This preview clip of The War in Iraq, a forthcoming edition of PBS's "America at a Crossroads" series, has been making its way around the Internet this week.
It is a fascinating bit of footage, considering that it follows neocon Richard Perle, former head of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board and one of the chief architects of the Iraq war, as he attends an anti-war rally in Washington. The most amazing part is that Perle wasn't set upon by the protestors, and in fact seems to be applauded by them as the clip begins (one has to wonder if they actually knew who he was).
The bulk of the clip shows a soldier's anti-war wife patiently questioning Perle about the reasons for the Iraq invasion. She refers to the war as being one based on lies because of the way it was sold to the American people as being somehow connected to 9/11. Perle's response: "I didn't hear statements to the effect that Iraq was responsible for 9/11."
While true that no member of the Administration ever said that Saddam 'ordered' 9/11, it is a convenient re-writing of history to pretend that this was not an important element of the narrative the Bush Administration used to drum up public support for the invasion.
Perle forgets the common talking point regularly used by many Administration principals was that (paraphrased), 'This is a fight that started on 9/11.' Dick Cheney continued to cite the fabled Prague meeting between Mohammad Atta and an Iraqi intelligence officer long after the event had been conclusively disproven by the CIA and Czech government. James Woolsey, Perle's fellow member on the Defense Policy Board, always had a list of Saddam-al Qaeda connections he liked to cite on his regular cable news talking head appearances in the run-up to the war.
In Bush's Fall 2002 nationwide speaking tour, one regular section of his stump speech tried to tie Saddam to 9/11. This quote is from his November 1, 2002 speech in Pennsylvania:
"The United States will lead a mighty coalition of freedom-loving nations and disarm Saddam Hussein. (Applause.)
See, I can't imagine what was going through the mind of this enemy when they hit us. They probably thought the national religion was materialism, that we were so selfish and so self-absorbed that after 9/11/2001 this mighty nation would take a couple of steps back and file a lawsuit."
Immediately prior to the invasion, the President's March 18, 2003 letter to the Speaker of the House and President Pro Tem of the Senate continued to make the connection:
"Acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 (Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq) is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001."
Therefore, though Perle may not technically be lying when he says that no member of the Administration said that "Iraq was responsible for 9/11," that is most certainly the impression their public statements were intended to give the American public.
The War in Iraq is scheduled to broadcast on PBS in April, but an advanced preview will be held next Wednesday at NYC's 92nd St. Y.