, at Tufts University and author of numerous works on Japanese history. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other Articles by Gary Leupp
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Qana: From the Wedding Then, To a Slaughter of Innocents Now
of the Holocaust”: More Disinformation on Iran
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