Richard Perle On What We Should Have Learned From 9/11

Richard Perle On What We Should Have Learned From 9/11: On Sunday, Richard Perle debated Representative Dennis Kucinich, (D-Ohio) on Russert’s show. While Perle was thoroughly demolishing Kucinich, he made a point that those of us on the pro-war side should be repeating more often. Here’s the key exchange…

Rep. Kucinich: Tim, I have to say this, that I voted on September 12 of 2001 to give the president authority to be able to respond to the attacks on this country. I think this nation has a right to defend itself, but Iraq did not attack this nation and that has to be said over and over. It did not attack this nation. And building a cause for war against Iraq is something the administration has tried to do but frankly it hasn’t done it very effectively.

Mr. Perle: Excuse me, the lesson of September 11 was that you shouldn’t have been voting on September 12 because we should have acted against al-Qaeda before that. We saw the camps. We heard the communications. We knew that they were planning additional acts of terror as they had undertaken previous acts of terror. And we waited. We failed to take action in a timely manner and the congressman is now saying that we have to wait.

Rep. Kucinich: Are you saying that to be critical of President Bush? Is that what you’re saying?

Mr. Perle: I’m critical of the failure to recognize the threat that Osama bin Laden posed before- everything we did after September 11 could have been done before September 11. But if we had proposed doing that, I have no doubt the congressman would say, “There’s no evidence. There’s no imminent threat.”

If there’s one lesson everybody should have learned from 9/11, it’s that we cannot fail to address known dangers while we sit around sucking our thumbs. Quite frankly, that’s exactly what both the Clinton and Bush administration did with Bin Laden before 9/11 (although Clinton had much, much, longer and many more opportunities). As Perle said, we knew Bin Laden was a danger, we knew he was plotting attacks, and yet we did very little of consequence about it.

Before 9/11, we could say that we weren’t fully aware of the danger, but that is no longer the case. If we sit by and allow belligerent nations with ties to terrorist groups and WMD to build their strength while we do nothing, history will judge us to be fools. Because one day down the road, one of these nations will do the unthinkable, and an American city or cities will go up in a mushroom cloud or tens of thousands of Americans will die in a biological attack perpetrated by terrorists tied to these countries. If that happens we’re not going to be able to say, “Oh, we didn’t know that could happen.” To the contrary, after 9/11, it shouldn’t take a genius to figure out there’s an excellent chance that we’re going to face cataclysmic terrorist attacks in the future if we don’t take on these terrorist groups and the regimes that support them in the present…

***Update***: I forgot to mention that Perle dropped a nugget of information in this interview that may take on much greater significance down the road. Perle said,

“We know that al-Qaeda operatives have been trained in Iraq by Iraqis. And there is still additional evidence involving meetings and arrangements and substantial numbers of operatives. …Not only in northern Iraq, the training took place at Salman Pot, a training facility in Iraq”

I believe that whoever transcribed that made an error when they wrote, “salman pot” (google turns up 0 hits on “salman pot” & Iraq”). I believe what Perle actually said was “Salman Pak” which could turn out to be quite significant because of a story that broke several months ago

“(Salman Pak) That’s the name of the Iraqi training camp located south of Baghdad where, according to the accounts of at least two Iraqi defectors quoted in the New York Times last November, terrorists from around the world rehearsed airline hijackings aboard a parked Boeing 707 that bore an eerie resemblance to what transpired on 9-11.

“We could see them train around the fuselage,” one of the defectors, a five-year veteran of the camp, told the paper. “We could see them practice taking over the plane.”

And that’s not all.

A few days before the Times report, the London Observer revealed that one of the defectors, a colonel with the Iraqi intelligence service Mukhabarat, had drawn an even more direct link to 9-11.

The former Iraqi agent, codenamed Zeinab, told the paper that one of the highlights of Salman Pak’s six-month curriculum was training to hijack aircraft using only knives or bare hands. Like the Sept. 11 hijackers, the students worked in groups of four or five, he explained.”

At the time, the story didn’t get a lot of traction because there was no Al Qaeda link to it. However, if one were to turn up, then we might actually have something that could for the first time tie Saddam himself to 9/11.

It’s important to note that Perle himself doesn’t make that connection, possibly because it’s simply not the case and possibly because the intelligence isn’t strong enough. However, could this not be the ultimate example of Bush’s “rope-a-dope” strategy? How embarrassing would it be for all of the anti-war people if it came out after we invaded Iraq that Saddam was directly responsible for 9/11? Then we’d have Bush, the principled leader going against stiff opposition from the clueless anti-war lefties who were unknowingly protecting the man responsible for 9/11. That’s pure speculation, but it might be worth keeping an eye out for more info about a Salman Pak/Al Qaeda connection in the months to come.

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