Don’t miss Richard Perle’s comprehensive but remarkably unpersuasive explanation in The National Interest Online of how neo-conservatives, least of all himself, really exercised very little influence over the Bush administration’s policies, even in the run-up to the Iraq invasion. Actually, you won’t find much of what he writes particularly new, and, if you were hoping for some insider insights, or even interesting personal anecdotes about his chairmanship of the Defense Policy Board, friendship with Dick Cheney, or how he persuaded Rumsfeld to hire Paul Wolfowitz as his deputy and Douglas Feith as his number three, there really aren’t any. In many ways, the article is a rehash of his complaints about the State Department and the CIA in the book he wrote with David Frum, An End to Evil, and an unenlightening condensation of Feith’s remarkably poorly received War and Decision.
In several of my first posts (here, here and here) on this blog, I cited examples of Perle’s propensity for historical revisionism, but I was particularly struck in his latest effort by his assertion, “I know of no statement, public or private by any neoconservative in or near government, advocating the invasion of Iraq primarily for the purpose of of promoting democracy or advancing some grand neoconservative vision.” He dismisses the notion as well that neoconservatives may have promoted war with Iraq in hopes of bolstering what they thought were Israel’s interests.
I would just refer him to two letters drafted by Bill Kristol and signed by him, among many other neoconservatives close to the administration, and sent to the president under the auspices of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) which, in fact, did lay out a grand neoconservative vision for the region, one based on the conviction that Israel’s and U.S. enemies in the Middle East are one and the same and that “Israel’s fight against terrorism is our fight.” The first letter was published on September 20, 2001, and lays out the step-by-step blueprint for how the war on terror should be fought, including, of course, the necessity of ousting Saddam Hussein whether or not he was involved in the 9/11 attacks (although Perle, in his interactions with the media, never missed an opportunity to suggest that Saddam was indeed involved) followed by “appropriate measures of retaliation” against Iran and Syria if they did not end their support for Hezbollah. The second letter, published April 3, 2002, calls for breaking all ties with Yasser Arafat and for accelerating plans to remove Saddam as the first step toward realizing “a renewed commitment on our part, as you suggested in your State of the Union address, to the birth of freedom and democratic government in the Islamic world.” If those two letters (which, of course, echoed the arguments made by the hawks within the administration) didn’t constitute statements advocating the invasion of Iraq primarily for the purpose of of promoting democracy or advancing some grand neoconservative vision,” it’s hard to know what would.
It’s what I wrote for tompaine.com back in 2004: “Chutzpah: Thy Name is Perle.”