- PARIS -- Richard Perle, one
of the chief U.S. ideologists behind the war to oust Saddam Hussein, warned
Friday that the United States would be compelled to act if it discovered
that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction have been concealed in Syria.
- Perle said that if the Bush administration were to learn
that Syria had taken possession of such Iraqi weapons, "I'm quite
sure that we would have to respond to that."
- "It would be an act of such foolishness on Syria's
part," he continued, "that it would raise the question of whether
Syria could be reasoned with. But I suppose our first approach would be
to demand that the Syrians terminate that threat by turning over anything
they have come to possess, and failing that I don't think anyone would
rule out the use of any of our full range of capabilities."
- In an interview with editors of the International Herald
Tribune, Perle said that the threat posed by terrorists he described as
"feverishly" looking for weapons to kill as many Americans as
possible obliged the United States to follow a strategy of preemptive war
in its own defense.
- Asked if this meant it would go after other countries
after Iraq, he replied: "If next means who will next experience the
3d Army Division or the 82d Airborne, that's the wrong question. If the
question is who poses a threat that the United States deal with, then that
list is well known. It's Iran. It's North Korea. It's Syria. It's Libya,
and I could go on."
- Perle, a Pentagon adviser as a member of the Defense
Policy Board, said the point about Afghanistan and now Iraq was that the
United States had been put in a position of having to use force to deal
with a threat that could not be managed in any other way.
- The message to other countries on the list is "give
us another way to manage the threat," he said, adding, "Obviously,
our strong preference is always going to be to manage threats by peaceful
means, and every one of the countries on the 'who's next?' list is in a
position to end the threat by peaceful means."
- "So the message to Syria, to Iran, to North Korea,
to Libya should be clear. if we have no alternative, we are prepared to
do what is necessary to defend Americans and others. But that doesn't mean
that we are readying the troops for a next military engagement. We are
- The former official in Republican administrations said
the United States also has "a serious problem" with Saudi Arabia,
where he said both private individuals and the government had poured money
into extremist organizations.
- "This poses such an obvious threat to the United
States that it is intolerable that they continue to do this," he warned.
- He said he had no doubt that Iraq possessed weapons of
- "We will not find them unless we stumble across
them," he said, "until we are able to interview those Iraqis
who know where they are. The prospect of inspections may have had the effect
of causing the relocation of the weapons and their hiding in a manner that
would minimize their discovery, which I believe will turn out to mean burying
things underground in inaccessible places."
- He added that the speed of the coalition advance, "may
have precluded retrieving and using those weapons in a timely fashion."
- Asked if the United States was doomed to follow a policy
of preemption alone, Perle replied that it is necessary to restructure
the United Nations to take account of security threats that arise within
borders rather than are directed across borders.
- "There is no doubt that if some of the organizations
that are determined to destroy this country could lay their hands on a
nuclear weapon they would detonate it, and they would detonate in the most
densely populated cities in this country, with a view to killing as many
Americans as possible, " he said. Yet there was nothing in the UN
charter authorizing collective preemption to avoid such threats.
- "I think the charter could say that the terrorist
threat is a threat to all mankind," Perle said.
- Perle said resentment over France's opposition to the
war ran so deep in the United States that he doubted there could ever be
a basis for constructive relations between the two governments.
- "When you have both the government and the opposition
agreed on one thing, which is that they are not sure whether they want
Saddam Hussein to win, that is a shocking development and Americans have
been shocked. The freedom fries and all the rest is a pretty deeply held
sentiment. I am afraid this is not something that is easily patched and
cannot be dealt with simply in the normal diplomatic way. because the feeling
runs too deep. it's gone way beyond the diplomats."
- Perle said he had no doubt the world is safer than it
was a month ago. "The idea that liberating Iraq would spawn terrorists
all over the Muslim world I think will be proven to be wrong, and it will
be proven to be wrong by the Iraqis themselves . We are about to learn
what life has been like under Saddam Hussein. Even in the tough world we
are living in, people are going to be shocked about the depravity and sadism
of the Saddam regime."
- Perle said there were good reasons to support the Middle
East peace process, but not in a way that suggests the United States has
caused damage by the war in Iraq.
- "The sense that we somehow owe this to the Arab
world only diminishes the essential truth about what we've done in Iraq,"
he said. "We have not damaged Arab interests. We have advanced them
by freeing 25 million people from this brutal dictatorship."
- © 2002 The International Herald Tribune