Appearing recently on a BBC show, Richard Perle said, “I don’t believe I was wrong [about the invasion of Iraq]. Let me be very clear about that. What I think happened is that a successful invasion was turned into an unsuccessful occupation. I didn’t favor the occupation strategy. I think the occupation was a mistake.”
This is becoming an increasingly common way for the most fervent supporters of the invasion to sidestep blame, but it is fundamentally in error. They cannot separate the invasion from the occupation. If they had the foresight one hopes the advocates of something as serious as war would have had, they would have realized that no invasion comes easy. That’s particularly true with Iraq. A country with no history of a civil society and no familiarity with self-rule wasn’t going to turn into a functioning democracy in a matter of months. The plan to invade, depose Saddam, and then hand the country over to Ahmad Chalabi or whomever in six months was, to any serious observer, a obvious fallacy. An American occupation was going to be necessary.
But let’s give Perle the benefit of the doubt. If you look closely at his words, he doesn’t say that he opposed the occupation. He says he opposed the occupation strategy. So he is telling us that he knew an occupation would be necessary, but didn’t like the way Bush and Co. ran the one that occurred.
This too is nonsense.
First, because Perle and the neocons who urged on war never advocated an occupation strategy. They pushed for war and were silent on the topic of aftereffects. And second, because Perle actually did endorse the strategy employed by Paul Bremer, and he insisted well after the invasion that it was working. According to Think Progress, Perle said in April 2004 that, “We’re making so much progress with most Iraqis that those who feel threatened by the progress are more devoted and more energetic than ever to try to destroy the progress we’re making.”
And Perle’s never going to live some of his statements down, regardless of the dissembling he offers now. In July 2002 he told PBS, “Iraq is a very wealthy country. Enormous oil reserves. They can finance, largely finance the reconstruction of their own country. And I have no doubt that they will.” Couldn’t have been more wrong. And in May 2003, mere weeks after the invasion, Perle wrote an op-ed so misguided, so willfully naive, and so arrogant that it makes one wonder why he is still given the opportunity to spread his views. It was titled “Relax, Celebrate Victory.”