Or, as the Washington Post‘s Dana Milbank put it, “Prince of Darkness Denies Own Existence.” Richard Perle promoted the idea of preemptive war and was influential in convincing the administration to go into Iraq. Now, Perle says, “There’s no such thing as neoconservative foreign policy.”
And about the 1996 report that he co-authored saying Saddam should be removed? ”My name was on it because I signed up for the study group,” Perle explained. “I didn’t approve it. I didn’t read it.”
What about the two letters he wrote Bush 43 giving a “moral” basis for removing Saddam by military force? ”I don’t have the letters in front of me,” Perle replied.
And the National Security Strategy urging preemptive war to spread freedom? ”I don’t know whether President Bush ever read any of those statements,” Perle maintained. “My guess is he didn’t.”
To the group gathered at the Nixon Center Perle tried to make the case that none of this neocon stuff is true:
“I see a number of people here who believe and have expressed themselves abundantly that there is a neoconservative foreign policy and it was the policy that dominated the Bush administration, and they ascribe to it responsibility for the deplorable state of the world,” Perle told the foreign policy luminaries at yesterday’s lunch. “None of that is true, of course.”
But what about that 1996 report, the “Clean Break” report? What about the Project for the New American Century?
“There’s no documentation!” he argued. “I can’t find a single example of a neoconservative supposed to have influence over the Bush administration arguing that we should impose democracy by force.”
Other Perle’s of wisdom:
“I’ve never advocated attacking Iran,” he said, to a few chuckles. “Regime change does not imply military force, at least not when I use the term,” he said, to raised eyebrows. Accusations that neoconservatives manipulated intelligence on Iraq? “There’s no truth to it.” At one point, he argued that the word “neoconservative” has been used as an anti-Semitic slur, just moments after complaining that prominent figures such as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld — Christians both — had been grouped in with the neoconservatives.