We’ve now come to the tenth anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq and it appears that the story of that event isn’t being clarified, but simply smoothed over. Yes, we must focus on the world today and look forward to what lies in the future. But unless we are clear minded about what happened in the past, unless we understand what went wrong and why, we’ll be making the same errors again.
Despite the fantasies of Vice President Dick Cheney, there was no connection between the terrorist attacks of September 11 and Saddam Hussein. And despite the repeated announcements by President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, there was never any credible evidence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and planned to use them against the United States.
There was, of course, a lot of vague speculation and fanciful rumor about Saddam’s presumed biological and chemical weapons. And intelligence services of friendly nations with a common interest tend to reinforce each other. But intelligence estimates are only estimates; they are never absolute statements rendered with certainty. As a matter of fact, investigators sent into Iraq in the days just prior to the war found no such weapons, and objective reports from our own personnel found no reason to believe the weapons existed. That part of history seems to have been erased from the page.
Certain conservatives — such as Dick Cheney and Richard Perle — had been looking at Iraq as an easy target even before the terrorist attacks on the United States. Indeed, it was an easy target. Our earlier war with Iraq under the first President Bush had reduced the Iraqi military machine to a hollow shell of its former self. The country was hemmed in with economic and military sanctions which we and others had imposed. And, of course, we had a no-fly zone over Iraq and were flying sorties over that country every day, never losing one of our aircraft, but destroying their countermeasures whenever we wished. The idea that Iraq was a threat to the United States is laughable, but it was part of Richard Pearle’s paranoid view of the world and his blinding fear for the state of Israel. It’s amazing how much has been forgotten in a decade.
Because it is the tenth anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, NPR’s Renee Montagne interviewed Richard Perle, former chairman of the Defense Department’s Defense Policy Board and a leading advocate of invading Iraq. Perle, like the other neo-conservatives around President Bush, was wrong about the reasons to invade and the consequences which would follow. And like the other neo-conservative ideologues, he has learned nothing in ten years. He still thinks he was right and the rest of us were wrong. Here, from the NPR interview, is the last question and Perle’s astonishing answer.
MONTAGNE: Just one final question. There’s no question you were a great proponent of going into Iraq and getting rid of Saddam Hussein. Ten years later, nearly 5,000 Americans 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 in the belief that it was necessary to protect this nation. You can’t a decade later go back and say, well, we shouldn’t have done that.
Oh, yes, we can. And we should say we shouldn’t have done that. Otherwise, people like Richard Perle will lead us into another tragic and worthless slaughter “in the belief that it was necessary to protect this nation.”