Tuesday, November 7, 2006
With Amy Goodman
"Well, a new article in Vanity Fair is reporting a number of prominent neoconservatives who backed the invasion of Iraq are now criticizing President Bush's handling of the war. The list includes former Pentagon advisers Richard Perle and Kenneth Adelman; former Presidential speechwriter David Frum; and Michael Rubin, a former senior official in the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans. Richard Perle admitted that huge mistakes were made in Iraq. Perle has criticized Vanity Fair because he claims he was promised his remarks would not be published until after the mid-term election. The article is called "Neo Culpa." It's written by Vanity Fair Contributing Editor David Rose.
AMY GOODMAN: The article is called "Neo Culpa." It’s written by Vanity Fair contributing editor David Rose, who joins us now from Oxford, England, in studio. Welcome to Democracy Now!, David.
AMY GOODMAN: It's good to have you with us. Well, tell us who you talked to and what they said.
DAVID ROSE: Well, you've already given some of the list: Richard Perle; Kenneth Adelman; David Frum; Michael Rubin; also Frank Gaffney, director of the Center for Security Policy -- that’s a think tank with very close ties to the high levels of the Pentagon; with Eliot Cohen from the School of Advanced International Studies; really the sort of flower of the neo-con intellectual elite in Washington, D.C.
And what a number of these individuals are now saying is that the war in Iraq has gone so badly, the situation now appears to be so intractable and the likelihood of actually winning this war now so slim, that had they -- if they had their time over, they would not now be arguing in favor of military intervention in Iraq, even if they continue to believe, as indeed Richard Perle says he does, that Saddam Hussein did possess stocks of weapons of mass destruction, or at least the capability to create such stocks, and connections with terrorism. Richard Perle told me that if he had his time over, he would now say that that security threat to the interest of the United States should be dealt with by some other means.
And Kenneth Adelman, who, of course, wrote the famous Washington Post Op-Ed about a year before the war, which said that Iraq would be a cakewalk, goes even further. He says that he has been simply crushed by the incompetence of the administration, and particularly by his old friend Donald Rumsfeld, and that if he had his time over, instead of writing that Iraq would be a cakewalk, he would say that while a policy of trying to change the regime there was correct, the execution has been so incompetent that the idea should be put, as he put it, in a drawer marked “don't do, too difficult,” rather than “let's go.” Well, this clearly does represent a fairly substantial shift in the positions of these individuals.
AMY GOODMAN: Didn’t Kenneth Adelman use the term for the Bush administration of “dysfunctional,” “deadly”?
DAVID ROSE: Yes, indeed. In fact, quite a number of them have used that word “dysfunctional,” not only Kenneth Adelman, but also Richard Perle, Michael Rubin and David Frum. And what they're particularly referring to is the inability of the administration to make decisions. Of course, they advocated a particular set of policies: a swift handover to an Iraqi government. They also wanted a large number, several thousand Iraqis, to be trained to go in with the coalition forces as auxiliaries.
And I do think there is a very respectable case to be made for both those two positions. If there had been thousands of Iraqi troops with the American-British mobile forces, clearly there would have been interpreters for units, a much better chance of getting local intelligence. And had there been a provisional government quickly, then the war might have been seen as something more akin to a liberation, as they wanted, as opposed to an occupation.
But what they’re really getting at here is that when they advocated that position, as did their colleagues in the Pentagon, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, and the CIA and the State Department argued strongly against such positions, the administration just couldn't make up its mind. So, as we were sending many thousands of soldiers into harm's way in Iraq, the administration hadn't decided what it was going to do next. And as they put it, the process of interagency decision-making, the place where these kinds of disputes should be hammered out, that is the National Security Council, at that time, of course, chaired by Condoleezza Rice, it was dysfunctional and disorganized. Indeed, Michael Rubin says it was one of the worst national security councils in American history. This is a staggering indictment.
But, of course, they also go on to say that while the NSC was dysfunctional, ultimately the buck does stop at the President. It is the President's job to make these decisions. And they say something, which is perhaps even more damning. While President Bush had this rhetoric, what he called his “freedom agenda” of imposing democracy, of bringing democracy to Iraq, and appearing in his rhetoric to agree with what these neo-cons were saying, actually he just didn't seem to grasp how you had to put that into effect.
And so, coming from people who took those positions, who didn't just advocate the invasion in 2003, but in many cases, particularly Richard Perle’s, had been arguing in favor of regime change going way back into the Clinton administration, really almost since Desert Storm in 1991, I mean, this is a tremendous indictment of President Bush. And indeed, I put it to Richard Perle in precisely those terms. I said, “This is an extraordinary indictment of the President.” And he just said to me, “Yes, it is.” "
Read the rest of the transcript of this very revealing interview