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[casi] Talking Iraq With The 'Prince of Darkness'



A N U
Assyrian News Watch
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Assyrian Chaldean Syriac

Whoever has walked with truth generates life
Sumerian Proverb

 'When a man lies, he murders some part of the world'
Myrddin, Celtic Sage




Source:   Tom Paine - Common Sense
URL:        http://www.tompaine.com/feature.cfm/ID/5631
Date:       May 10, 2002



The Loyal Opposition:
Talking Iraq With The 'Prince of Darkness'

Our Columnist Talks With Richard Perle
David Corn is the Washington editor of The Nation. His first novel, Deep
Background, a political thriller, was published recently by St. Martin's
Press.

It was late. The sidewalks were empty. Four blocks away, the dome of the
Capitol shined brightly. In front of me stood the Prince of Darkness. With
his dark eyes locked upon me, he was demanding information.
"Why do you liberals keep defending Saddam Hussein?"

Richard Perle, an assistant secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan, who
earned that comic-book-villain nickname by being the most hawkish of the
hawks, was continuing a debate we had just finished in a television studio.
His query was a telling one, in an anthropological way, for it provided
insight into the thought patterns of the neocon tribe that has been beating
the drums for war in the land of Mesopotamia.

I had expressed doubt about the necessity of invading Iraq and the ability
of the Bush administration to cajole any other Arab nation to endorse this
crusade. And that, in Perleís mind, was equivalent to defending a thuggish
dictator who has used chemical weapons against his own citizens. Couldn't
he see that opposing war was not the same as supporting Saddam? Apparently
not. The fact that he was entrapped in a bipolar, Cold War-like
perspective, was unsettling, for Perle now heads the Defense Policy Board,
a group of outside-the-Pentagon military intellectuals that advise the
Department of Defense. His prejudices and biases carry beyond the talk-show
circuit.

Gamely, I tried to educate the man. Before taking the country to war, I
said, President Bush was obligated to present a solid case to the American
public, and so far Bush and his crew have only asserted that Saddam poses a
threat. They have not proven that Saddam's supposed pursuit of weapons of
mass destruction has made him a clear and present danger to the United
States. Before the United States attacks another nation -- and,
intentionally or not, kills civilians -- an administration should show why
such a drastic step cannot be avoided. This ought to be done to win public
support -- at home and abroad -- and to persuade Congress,
which would have to authorize the assault.

"What evidence do you need?" Perle asked with a grin.

Something is better than nothing, I said, and all we have gotten so far is
nothing. What about intelligence reports? Electronic intercepts? Overhead
satellite photographs? During the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy
released reconnaissance shots that showed Soviet missiles were being
deployed in Cuba.
"Only trained photo-interpreters could tell what they meant," Perle
replied.

Thatís true. But 40 years ago, the world of photo-interpretation was much
smaller than it is now. If the United States were to release similar photos
to demonstrate that Iraq was close to obtaining nuclear weapons, there
would be experts outside the U.S. government -- in the private sector and
in other governments -- who could confirm or dispute the administrationís
reading of the data. But it need not be photos. The president could
share whatever information he bases his call-to-war upon.

Perle moved closer and said, "Trust me."

Sorry, I answered, I donít think we should head to war merely on the say-so
of a few government officials. Besides, I added politely, why trust you?
Why not trust Scott Ritter?

Ritter can often be spotted on television explaining that Iraq poses no
threat to the United States at this time.
Ritter was the chief U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq who quit the program in
1998 because he felt the Clinton administration was not being sufficiently
forceful in its dealings with Saddam. At the time, he was hailed by
conservatives. These days, Ritter can often be spotted on television
explaining that Iraq poses no threat to the United States at this time and
that there is no justification for a U.S. attack.

Ritter, Perle huffed, is "unstable."

Low blow, I said.

Perle claimed he does not call everyone with whom he disagrees "unstable."
But, he said, this was an appropriate term for a fellow who had changed his
position 180 degrees.

What about Norman Podhoretz? I shot back, attempting an inside joke.
Podhoretz, a founding father of Perleís neo-conservative posse, had been a
liberal before turning (famously and infamously) into a conservative.
"He explained it," Perle said, referring to the Podís extensive writings.
But, I retorted, so too did Ritter, who wrote the book Endgame, published
in 1999, which covered his adventures in Iraq and his short-of-war
recommendations for U.S. policy. With that, we said good night, and Perle
entered the car waiting for him.
Stalemate? I doubt much convincing had occurred during this exchange. I
certainly did not believe "trust me" was appropriate justification for war.
And Perle never acknowledged there was anything problematic in such an
approach to governing.

On the way home, I recalled the other dollop of insider wisdom he attempted
to impart to me that night. When we first walked out of the studio, Perle
sharply said, "Why do you think we need anyone else?" He was replying to my
on-air skepticism regarding Bushís effort to win Arab backing for a
military move against Iraq.
I noted there were widespread media reports saying an attack would require
up to 250,000 troops. These soldiers could not all be air-dropped into
Iraq. They would have to come from somewhere, such as Saudi Arabia. And a
military action of this size would need extensive logistical support
nearby.

Forget the 250,000 figure, Perle said: "The Army guys donít know anything.
They said we needed 500,000 troops in 1991 [for the Gulf War]. Did we need
that many to win? No."

Whatís the Perle Plan? I asked.

"Forty thousand troops." he said. To take Baghdad? Nah, he replied. To take
control of the north and the south, particularly the north, where the oil
fields are. Cut off Saddamís oil, make him a pauper, that should do the
trick. "We donít need anyone else," he said, in a distinctly imperial
fashion. This was illuminating, for here was a top Pentagon adviser, a
comrade of the get-Saddam ideologues of the Defense Department, asserting
the United States could de-Saddamize Iraq with a relatively small force and
without asking any other nation for assistance. Was anyone else at the
Pentagon on this same page? Might Perle be reflecting proposals already
drawn up there?

"Do you really think that once we occupy Iraq we are going to allow the
Iraqi people to elect anyone they want?"

I admit I am no military expert -- but I do know a few. The next day, I
described the Perle option to two of them. A military analyst, who had
served many years in the Special Forces, replied (requesting
confidentiality):
The question that has not been asked or answered is what do we want to do
in Iraq. We need to distill it down to its simplest form. Is our goal to
kill Saddam (how can you exile him) or do you put him in prison for the
rest of his life (a la Noriega)? Are we going after the weapons of mass
destruction sites? Do we know where they are? (NO!!) Once you answer all of
these questions, you realize that you need an army of occupation to run
Iraq until we set up a puppet government. Do you really think that once we
occupy Iraq we are going to allow the Iraqi people to elect anyone they
want? Guys like Perle and [deputy defense secretary Paul] Wolfowitz are so
blinded by their loyalty to Israel that they seldom look at the long-term
consequences. Finally, once we occupy Iraq, the Perles of the world are
going to say, "Why donít we just go into Iran and solve that problem, too?"
I really think occupation is something the Bush administration has not
thought through yet. It will be a huge problem, especially if we decide to
go it alone.

Another military analyst, who worked for 20 years on U.S. counter-terrorism
and counter-insurgency operations, was also doubtful:

I think Perle is smoking dope, just like the majority of these guys whoíve
held high-level positions but never served a stitch of time in combat. Itís
a lot hotter on the battlefield than it is in the halls of the Pentagon,
and the margin of error is much slimmer. Iím not sure what the number is,
but I do know itís a hell of a lot more than 40K. And indeed we most
certainly need the support of Arab allies in the region. Where else would
we base the helos needed for quick recovery of downed pilots, immediate air
support for ground ops, etc., etc, etc.?
Retired Rear Admiral Stephen Baker, former chief of staff for the U.S. Navy
ís central command in Bahrain and the operations officer of the Theodore
Roosevelt Battle Group during Desert Storm, also was kind enough to
consider Perleís proposal for me. He noted, "Yes there is a contingency to
go in without Saudi Arabia being looked at. The base in Qatar is being
replicated to have the same capabilities as Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi
Arabia." But, he added, "I donít think a force of 40K (the size of the New
York police department) will work, as the risk is too high. Anything less
than victory is totally unacceptable."

By that, Baker meant politically unacceptable. As Baker, now a senior
adviser at the Center for Defense Information, wrote recently:

The political impact of an unsuccessful campaign would be simply
unacceptable to the Bush administration. Thus, any offensive would be an
all-out, unrestrained war that would use overwhelming force and every
conventional asset in the U.S. inventory to assure success. A military plan
is under construction, but not ready yet.... Such an operation would be no
"cake walk." It instead would be very complicated militarily and
politically. It will take time to get U.S. forces in place and plans at a
satisfactory level of detail and readiness to execute.... Up to 100,000
U.S. troops and 25,000 support personnel would need to be pre-staged
throughout the Gulf for a major ground offensive.

Like the two analysts quoted above, Baker sees a boatload of complexity in
a war on Iraq:

Once Saddamís out, whoís in?... Questions regarding who will be responsible
for internal security once the regime has been removed will have to be
answered.... There are a number of tribal, ethnic, religious and political
fissures that could easily generate tensions once Saddamís iron thumb has
been removed, and these have the potential to spill over national
boundaries.... Another strong man might be what is needed to keep the peace
in Iraq. However, there is little reason to believe that the next tyrant
will hold views regarding weapons of mass destruction, Iran, Saudi Arabia,
and Israel that are dissimilar to Saddamís own. The financial and political
investment in a post-Saddam Iraq will have to be substantial, as will the
risks.

Yet Perle, full of confidence and hubris, makes it sound as if Mission Iraq
could be a breeze. I wonder if anyone in the Pentagon is listening when the
Prince of Darkness says, "Trust me."


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