"I think that is not a reasonable question."
-- Richard Perle, architect of the Iraq War, to NPR's Renee Montagne question whether it was worth it.
So, let's see, there were 4,500 Americans killed, 32,000 Americans officially wounded, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead or wounded. And at a financial cost of $1.7 trillion (according to U.S. News and World Report) from an original Bush Administration estimate of $60 billion and maybe 6 months, which turned into eight years.
Y'know, honestly, in fairness to Richard Perle, if I was him, I wouldn't want the question asked either.
And further, the thing is -- I agree with him. It's not a reasonable question. Given 4,500 Americans killed, 32,000 Americans wounded, and $1.7 trillion spent for a war whose mission from the very first was to find Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and end their nuclear weapons program -- and it was determined subsequently that no WMDs existed, no nuclear weapons program existed, and the Bush Administration created a lie that pushed the U.S. into the war, it is not a reasonable question to ask if the Iraq War was worth it. It's a given that it was not worth it. The reasonable question is whether the architects of the Iraq War and the Administration officials who participated in the infamous 16-word lie and then helped to out a CIA spy should be tried for war crimes.
Mind you, I'm not saying they should be found guilty -- or that they should be acquitted. Just that that's the reasonable question. Not "was the war worth it?"
But then, that wasn't the most egregious and self-serving thing that Richard Perle said.
In his very next sentence Richard Perle said -- "What we did at the time was done in the belief that it was necessary to protect this nation."
With all due respect -- (sorry, no, without any due respect) that's no defense. And it's especially no defense of lying a nation into war, and even more especially lying a nation into an unprovoked war. The Spanish Inquisition was done in the belief that it was necessary to protect the nation. The South fired the first shot in the Civil War to protect slavery because it was their believe that it was necessary to protect the nation. (Or in their case, divide it.) There are White Power militia groups throughout the U.S. who are arming themselves in the belief that it is necessary to protect this nation. Doing something unilaterally purely because you think is necessary is not the standard for defensible action.
If you're going to act in the belief that what you do is necessary to protect this nation, then your action is only defensible if the actions to take to ensure it is necessary must be done with diligence, honesty, insight, accuracy, inclusiveness, decency, fairness, oversight and within the limits of the law. Mistakes happens, life occurs out of our control. But when you have done all the groundwork required to meet the highest, necessary standards, then you can defend your actions.
When you haven't done that, you're in deep trouble. And how deep trouble is Richard Perle in on that account? Later in the interview, interviewer Montagne asks Mr. Perle if it ever occurred to anyone whether Iraq's deception about its chemical weapons might have been an effort to deceive its historic enemy, Iran (with whom it had fought an eight-year war) and not the U.S. And what was his response? "I'm sorry to say that I didn't achieve that insight."
Side Note: No, that doesn't meet the "Due Diligence Standard." Mind you, I don't mean the standard necessary for an architect of war, I mean the standard that you'd expect of an eighth-grader on his homework.
For what it's worth, I'm sorry he didn't achieve that insight, too. I suspect so are the families of the 32,000 dead.
But the thing is...that's not the most t egregious and self-serving thing that Richard Perle said, either.
That's because in his very sentence after that, Richard Perle said -- "You can't, a decade later, go back and say, 'Well, we shouldn't have done that.'"
I'll wait a moment while you collect your breath. Okay, ready to continue? Fine.
Because that, ladies and gents, is the ultimate damning proof that undermines any shred of substance to a single word Richard Perle says about the Iraq War. Or perhaps, anything.
The Bush Administration always loved saying, "History will have to be the judge of..." fill in the blank, whenever they had some major policy disaster -- knowing full-well that the history they were talking about would be long after everyone involved was gone. But here, Richard Perle isn't even going that far. He's saying that history shouldn't judge, ever.
This is the equivalent of the NRA and Far Right gun advocates saying after every gun massacre that "this is not the time" to deal with the horror of the deaths and talk about gun control. It's never "the time" to deal with the problem for them. (Of course, in one sense they're right -- the time to deal with gun control is before the massacres occur. Just as the time to have dealt honestly and openly with starting the war in Iraq would have been before we went.)
But according to Richard Perle you can't go back after a war and analyze whether it was done properly. But of course, that's exactly when it should be done! Exactly when it's always done. Because it allows you to keep from repeating your mistakes.
This is about as basic as it gets. It's why football coaches run game film on Monday. So, you can watch and analyze every single thing you did and say, "Well, we shouldn't have done that." By the way, I'm not talking about pro football coaches. I'm talking about pro, college, high school and pee-wee. Richard Perle doesn't make it to pee-wee.
It's worth noting, incidentally, how further egregious and self-serving his sentence is -- "You can't, a decade later, to go back..." That devious phrase, "a decade later," sounds so profound. But he's disingenuously chosen the starting point of the war, not the end date. No one analyzes what went wrong with a full war (or anything) right after it starts. To do a complete, in-depth analysis of the whole freaking war (or anything)...you wait until after it's finished. Which was about a year ago.
This is exactly the time to do it.
But then, in the end, listening to Richard Perle's assessment of whether a question is "reasonable," whether what he did was "necessary", and whether you can "go back" to analyze something is an exercise in idiocy.
After all, Richard Perle is the man who said Saddam Hussein had ties to Osama Bin Laden (there weren't any), that the Iraq War would require only 40,000 troops (it was over 1 million), insisted that Saddam Hussein was "working feverishly" to have nuclear weapons, (they didn't exist), and said Iraq could finance its own reconstruction (they can't).
Man, talk about Perles of Wisdom.
So, adding that to how wrong he was about everything else about the Iraq War, why in the world would anyone ask Richard Perle about anything?!
It isn't reasonable.
Well, as I said, at least he was right about that.
But in the end, the thing is, for all the things that Richard Perle said here - this isn't about Richard Perle. It's about all the architects of the Iraq War in the Bush Administration who, 10 years later, are trying to Neocon the American public into believing that what happened didn't happen.
Neocons may believe they can create their own reality, as Ron Suskind wrote, but reality has a way of biting you on the butt. It's why God created videotape. And caskets. Lying a nation into war earns you that very special place in hell. Trying to convince people that it didn't happen, that gets you to the chewy nougat center.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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