Richard Perle’s Bombshell in Milan

“Mohammed Atta met Saddam Hussein in Baghdad prior to September 11. We have proof of that, and we are sure he wasn’t just there for a holiday. The meeting is one of the motives of an American attack on Iraq.”

Richard Perle, to Il Sole 24 Ore, as reported by Agence France-Presse, Sept. 8.

Wow! What a bombshell! But curious that the well-informed Perle (since the 1980s nicknamed the “Prince of Darkness” by his Pentagon friends), who as chairman of the Pentagon’s secretive Defense Policy Board (an “advisory” body that seems now to be directly influencing policy), a man with limitless access to intelligence, should first apprise the readers of an Italian business daily of this proof, having neglected to mention it in his well-publicized August 23 London Sunday Times piece explaining to Europeans the U.S. rationale for war with Iraq.

I see that the brief AFP article, composed in French and available in English (I found it on the Times of India website) is also available in Dutch. But I have not found it in a U.S. newspaper. Should not such proof make the front page of my morning paper, the Boston Globe? Wouldn’t its revelation clinch the chickenhawks’ case for war? Shouldn’t Perle tell it to CNN’s Paula Zahn rather than some journalist in Milan?

Seems to me there are four possibilities.

1. There is in fact proof, which Perle acquired just prior to his interview in Milan. But then one would expect the story to get picked up in this country immediately.

2. Translation problems. Il Sole misrepresented Perle’s real comment: “Mohammed Atta met [an Iraqi diplomat in Prague appointed by] Saddam Hussein in Baghdad prior to September 11. We have proof of that, and we are sure he wasn’t just there [in Prague] for a holiday…” But the U.S. government has backed off from the Prague meeting story after British and Czech intelligence authorities questioned it.

3. Perle has a lively imagination and just slipped up, misspoke, in his eagerness to rally the world for a U.S. attack on Iraq, which has been an obsession for him for years. This is probably because (as General Wesley Clark has said of the chickenhawks in general), he is “afraid that [Saddam Hussein] might decide if he had a nuclear weapon to use it against Israel.”

4. Perle is willfully sowing disinformation, in the face of overwhelming and obvious European opposition to Bush’s war plans. But that degree of bald-faced disinformation would suggest extreme desperation.

(Unrelated note: In the Lord of the Rings, the dark lord, sitting on his dark throne, in the land of Mordor where the shadows lie, seeks to bring us all and in the darkness bind us. He uses surveillance, knives in the night, devious alliances and the cunning lies of Wormtongue to obtain his ends. But, while his victory seems so certain that even Galadriel despairs, he ultimately fails, good triumphs over evil, and against all odds the world does not fall into darkness. In that struggle, the least likely folks play key roles.)

Gary Leupp is an an associate professor, Department of History, Tufts University and coordinator, Asian Studies Program. He can be reached at: CounterPunch Special Report: 9/11 One Year After

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Gary Leupp is Emeritus Professor of History at Tufts University, and is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900 and coeditor of The Tokugawa World (Routledge, 2021). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: