Public Nuisance

Random commentary and senseless acts of blogging.

The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Monday, November 10, 2003
Perles Before Swine

Richard Perle took the air today on 'This Week', attempting to spin gold from the catastrophic Iraqi policy he helped create. His Rumpelstilskin impersonation was less than impressive.

Perle started out with recent reports that no effort was made to follow up seriously on Iraqi initiatives to prevent war by offering extensive secret concessions. Perle confirmed that the offers were made and died from apathy on the US side: "What I said... was that if there was any interest in Washington I would... pursue it, and it turned out there was no interest in Washington."

Two transparently lame excuses for the disinterest were then offered in sequence. "Let's be clear about who we're talking about on the Iraqi side. These were the thugs who ran the most vicious parts of Saddam's regime, his intelligence and military." Well, duh. If you're dealing with a regime like Hussein's, it's the offers that come from people who aren't thugs that you dismiss - anybody who counts and can negotiate seriously is going to be scum.

Perle also claimed that the offer, which included discussion of oil concessions, was a PR trap to generate propaganda that the war was over oil. "It was clearly a trap that was intended to discredit the administration's policy." If that was really the concern, then it would have been simple to send a response that expressed interest in other aspects of the offer, turning over terrorists to US custody and permitting more intrusive inspections and more inspectors, while dismissing the oil issue.

Perle also confirmed that the offer probably was never relayed to Bush, although he doesn't seem to know who dismissed it. This would seem to offer some confirmation to the theory that Bush isn't the one genuinely running policy beyond very broad outlines.

Perle then announces that everything is going fine. "There's no civil war in Iraq... We're making significant progress.... The incidents have all been confined to one small part of the country. And we are winning this war..." He forgot, however, to pose in front of a "Mission Accomplished" banner while making the statement. Apparently, nobody has told the Red Cross, which has left not only Baghdad but also Basra. Last week, three judges were assassinated in two days in Najaf, Kirkuk, and Mosul, all outside the 'Sunni Triangle'. And there was that insignificant matter a few months ago of a bomb that assassinated a major religious leader, killed over 100 others, and caused 400 or so injuries. I guess it depends on what the meaning of 'incident' is.

I wasn't the only one not buying. Richard Holbrooke, who praised Perle's contributions to the Dayton conference in his memoirs, said, "Your description of the situation stuns me.... Everybody I know believes that this [the plans, announced and then canceled, to send Turkish troops] is a diplomatic fiasco, self-inflicted." Fareed Zakaria was no kinder. Even George Will has of late found the administration's bungling in Iraq hard to stomach. "Turn [Iraq] over to what?....The Iraqi governing council, with which we seem to have lost patiience, is our creation.... From what social soil in Iraq is a Constitution supposed to emerge?" When Perle described the Council as 'representing' Iraq's various factions, Will openly challenged him: "How do we know they represent them?" It wasn't the first time recently that Will has been openly distancing himself from administration spokesmen on Iraq.

In another Sunday show I saw, John Edwards had his moments but wimped out when invited a few times to directly address whether the decision to go to war in Iraq was a mistake.

In possibly more newsworthy Sunday viewing, the Buffalo Bills seemed to take Edwards's inoffensive rhetoric as an inspiration, and showed a stellar level of inoffensiveness themselves. Trailing by less than a touchdown, they ran about five three and out possessions in a row, helping Dallas to run the clock out and probably eliminate their wn faint playoff hopes.