On the eve of the mid-term election, it's important to take a look at the nature of the people who brought American to its present state of dysfunction, and discuss why they're trying so desperately to distance themselves from the administration's Bush-capades.
There seem to be five basic flavors of tail-between-their-legs neocons these days:
1) Those like Francis Fukuyama who now admit the Iraq invasion was a bad idea.
2) Those like Bill Kristol who think the neocon idea of invading Iraq was sound, but Donald Rumsfeld screwed it up.
3) Those like John Bolton who deny that the neoconservative Project for the New American Centrury (PNAC) had anything to do with the plan to overthrow Saddam Hussein.
4) Those like U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad who hope everybody forgets he was a PNAC neocon.
5) Those like Scooter Libby who hope they don't wind up in prison.
Richard Perle, referred to in Washington circles as The Prince of Darkness, fits into all five of these categories.
In a November 3rd Vanity Fair article, Perle told author David Rose that he wishes he could take back his advocacy for the Iraq 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.
Like so many in the neoconservative core, Perle blames the incompetence of the Bush administration for America's failures in Iraq. As to culpability for a flawed war plan, Perle told Rose, "I had no responsibility for that."
But Perle's selling himself short. When it comes to culpability for the Iraq policy and its subsequent strategic failure, Perle's no slouch. He's a tremendous slouch.
Caddy Shack Policy and Strategy
As neoconservatives go, Perle may well be the leper with the least fingers, and like so many neocons, his decadent history goes back to the Nixon era.
In 1970, while working for Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson, Perle was caught by in an FBI phone tap sting sharing classified information with someone in the Israeli embassy. In 1983, while serving in a Pentagon job under the Reagan administration, Perle caught heat for accepting a $50,000 payment from an Israeli arms dealer. In 1985, Perle was accused of filling Pentagon positions with members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
In early 1998, he signed the PNAC letters to President Clinton and to then House and Senate Speakers Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott that called for a military overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
While serving as chairman of young Mister Bush's Defense Policy Board in 2002, Perle, along with neocon Bush administration policy shapers Doug Feith and David Wurmser, crafted A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm, the policy paper written for elements of Israel's neoconservative Likud party that many convincingly argue was the basis of the Jewish state's recent invasion of southern Lebanon.
Perle has a long time association with Dick Cheney, who some have suggested gave the nod to Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu to spring the Israeli Lebanon offensive at a June 2006 American Enterprise Institute (AEI) conference in Colorado. (AEI is a neoconservative think tank that preceded the PNAC. Most of the PNACers are or were also members of AEI, and the PNAC offices are locatedin the AEI headquarters building in Washington.)
As chairman of young Mister Bush's Defense Advisory Board, Perle pushed the position that the United Nations had become irrelevant when it came to dealing with Iraq. Perle was also a major sponsor of Ahmed Chalabi, a senior member of the expatriate Iraqi National Congress, the group that promised Perle and the other neocons that it would "restore order" in Iraq after the U.S. was greeted as, in Dick Cheney's words, "liberators."
Shortly before the presidential election in 2004 Perle stepped down as chairman of the Defense Policy Board when allegations arose that he had used his position to profit from his relationship with Global Crossing, an information technology company suspected to have received Department of Defense contracts thanks to Perle's influence.
And now, faced with the strong possibility of losing a GOP majority in Congress, and the specter of real investigations into the origins of our foreign policy fiascos in Iraq and elsewhere, Perle is one of the leading neocons pointing a finger at the Bushketeers and saying, "Hey, it wasn't my fault."
(Part II will examine how Perle and his ilk are trying to save the GOP, the neoconservative movement, and their individual carcasses.)
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.