Richard Perle says he has nothing to apologise for. True, in 1998 he signed on to a letter from prominent neo-conservatives calling on the then president, Bill Clinton, to use force if necessary to oust Saddam Hussein. True, too, that as chairman of the defence policy board from 2001 to 2003, he was an adviser to the defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, in the pivotal days of planning for the Iraq war. But of the unfortunate consequences that flowed from those events – a war that by some estimates has claimed the lives of 655,000 Iraqis, and more than 3,400 US troops, a war that has entrenched hatred of America and brought suicide bombings to the cities of Europe – Perle says he has no regrets.
“I will take responsibility for what I argued which was that we should remove Saddam, and I am willing to defend that position today,” says Perle, who is to be interviewed by Philippe Sands at the Guardian Hay Festival tonight. “Do I take responsibility for the things that went wrong afterwards? I had no influence over those things, unfortunately.”
Perle’s refusal to shoulder any share of the blame for the catastrophic consequences of his ideas about the world comes at a time when neo-conservative forces seem to be on the retreat in the Bush presidency. Earlier this month, Paul Wolfowitz, another prime force behind the war in Iraq, was forced out of the World Bank, in a scandal which, though officially about outsize pay rises for his girlfriend, was animated by anger about the war.
So you may sow the wind, but if others reap the whirlwind as a consequence, it’s hardly your fault. After all, what does Perle or anyone else who masterminded or supported the war in Iraq have to regret now?
Not that 3,300 U.S. troops have died, the $500 billion price tag, the 2 million Iraqis who have fled, or the 70% of children in Iraq who can’t go to school.
Not the 38% of U.S. troops who are mothers, facing extended tours without childcare, support or services to sustain their families.
Not the amputees being sent back into active duty, and some even into combat.
Not the troops who are increasingly asking “Why are we still here?”
Not that even with the “surge” troop levels are insufficient to the job.
Not the troops who come back with PTSD.
Not that the same is now driving many into the sex trade in Syria.
Not that those in the Iraqi prison system now face unfair trials and torture.
Not that LGBT Iraqis are openly hunted by religious anti-gay death squads.
Not the torture being inflicted on Iraqis by Iraqis, on our watch.
Not any of this.
Not that we’re now facing the possibility of decades in Iraq.
Now that so many others do have regrets, and many parents want to spare their children regret, maybe it’s not unreasonable to think that we should give Perle and the other Iraq architects something to regret.
A Republican lawmaker has an unorthodox suggestion for Paul Wolfowitz’s future employment now that the neoconservative war architect has been ousted as World Bank president — send him to Iraq.
Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., suggested the Middle East assignment for Wolfowitz during a hearing of the House Armed Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee last week, as reported by ABC News’s blog, The Blotter.
“I would like to suggest … that maybe we give Paul Wolfowitz a new job and send him over there as mayor of Iraq, since the neocons got us in over there,” Jones said. “And maybe Mr. (Richard) Perle could be co-mayor or co-chairman.”
In another four years, we can ask Mr. Perle about his regrets.