Leading members of this neo-con umbrella organization joined the Bush administration at the beginning: Vice-President Richard Cheney, Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. Moreover, less well-known neo-con personalities were linked in an advisory role to the right-wing Likud party in Israel, now led by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Not nearly enough attention has been given to the letter from the neo-cons to President Bush on September 20, 2001, urging that Iraq be a target in America's response to 9/11, even though, as the President himself recently reaffirmed, there was no connection between the events of 9/11 and Saddam Hussein's government -- and even though only the slimmest of ties has been established between al Qaeda and Baghdad.
Here is a portion of the text:
Dear Mr. President,
We write to endorse your admirable commitment to "lead the world to victory" in the war against terrorism. We fully support your call for "a broad and sustained campaign" against the "terrorist organizations and those who harbor and support them." . . . We agree with the Secretary of State that US policy must aim not only at finding the people responsible for this incident, but must also target those "other groups out there that mean us no good" and "that have conducted attacks previously against US personnel, US interests and our allies." In order to carry out this "first war of the 21st century" successfully, and in order, as you have said, to do future "generations a favor by coming together and whipping terrorism," we believe the following steps are necessary parts of a comprehensive strategy. . . .We agree with Secretary of State Powell's recent statement that Saddam Hussein "is one of the leading terrorists on the face of the Earth...." It may be that the Iraqi government provided assistance in some form to the recent attack on the United States. But even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. Failure to undertake such an effort will constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism. The United States must therefore provide full military and financial support to the Iraqi opposition [led by Ahmed Chalabi]. And American forces must be prepared to back up our commitment to the Iraqi opposition by all necessary means. . . .We believe the administration should demand that Iran and Syria immediately cease all military, financial, and political support for Hezbollah and its operations. Should Iran and Syria refuse to comply, the administration should consider appropriate measures of retaliation against these known state sponsors of terrorism. . . .Israel has been and remains America's staunchest ally against international terrorism, especially in the Middle East. The United States should fully support our fellow democracy in its fight against terrorism. . . . Our purpose in writing is to assure you of our support as you do what must be done to lead the nation to victory in this fight.
SIGNED(by among others): William Kristol, Richard Allen, Gary Bauer, William J. Bennett, Eliot Cohen, Midge Decter, Thomas Donnelly, Francis Fukuyama, Frank Gaffney, Donald Kagan, Robert Kagan, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Charles Krauthammer, John Lehman, Martin Peretz, Richard Perle, Norman Podhoretz, William Schneider, Jr., Leon Wieseltier.
Flash forward to the present, two years later. Richard Perle is the deposed chairman, due to egregious conflicts of business and government interests, but still a member of the Defense Policy Board that is privy to the most sensitive national security secrets of the government. He was a consistent advocate of the pre-emptive American attack upon Iraq and subsequent occupation, and is one of the most outfront spokesmen for the administration's Iraqi policies. He was also one of the prime sponsors of the Iraqi National Congress leader, Chalabi, helping to insure that he become the Pentagon's favorite candidate to rule Iraq; and Perle constantly touted the tainted information supplied by defectors through the INC. As The Guardian's Brian Whitaker has reported, Perle is surrounded by a coterie of like-minded individuals in a network of Middle East experts who share his neo-conservative outlook and who show up as "talking heads" on US television, in newspapers, books, testimony before congressional committees, and at lunchtime gatherings in Washington. The network centers on research institutes -- "think tanks" -- that attempt to influence government policy and are funded by tax-deductible gifts from unidentified donors.