Richard Perle Runs From Reality

David Corn draws attention to an NPR interview with Richard Perle, who looks — and acts — like a neo-con sith lord and was one of the architects of the invasion of Iraq. And despite the fact that he was wrong about absolutely everything, he refuses to even entertain the obvious question:

Montagne: Ten years later, nearly 5,000 American troops dead, thousands more with wounds, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead or wounded. When you think about this, was it worth it?

Perle: I’ve got to say I think that is not a reasonable question. What we did at the time was done with the belief that it was necessary to protect this nation. You can’t a decade later go back and say we shouldn’t have done that.

Not a reasonable question? We’ve spent trillions of dollars, displaced three million people, killed tens of thousands more, thousands of Americans, and it’s not even a reasonable question to ask whether it was worth it? Well look, he doesn’t actually mean that. But what else can he say? This is how we get rid of cognitive dissonance, by constructing elaborate rationalizations that make it go away. And as Corn notes, every single thing Perle said leading up to the war turned out to be false:

He told CNN, “Even if we cannot prove to the standard that we enjoy in our own civil society they are involved, we do know, for example, that Saddam Hussein has ties to Osama bin Laden. That can be documented.” In 2002, he suggested a war against Iraq would be a cakewalk: “It isn’t going to be over in 24 hours, but it isn’t going to be months either.” He asserted Saddam was “working feverishly to acquire nuclear weapons.” He claimed the post-invasion reconstruction in Iraq would be self-financing. He got everything wrong…

Perle then offhandedly observed, “It’s easy a decade later to say, well, it turned out this fact or that presumption was wrong.”

No, but when every factual claim and every presumption was wrong, and when CIA analysts have repeatedly said that the assessments they gave the White House said the exact opposite of what the White House was putting out on television, it becomes clear that what was going on here was not sincere mistakes, it was a war based on a pack of lies.

30 comments on this post.
  1. John Pieret:

    … it was a war based on a pack of lies

    As opposed to the wars that weren’t based on a pack of lies?

  2. jamessweet:

    Moreover, we also know that those who were driving this weren’t really interested in discovering the truth in an unbiased fashion.

    In an alternate reality, there could be room to say, “Look, we were acting on the best information we had at the time, and it turned out to be wrong. Was it a mistake? Yes. If I had it to do over, can I honestly say I would have done anything differently? No! We honestly had every reason to believe this war was necessary, and we only could have known later that it wasn’t.”

    BUT, first, that’s not even what he said (it’s a valid question even if the answer is ultimately “hindsight is 20/20″); and second, too much information has come out suggesting that this wasn’t the best information, that due diligence should have dictated a different choice.

    So yeah, he’s both conceptually wrong and factually wrong. What a dick.

  3. Modusoperandi:

    Now, look, we couldn’t take the chance that the things that didn’t exist would be used by the guy who didn’t have them.
     
    Also, we couldn’t take the chance of listening to anybody who thought otherwise. And, as we all know, people who disagree with War are all dirty hippies who hate America and Freedom and America.
     
    We were running on the best information available that proved our case, no matter how untrue our case might, theoretically, have turned out to be, all the way from German intelligence interviewing “Curveball” who they didn’t believe all the way over to the USA interviewing a completely the same “Curveball” who was also not credible. If he was so not-credible, then why did his story, and I can’t stress this enough, match up with his story, hmmm? And why did British intelligence ignore the misgivings of both German and US intelligence about Curveball, taking the US’s side in the argument which ignored German and the US’s own intelligence service’s misgivings? And, again, if his story (twice!) was so false, then why the the liberal’s own New York Times back it up, once Dick Cheney (via “an anonymous source in the White House” who was also him) told them about it?
     
    And if the case was so weak why did, in front of the UN no less, Trusted Moderate Republican and Genuine American Hero Colin Powell present such a convincing case of falsehoods even he suspected was false, most of which had been debunked long before he so convincingly presented it?
     
    And if the so-called “case against the case for” was so convincing, how some there was nobody who we weren’t ignoring that were making it? And why were all those that did such dirty, America and Freedom and America hating hippies?
     
    Now, look, we’ve all made mistakes in this, minor ones that were not in any way my fault, and we’ve learned from them. Instead of playing the blame game and looking back, we have to look forward..
     
    …to invading Iran. Maybe Syria, if there’s time left over from bringing Democracy to the Middle East again after we free Iran from Iranians.
    From what I understand they’ll welcome our bombs as liberators.

  4. Nick Gotts (formerly KG):

    It isn’t going to be over in 24 hours, but it isn’t going to be months either. – Richard Perle

    Well be fair, that’s one he got right.

    OTOH, there is the point that many of us said in foresight that this was a terrible idea, would kill huge numbers of people, risked igniting sectarian war, would lead to massive corruption…

  5. David C Brayton:

    I was listening to that interview. I tried to reach through the dashboard and hit him upside the head. He really is that oblivious to reality.

  6. tbp1:

    No, but when every factual claim and every presumption was wrong, and when CIA analysts have repeatedly said that the assessments they gave the White House said the exact opposite of what the White House was putting out on television,

    Back in the 80s when I was in grad school I went to a very interesting talk by a guy who had been an in-country CIA operative in Vietnam in the 60s. Details are hazy in my memory after so many years, but basically he said that when he got there, the party line was that the VC were disorganized and demoralized, and didn’t have local support, infrastructure or supply lines. When he got out in the field, of course, he found out that essentially the opposite was true. He wrote up his first report, pointing out the truth, and when his report, with his name on it, went upstairs, what did it say? That the VC were disorganized and demoralized, and didn’t have local support, infrastructure or supply lines.

  7. left0ver1under:

    So what else is new? War profiteers never want to be tried or take responsibility for their crimes, not even when they were directly involved in promoting and starting the wars. From 2003:

    http://articles.latimes.com/2003/may/07/nation/na-perle7

    In February [2003], the Defense Policy Board, a group of outside advisors to the Pentagon, got a classified presentation from the super-secret Defense Intelligence Agency on crises in North Korea and Iraq.

    Three weeks later, the then-chairman of the board, Richard N. Perle, offered a briefing of his own at an investment seminar on ways to profit from possible conflicts with both countries.

    [...]

    The disclosures in recently released board agendas and investment documents are the latest illustrations of how Perle’s private consulting and investment interests overlap with his role on the board, which advises the secretary of Defense.

  8. zippythepinhead:

    There was a profile of Perle and the other neocons in Vanity Fair in 2006, and here’s an excerpt that says all you need to know about Perle,

    According to Perle, who left the Defense Policy Board in 2004, this unfolding catastrophe has a central cause: devastating dysfunction within the administration of President George W. Bush. Perle says, “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.” — http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2006/12/neocons200612

    In other words, it wasn’t the neocons’ fault, certainly not Richard Perle’s fault, oh no, no, no, not Richard Perle’s fault, but the process, dysfunction, and disloyalty, as though Perle were not part and parcel of that process for years.

  9. Ben P:

    Montagne: Ten years later, nearly 5,000 American troops dead, thousands more with wounds, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead or wounded. When you think about this, was it worth it?

    Perle: I’ve got to say I think that is not a reasonable question. What we did at the time was done with the belief that it was necessary to protect this nation. You can’t a decade later go back and say we shouldn’t have done that.

    Hell, on NPR they were doing a retrospective and they had, I want to say, Jim Leherer, on and he was selling the same narrative. You can’t use the post-knowledge that we didn’t find any weapons to judge run up to the war, we knew we had given Saddam Weapons and in the post-9/11 world everyone was so afraid of a catastrophe that could happen.

    Of course Leherer was also willing to admit that we were completely wrong.

  10. Ruthanne Price:

    I can’t think about this too much without throwing up a little in my mouth, but I am de-lurking long enough to thank Modusoperandi for consistently being an unmitigated genius in the comments section.

    Thank you thank you thank you.

  11. DaveL:

    Perle then offhandedly observed, “It’s easy a decade later to say, well, it turned out this fact or that presumption was wrong.”

    It’s even easier when what was presented as a fact turns out to have been a presumption, every single one of them wrong.

  12. slc1:

    How’s that search for Saddam’s WMDs working out?

  13. laurentweppe:

    Perle abridged:

    I am a despicable, lying son of a bitch with blood on his hands
    I know I am a despicable, lying son of a bitch with blood on his hands
    I will never admit in public that I am a despicable, lying son of a bitch with blood on his hands

  14. kylawyer:

    Perle was the guy who as an assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan Admin, made some comment along the lines of nuclear war not being all that bad and that with enough shovels to dig holes in the ground to hide in American casualties wouldn’t be unacceptable. A real disgusting individual all the way around.

  15. jufulu:

    Way back in the early days of the baby Bush administration, Richard Perl and Paul Wolfowitz (IIRC)
    were interviewed on NPR and were providing their view of the world, including the Middle East. I remember being absolutely dumbfounded and thinking that these were the probably two of most dangerous individuals in government. Years later it became obvious that they were only the first indications of of what was in store for us.

  16. Michael Heath:

    Montagne: Ten years later, nearly 5,000 American troops dead, thousands more with wounds, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead or wounded. When you think about this, was it worth it?

    This is a stupid question. It was the change in treasure that makes it impossible to claim Iraq was a victory rather than a miserable loss. Montagne also minimizes the loss of treasure by Iraqis, including the country’s brain drain.

  17. Michael Heath:

    … it was a war based on a pack of lies

    John Pieret writes:

    As opposed to the wars that weren’t based on a pack of lies?

    ??? Pearl Harbor didn’t happen? The Nazi’s weren’t all that bad? The South wasn’t seceding in order to maintain their control of slaves in their possession?

  18. Michael Heath:

    zippythepinhead:

    it wasn’t the neocons’ fault, certainly not Richard Perle’s fault, oh no, no, no, not Richard Perle’s fault, but the process, dysfunction, and disloyalty, as though Perle were not part and parcel of that process for years.

    My reading of history on this subject is that the key factor in our losing Iraq was incompetency. Incompetency by Tommy Franks who failed to put a coherent Phase IV together (post-invasion military actions) that complemented the first three phases of the war, and incompetency by the DoD and the White House to pull post-invasion administration away from the State Dept. and put under SECDEF Rumsfeld responsibility. And to really guarantee pain for generations, the incompetency of the Bush White House demanding we torture. That provided al Qaeda with their most effective recruiting tool to get young Muslims to join them in Iraq. Gen. Franks’ incompetency also guaranteed our failures in Afghanistan.

    Ed is absolutely right the sales pitch on the need to go to war was all lies. However in spite of Saddam Hussein not possessing WMDs nor being an ally of al Qaeda, he was in fact a competitor which the CIA both knew prior to the invasion and articulated such right up to that date, the opportunity to succeed in Iraq was both viable and after the invasion, remained a viable opportunity. That’s how bad the Bush Administration blew it, way worse than even liberals condemn them for; I think because they’re too blinded by not wanting us to invade in the first place to miss how Bush not only made horrible strategic decisions, but to also snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

    We don’t learn from history unless we get history right. Where the criticisms on the left (I’m not referring to zippy’s comment here) have also been divorced from reality; including recently in this forum. Like the fact there was a compelling reason to invade in 2003 even in light of the Bush Administration’s lies, and that we squandered a feasible opportunity to make Iraq an ally after we invaded, in spite of the sectarian issues. George Packer’s Assassin’s at the Gate does an excellent job making the latter’s case on why we lost in Iraq.

    Tom Ricks addresses the general (officer) problem in latest book; that even Gen. Franks’ failures hasn’t resulted in our inability to develop and harvest good generals from bad. (I’m told Ricks’ Fiasco is also an excellent history of why we failed in Iraq though I didn’t read that one).

  19. Rip Steakface:

    @1

    I was about to say “maybe WWII?” but then I remembered that the Axis countries had individually come up with excuses for the war based on a pack of lies. So while our involvement was probably legitimate (we were attacked, then Germany declared war on us, and yes, legitimate despite the fact that FDR was rather overly willing to enter the war), the people of the opposing countries were led into conflict thanks to lies.

  20. democommie:

    @18:

    While I concur that Tommy Franks was a moron, I don’t think that all of the blame for what happened after the invasion can be laid at his feet. Bremmer and the rest of the dirtbags that ran the Procounsul office (or WTF they called it) had powerful patrons who made sure that Franks and everyone else involved from the military side were kept in the dark and co-opted whenever possible.

    Franks IS a douchenozzle.

  21. dingojack:

    Michael Heath – “Like the fact there was a compelling reason to invade in 2003….”
    Which was?
    Dingo

  22. caseloweraz:

    Kylawyer: “Perle was the guy who as an assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan Admin, made some comment along the lines of nuclear war not being all that bad and that with enough shovels to dig holes in the ground to hide in American casualties wouldn’t be unacceptable. A real disgusting individual all the way around.”

    Covered in what I presume to be excruciating detail in this book:
    http://www.amazon.com/With-Enough-Shovels-Reagan-Nuclear/dp/0394414829/

  23. Michael Heath:

    Democommie in response to my post @ 18:

    While I concur that Tommy Franks was a moron, I don’t think that all of the blame for what happened after the invasion can be laid at his feet. Bremmer and the rest of the dirtbags that ran the Procounsul office (or WTF they called it) had powerful patrons who made sure that Franks and everyone else involved from the military side were kept in the dark and co-opted whenever possible.

    I expressly did not claim Gen. Franks deserved all of the blame for Iraq. In that same post I also pointed my finger at the Dept. of Defense and the Bush White House. Here I quote the relevant text @ 18:

    . . . and incompetency by the DoD and the White House to pull post-invasion administration away from the State Dept. and put [it] under SECDEF Rumsfeld['s] responsibility. And to really guarantee pain for generations, the incompetency of the Bush White House demanding we torture. That provided al Qaeda with their most effective recruiting tool to get young Muslims to join them in Iraq.

  24. democommie:

    @23:

    Michael Heath:

    Granted; I did not miss that. What I meant is that Franks may have had all sorts of ideas (right or wrong) about how to proceed and they were simply not implemented for “policy” reasons. No evidence of that that I’m aware of, however, history is replete with instances of political leaders snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

  25. Michael Heath:

    democommie writes:

    What I meant is that Franks may have had all sorts of ideas (right or wrong) about how to proceed and they were simply not implemented for “policy” reasons.

    There were two root cause reasons why Gen. Franks failed with his Phase IV (post-invasion) plan. The first was that Sec. of Defense Rumsfeld led a school of thought similar to the adage in football, “speed kills”. In this case the invasion was incredibly successful at having the military quickly seize control of the country. But that same military didn’t have the wherewithal to administrate control over the country once seized.

    Assuming the decision was made to invade, it’s arguable what the better post-invasion recourse should have been. Either go in slower and bring your total military resources along, or go in as they did with the State Dept. resources which would have coordinated the Iraqi military and local authorities managing the administration of their own country. I’m with the latter argument based on George Packer’s findings. Especially given the fact, a fact liberals seem to not know, avoid, or deny because their predictions were the opposite, that the Iraqis largely did welcome our invasion and had the appetite and apparent wherewithal within the military and most localities (along with Kurdish territories as everyone already knows), to participate in managing their country (rather than the DofD). (Cite: Packer’s Assassin’s Gate)

    The second reason was that Gen. Franks spent hardly anytime on Phase IV, precisely because this was historically, and organically, a task of the State Dept. It was not an organic task for the military where not only did the State Dept. have prior success, but they also had the same resources in place prepared to repeat that success. In fact in his autobiography, which demonstrates his incompetence, he declared himself victorious in Iraq in spite of the fact the post-invasion had only begun to play out (IIRC his autobiography was published in early 2004); as if he had no real responsibility for Phase IV when in fact he was the chief planner of that phase.

    This is where VP Cheney and SECDEF Rumsfeld failed spectacularly by cutting off the State Dept. from running Iraq and instead handing it over to Rumseld’s DofD. Rumsfeld didn’t want State to have control but didn’t seem all that enthusiastic to insure success for that which was handed to him either. And why did these two do this? Two facts emerge; one is their fealty to conservatism, which had them lovin’ the military and hating the Ivy Leaguers at State (and the CIA for that matter). That’s not a rational reason of course, which is exactly what we observe from this movement where this is one of countless examples conservatives are incapable of good governance.

    The second motivating factor was their natural tendency to extend the power of their office, where both were amazingly successful bureaucratic in-fighters with extremely sharp elbows. And where from the beginning the vacuum of power from the Bush presidency, an incredibly inept leader and executive, had Cheney and Rumsfeld seizing power from both Colin Powell at State and Condi Rice at the NSC.

  26. jws1:

    @#17 …”The Nazis weren’t all that bad?”

    Heath, of course one sides with the Americans and their allies in WW2, but if you want me, or anyone else, to believe that racist white Americans from the 1930s and 40s were in an itchin’ hurry to sacrifice whole swaths of their youth because they were concerned about the plight of European Jewry, and Slavs, and homosexuals, and cripples, and Gypsies (and and and …) it’s gonna take a lot of singing and dancing to sell that bill of goods. The allegedly “Greatest Generation” (what a piece of unbridled arrogance) couldn’t even be bothered to fight along side their own countrymen who were black. And what about the infamous “Voyage of the Damned”? Why no preemptive strike from the golden-haired Americans, since all we hear about is how those pussy-ass Euros just couldn’t stand up to Hitler? Don’t see much “standing up to Hitler” from the Americans when it could’ve done the most good; evidently the onus of stopping aggression ahead of time is always on someone else…

    This white-washing is part of the lies of WW2. So, while very much justified by facts and truth, the war is still framed in terms that nationalists find pleasing. I’m still waiting for the first time a nationalist gets things right…

  27. Raging Bee:

    What I meant is that Franks may have had all sorts of ideas (right or wrong) about how to proceed…

    IIRC, one of those ideas of Franks’ was to invade Somalia instead of Iraq, because Somalia REALLY WAS a failed state, and there REALLY WERE active al Qaeda cells in Somalia at the time. But Bush & Co. nixed that idea, probably because they wanted a feel-good war, and Iraq was more of a feel-good country than Somalia. Iraq was associated with Bush Sr’s. Gulf War victory, but Somalia was associated with “Black Hawk Down.”

    Bush Jr’s. Iraq venture is the only war I can think of that was started for purely emotional reasons, with next to no rational calculation involved (except as window-dressing or rationalization): resentment over his predecessor not “finishing the job,” avoidance of battles that didn’t trigger the right feelings, using war to avoid accountability, and of course, pure unvarnished ethnic/religious bigotry of the “those people all look alike” variety.

  28. Raging Bee:

    Michael Heath – “Like the fact there was a compelling reason to invade in 2003….”

    That bullshit got kicked to the curb the last time this subject came up.

  29. Olav:

    Raging Bee #27:

    Bush Jr’s. Iraq venture is the only war I can think of that was started for purely emotional reasons, with next to no rational calculation involved [...]

    That would be true for one faction of the war proponents. I think not so much for Cheney and his gang. They saw a perfect opportunity to transfer public money into private hands. The emotional reasons as you call them, were mostly used to cover up their real (criminal, but rational) intentions.

  30. Michael Heath:

    Raging Bee:

    That bullshit got kicked to the curb the last time this subject came up.

    No, it was avoided/denied with lots of chest-thumping, which appears just as ridiculous from liberals as it does from conservatives.

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