Neoconservatives Say 'Blame
Not Us' for Iraq Disaster
Iraq slips into chaos and the U.S. government tries to limit
the damage from what appears to be the greatest military blunder
in American history, the powerful neoconservative intellectuals
and political operatives who pushed for and advocated the
Iraq invasion are scrambling to shift the blame for the war's
failure to President Bush.
In a series of exclusive interviews to be published in Vanity
Fair magazine, neocon advocates of the Iraq war say the Bush
administration's incompetence is responsible for a shattered
Iraq that could erupt into civil war and spread instability
throughout the Middle East.
Richard Perle, former chairman of the president's Defense
Policy Board Advisory Committee, told David Rose of Vanity
Fair back in February of 2003, "Iraq is a very good candidate
for democratic reform." That was a month before the invasion.
"It won't be Westminster overnight, but the great democracies
of the world didn't achieve the full, rich structure of democratic
governance overnight. The Iraqis have a decent chance of succeeding,"
He has since changed his mind. Now he is shocked at the behavior
of the Iraqis.
"The levels of brutality that we've seen are truly horrifying,
and I have to say, I underestimated the depravity," he
told Rose in an interview to be published next month.
Perle told Rose that the central cause of the unfolding Iraq
catastrophe is a dysfunctional White House under President
"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," said Perle.
He now says invading Iraq maybe wasn't such a good idea, after
"Could we have managed that threat [that Saddam Hussein
would give terrorists nuclear, chemical or biological weapons]
by means other than a direct military intervention? Well,
maybe we could have."
Neocon theoretician and Pentagon insider Kenneth Adelman,
another staunch advocate of war, also served on the Defense
Policy Board. He argued in an article for the Washington Post
in February 2002, "I believe demolishing Hussein's military
power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk."
But now he sings a slightly different tune.
"I just presumed that what I considered to be the most
competent national security team since Truman was indeed going
to be competent. They turned out to be among the most incompetent
teams in the post-war era..." Adelman told Rose.
Adelman believes invading Iraq was still a good idea, but
that Bush's people didn't do a good enough job. "The
policy can be absolutely right, and noble, beneficial, but
if you can't execute it, it's useless, just useless,"
Adelman said Bush and the people who executed the war policy
weren't "serious people."
Rose said he spent "the better part of two weeks"
in discussions with the neocon war advocates. Rose said "all
of them have regrets, not only about what has happened but
also, in many cases, about the roles they played."
Frank Gaffney, a founder of the neocon Center for Security
Policy and war proponent, says the fault in Iraq lies with
Bush "doesn't in fact seem to be a man of principle who's
steadfastly pursuing what he thinks is the right course. He
talks about it, but the policy doesn't track with the rhetoric,
and that's what creates the incoherence that causes us problems
around the world and at home," he said.
David Frum, another war advocate and former Bush speech writer
and columnist for the neoconservative National Review, said
he thinks President Bush just didn't really believe in the
ideas behind his policies.
"I always believed as a speech writer taht if you could
persuade the president to commit himself to certain words,
he would feel himself committed to the ideas that underlay
those words. And the big shock to me has been that although
the president said the words, he just did not absorb the ideas.
And that is the root of, maybe, everything," he said.
Michael Rubin, war advocate and former staffer in the Pentagon
Office of Special Plans and Coalition Provisional Authority,
blames Bush explicitly for the chaos in Iraq.
"Where I most blame George Bush is that through his rhetoric,
people trusted him, people believed him. Reformists came out
of the woodwork and exposed themselves," he said. But
because Bush failed to match rhetoric with action, Bush failed
the reformers, he believes.
Perle says the chaos and catastrophe of Iraq isn't his fault,
and shouldn't be blamed on the neoconservatives who advocated
the invasion. "Huge mistakes were made, and I want to
be very clear on this. They were not made by neoconservatives,
who had almost no voice in what happened, and certainly almost
no voice in what happened after the downfall of the regime
in Baghdad. I'm getting damned tired of being described as
an architect of the war. I was in favor of bringing down Saddam.
Nobody said, 'Go design the campaign to do that.' I had no
responsibility for that," Perle insisted.