Saturday, November 04, 2006

In November surprise, top cheerleaders of Iraq war abandon Bush

by Maxim Kniazkov
Agence France Presse
Sat Nov 4, 12:37 PM ET

And now they have had a change of heart. Only three days before a crucial congressional election in which Republicans are poised to suffer heavy losses, top US neoconservatives, who had cheered the US invasion of Iraq, admitted that the operation may not have been that necessary, after all.

In separate interviews with Vanity Fair magazine, former top Pentagon adviser Richard Perle, White House speechwriter David Frum and Reagan administration arms control negotiator Kenneth Adelman continued to insist that toppling the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein was a noble thing to have done.

But they argued that the execution of the plan by President George W. Bush, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others, was nothing short of "incompetent."

Perle, who once chaired the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board and in that capacity argued that Iraq was "a very good candidate" for democracy, said bluntly that if he could turn back the clock, he would not recommend invading Iraq now.

"I think if I had been delphic, and had seen where we are today, and people had said, 'Should we go into Iraq?,' I think now I probably would have said, 'No, let's consider other strategies,'" the patriarch of neoconservatives told the magazine's December issue.

He insisted he still believed Saddam Hussein had the capability to produce weapons of mass destruction and there had been a threat he could transfer these weapons to terrorists.

But three and a half years and more than 2,820 killed US troops later, Perle asked a rhetorical question: "Could we have managed that threat by means other than a direct military intervention?"

"Well, maybe we could have," he responded.

He went on to complain, without specifying, that decisions that should have been made in the execution of the war came either late or not at all.

"At the end of the day, you have to hold the president responsible," concluded the neoconservative ideologue.

Adelman, who once said that liberating Iraq would be "a cakewalk," was less contrite, arguing that policies that served as the foundation for the March 2003 invasion of Iraq were sound, but their execution was fraught with "huge mistakes."

Throwing party loyalty out the window, Adelman said that the Bush administration "turned out to be among the most incompetent teams in the post-war era."

"Not only did each of them, individually, have enormous flaws, but together they were deadly, dysfunctional," he continued.

Frum, who helped write Bush's famous 2002 "axis of evil" speech, bemoaned what he described as "failure at the center" for the current bloodshed in Iraq.

As opposed to traditional conservatives who have always had a penchant for isolationism, neoconservatives advocate aggressive promotion of US values throughout the world. They have long showcased Iraq as a test case for their approach.

But opinion polls indicate nearly 60 percent of Americans now believe the war is was not worth fighting.

And the Rothenberg Political Report, an independent analytical firm here, predicted Friday that Republicans will most likely lose five to seven Senate seats and 34 to 40 seats in the House of Representatives when voters go to the polls on Tuesday.

When asked about the statements by fellow neoconservatives, Vice President Richard Cheney sought to sidestep the fray, saying he did not see the interviews.

"I think there is no question that it is a tough war, but it is also the right thing to do," he told ABC News Friday.

But Cheney ruled out an early pullout of US troops, insisting it was "very important that we complete the mission" in Iraq.

The message was expected to be reinforced by President Bush this weekend as he continues to campaign for Republican candidates ahead of the November 7 vote.

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