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 President Bush's 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 Ronald 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.
Asked about the article, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said "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 Bush. Adelman said he was "crushed" by the performance of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
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.
The Military Times Media Group editorial, to be published Monday in four periodicals, says active-duty military leaders were beginning to voice misgivings about the war's planning, execution and dimming prospects for success.
"Rumsfeld has lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the troops, with Congress and with the public at large," the editorial says. "His strategy has failed, and his ability to lead is compromised. And although the blame for our failures in Iraq rests with the secretary, it will be the troops who bear its brunt."
The editorial concludes: "Regardless of which party wins Nov. 7, the time has come, Mr. President, to face the hard bruising truth: Donald Rumsfeld must go."
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."
The Republicans are trying to keep their congressional majority in Tuesday's election.
By BARRY SCHWEID
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