On Second Thought: Neocons Rethink Iraq War

Nov. 4, 2006 — -- A group of powerful neoconservatives who urged the Bush administration to invade Iraq now say the White House has failed disastrously.

Richard Perle, who was chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee until 2004, told Vanity Fair magazine associate editor David Rose that the team that executed the war was dangerously out of control.

"The decisions did not get made that should have been," Perle said, according to a report on Vanity Fair's Web site. "They didn't get made in a timely fashion, and the differences were argued out endlessly. At the end of the day, you have to hold the president responsible."

Kenneth Adelman, who also served on the Defense Policy Board, said in 2002 that liberating Iraq would be a "cakewalk," but told Vanity Fair he now agrees the Bush national security team is "dysfunctional." Adelman called it "among the most incompetent teams in the post-war era."

The full article is scheduled to appear in the January issue of Vanity Fair, to hit news stands on Dec. 6.

The timing of the preview article just four days before midterm elections, in which the Iraq war is a pivotal issue, distressed at least some of those who were interviewed for it.

Michael Rubin, a Pentagon staffer who also worked for the Coalition Provisional Authority, is reported as saying that the current president betrayed Iraqi reformers just as his father had in the first Gulf War. He told the Reuters news service that he is quoted accurately in the piece, but that his comments were spun "into a cheap political shot a few days before the election."

Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute has said he was misquoted in the Vanity Fair piece. The magazine quotes him as saying the women who love the president are among the most powerful people in the White House.

The White House called the change of heart by the one-time architects of the Iraq War "Monday-morning quarterbacking." Spokesman Tony Snow told Reuters, "If the quotes are accurate, that means that they are at war with the advice they gave some time ago."

Vice President Dick Cheney declined to comment on the article during an interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, but he rejected the analysis that the administration failed in not anticipating Iraq's chaos.

"I think we have the basic strategy right," Cheney told Stephanopoulos. "The president's made clear what his objective is. It's victory in Iraq. And it's full speed ahead on that basis."

But the men who were once the among the administration's strongest supporters see it quite differently. Perle now says that if he had known the catastrophe that Iraq would become, he would not have advocated using war to confront the Iraqi threat in the first place.

"Could we have managed that threat by means other than a direct military intervention?" Perle said. "Well, maybe we could have."

Rose said he expected to encounter disappointment in the interviews, but was shocked to find despair and fury at the Bush administration's incompetence. And, he said, those he spoke with fear the consequences will go well beyond Iraq.

"Adelman is actually saying that Rumsfeld's performance in office has been so bad," Rose told ABC News, "he fears that the entire neo-conservative project … what he defines as using the power of the United States to spread democracy, to do good in the world, that that project may now be dead."

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