Richard Perle is again propping up regime-toppling Mideast dissidents who lack credibility.
On a cold morning last winter, I arrived at the home of Richard Perle outside Washington for a scheduled interview. I was about 10 minutes early, so I chose to shiver a bit on the front porch. Perle, the point man for the neoconservatives’ drive for regime change throughout the Middle East, had agreed to spend time me with for a book I was writing about his life and times. Just then, the front door opened and out stepped Perle and a robust young man who was obviously in a hurry.
“Oh, Alan,” Perle said with some surprise. “I’d like you to meet . . . ” But I already knew who his guest was. “Yes, sir,” I said, extending my hand. “I recognize you from your photographs.” My, my, I thought. Mr. Perle is at it again.
“He’s not asking for money, and we’re not advocating money for him,” Wurmser told me. “As for him wanting power, sure, he probably has an agenda. But it doesn’t matter. This is where you go back to the Soviet Union, because it’s the same question that we always work with, from Lech Walesa to Vaclav Havel: ‘Did they have an understanding of the malady and danger posed by the totalitarian regime in their country?’ ” The scenario of the U.S. backing exiles to aid in “democratizing” Middle Eastern countries is so appealing to Perle, Wurmser and their like-minded friends that they continue to pursue it despite past failures. Perle, of course, was the most prominent and aggressive advocate of Chalabi, dubbed the “Jay Gatsby of Iraq” for his social life and financial scandals, as the leader of a new Iraq. That effort collapsed when the Iraqi people, finally given a chance to vote in January 2005, did not award Chalabi’s party a single seat in the new parliament.
Perle insists that his man, who has a new job with the Baghdad government, was the victim of a smear campaign led by the State Department and the CIA. The Chalabi experience has not muted Perle’s unabashed affection for dissidents. “I think the best way to bring about regime change,” he told me, “is to help decent people who are powerless without outside help.”
Alan Weisman is the author of the first biography of Richard Perle, “Prince of Darkness — Richard Perle: The Kingdom, the Power, and the End of Empire in America.” Reprinted from the Los Angeles Times, November 28, 2007.