[lbo-talk] Little Dickie Perle - We had the very best of intentions

CactusPat cactuspat at tds.net
Thu May 31 20:50:57 PDT 2007


We had the very best of intentions I failed to convince the Hay audience with my defence of US foreign policy. Richard Perle May 30, 2007 2:30 PM

.... Last night Philippe Sands and I discussed Iran, Iraq and related issues in a tent nearly filled with a thoughtful, engaged audience of five or six hundred people who had come, I suspect, to hear what could possibly be said in defence of American policy in Iraq. I tried to oblige. Judging from the questions from the audience, the Guardian readers in attendance (I didn't see a single copy of the Telegraph, no sign of the Sun, not even an FT) remain largely unconvinced. So I'll try again here, briefly.

After the attacks of 9/11, the dreaded Bush administration asked itself what other act of terror might be in store for us. Little was known about the extent of al-Qaida's ambition, but it was believed that al-Qaida's planning cycle was 18 to 24 months so preparations for further attacks might well already be underway.

Not surprisingly, the greatest concern was that the next attack might include the use of chemical or biological weapons or nuclear material. So it seemed reasonable to draw up a list of how such an attack might be undertaken, with an emphasis on identifying the sources of weapons of mass destruction from among those states which had ties to or harbored terrorists and who hated the United States.

Saddam Hussein's Iraq topped the list. So the US went to the United Nations to demand, for the umpteenth time, that Saddam account for those WMD that the UN had concluded he once possessed but whose disposition was unknown. (Remember the UN inspectors had been withdrawn, affording Saddam ample opportunity to move and hide anthrax, nerve agent, and the like.)

The UN voted to demand an accounting. At the last minute, Saddam handed over thousands of pages that he claimed was responsive to the UN demand. But there was nothing new in his submission, no real accounting, no evidence of when, where or how his stockpiles had been destroyed. Every intelligence organisation in the world drew what seemed an obvious conclusion: he was hiding WMD. The rest is history. An invasion in which an unspeakably vicious mass murderer was brought down, his regime toppled in 21 days with a small number of casualties.

We should have handed political authority in Iraq to an interim Iraqi government the day Baghdad fell. With the best of intentions, though, we embarked on an ill-conceived and catastrophically flawed occupation aimed at bringing a decent, representative government to the long-suffering Iraqis.

We didn't know how to do that. By trying, and failing, we unwittingly provided the ground for a horrific insurgency which began to develop after several months of occupation.

So today, even after the Iraqis risked their lives to vote for a government of their choosing, an insurgency continues to target innocent civilians and continues to try to incite a full-blown sectarian civil war.

We did not go into Iraq to impose representative government on the Iraqis. We went there to manage a threat to our own safety. But now that we are there we are trying to help an elected government achieve a level of safety for its citizens that will allow to function.

There are people out there who hope we fail. Some of you may even be reading this, and there surely were one or two in the tent in Hay last night. (You know who you are.)

But, the price of failure will be enormous. There will be unimaginable carnage in Iraq, even worse that what we are seeing now. And the terrorists whose attacks we hoped to prevent will be encouraged to believe they will prevail. They will increase their numbers and redouble their effort to obtain WMD. We will block them many times, but with WMD in hand, they need succeed only once.

No matter what you think about how we got here, think hard about what we must now do to protect hapless Iraqis and the rest of us from the holy warriors who believe they have a mandate from Allah to destroy a world in which people can gather in a tent and discuss their differences.

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