Richard Perle, neoconservative "prince," former Reagan defense official and recently resigned member of Bush's Defense Policy Board, has been among the chief promoters of Iraqi exile Ahmed Chalabi. Chalabi was paid millions of dollars by the Pentagon in exchange for information that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and was conspiring with al-Qaida. That information provided the Bush administration's proof of its rationale for the Iraq war. But almost all of it was false and fabricated. In the London Telegraph, Chalabi boasted that he and those who put out these falsehoods were "heroes in error." Then Chalabi's Baghdad headquarters was raided by the U.S. military, CIA and Iraqi police in search of documents demonstrating his duplicitous relationship with the Iranian government. The Justice Department is now conducting an espionage investigation to determine whether officials of the U.S. government or other Americans gave Chalabi secret U.S. codes to the Iranians as the U.S. now believes.
Despite all of this, on June 21, at a forum of chief neoconservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, Perle offered a vigorous defense of Chalabi, a full-throated statement that has barely warranted a mention in the press. Perle clearly stands by his man Chalabi, who he calls a "man of great effectiveness and vision" -- the victim of a "shameful" "campaign of intimidation" at the hands of the U.S. government.
"Just a couple of other points," Perle said. "The great mistakes of history have often turned on bad judgment about people. Chamberlain didn't really comprehend Adolf Hitler. President Carter didn't have a clue about the Ayatollah Khomeini. The New York Times thought that Fidel Castro was a social reformer. I was woefully wrong about Anwar Sadat, who I thought was a small-time little dictator and turned out to be a great man. And I think we're in the process now of making a mistake, a very large mistake, about Ahmed Chalabi, which is why I'm taking advantage of this opportunity to say that, having looked closely at the charges against him and the circumstances in which he finds himself, my confidence in his integrity and the honorableness of his intentions and his sustained belief in secular democracy in Iraq is undiminished. And frankly, it wouldn't matter to me if all the whisperers at the CIA were of one mind on this, or even the highest levels of our own government."