Conservatives Challenge Iraq Policy

By BARRY SCHWEID
The Associated Press
Saturday, November 4, 2006; 3:37 PM

WASHINGTON -- A leading conservative proponent of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq now says dysfunction within the Bush administration has turned U.S. policy there into a disaster.

Richard Perle, who chaired a committee of Pentagon policy advisers early in the Bush administration, said had he seen at the start of the war in 2003 where it would go, he probably would not have advocated an invasion to depose Saddam Hussein. Perle was an assistant secretary of defense under President Reagan.

"I probably would have said, 'Let's consider other strategies for dealing with the thing that concerns us most, which is Saddam supplying weapons of mass destruction to terrorists,'" he told Vanity Fair magazine in its upcoming January issue.

Meanwhile, the Military Times Media Group, a Gannett Co. subsidiary that publishes Army Times and other military-oriented periodicals, said Friday it was calling for Bush to fire Rumsfeld. An editorial due to be published Monday says active-duty military leaders are beginning to voice misgivings about the war's planning and execution and dimming prospects for success. It declares that "Rumsfeld has lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the troops, with Congress and with the public at large."

The editorial concludes by saying that regardless of which party wins in next week's election, the time has come "to face the hard bruising truth: Donald Rumsfeld must go."

When asked about the Vanity Fair article and Perle's criticism, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said, "We appreciate the Monday-morning quarterbacking, but the president has a plan to succeed in Iraq and we are going forward with it."

Other prominent conservatives criticized the administration's conduct of the war in the article, including Kenneth Adelman, who also served on the Defense Policy Board that informally advised President Bush. Adelman said he was "crushed" by the performance of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

The critiques in Vanity Fair come as growing numbers of Republicans have criticized Bush's policies on Iraq. The war, unpopular with many Americans, has become a top-tier issue in next week's congressional elections.

Perle said "you have to hold the president responsible" because he didn't recognize "disloyalty" by some in the administration. He said the White House's National Security Council, then run by now-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, did not serve Bush properly.

A year before the war, Adelman predicted demolishing Saddam's military power and liberating Iraq would be a "cakewalk." But he told the magazine he was mistaken in his high opinion of Bush's national security .

"They turned out to be among the most incompetent teams in the postwar era," he said. "Not only did each of them, individually, have enormous flaws, but together they were deadly, dysfunctional."

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