BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Richard Perle, co-author of "An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror," you wrote on page 195, "ultimately the blame for our failed terrorism policies of the 1990s belongs to the weak-willed leaders who could not muster the nerve for decisive action." Who are you talking about?
RICHARD PERLE, CO-AUTHOR, "AN END TO EVIL": HOW TO WIN THE WAR ON TERROR": I`m talking about the Clinton administration for sure, and I don`t think the previous administration was as robust as it should have been.
LAMB: You mean George Herbert Walker Bush.
PERLE: That`s right.
LAMB: Why are they weak-willed?
PERLE: They failed to respond in a manner that the terrorists would recognize as -- as a real defense of this country. So there was one attack after another. And the weakness of the response only convinced the terrorists that they could win, that in fact we were a paper tiger, and it -- it caused them to increase the level and intensity of their attacks. It enabled them to get recruits, because it looked as though they were the winning side. It helped them establish themselves in Afghanistan and elsewhere. And I think September 11 was part of the price we paid for that decade of failing to respond.
LAMB: You name names in here about people you don`t agree with, like James Baker and Brent Scowcroft and Colin Powell. They are all friends of this president, and you`re supposedly a close friend of this president. Explain that.
PERLE: Well, I`m not a close friend of the president, although I admire him greatly. I was part of the little group that advised before the campaign. I have not seen him since the campaign. These reports of my influence of the president are greatly exaggerated. If -- if I have any influence at all with the president, it is because he may occasionally watch a program like this or read an op-ed piece that I have written. And I have enormous admiration for Colin Powell, who I think is superbly able to execute a mission. I know him well. I worked closely with him when we were in the Pentagon together. I don`t agree with some of his views, but I have great respect for him. I have respect for Brent Scowcroft and Jim Baker, too, but I think they -- they weren`t ready for this fight, in a sense. And I wish they had been. I wish we had taken this on sooner rather than waiting until it was too late, waiting until after September 11.
LAMB: In your mind, can you put your finger on when this started?
PERLE: I think it actually goes back in some ways to the Reagan administration, in which I served when we lost our Marine barracks in Lebanon and we pulled out. We pulled out of Mogadishu after we lost some -- some troops there. We didn`t respond to the attack on the Cole, at least not significantly. We did not respond to the bombing of our embassies. We did not respond seriously to the unearthing of an assassination plot against former President Bush. And as time went on, we created the unmistakable impression that we simply would not respond to acts of terror.
LAMB: What do you do for a living, and why do you do it?
PERLE: Well, I do a lot of different things. Now, since leaving government in `87, I have been a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. This is the second book that I have done. I wrote a novel not long after leaving. I serve on some corporate boards. I am now involved in a fund, which is investing in technology that we think will have both commercial and other beneficial uses with regard to protecting the homeland. Voice authentication, for example.
LAMB: And why do you do it?
PERLE: Well, I do it for two reasons. One is, like everyone else, I have to work for a living. But I have been very fortunate in choosing activities that I genuinely enjoy. The venture capital work is an outgrowth of work I had done previously for a major company that had a small venture arm, and I ran that venture arm. The idea of taking something from infancy and building it, if one can, is enormously appealing.
LAMB: And why this particular book? And when did you -- when did you write it?
PERLE: Well, it was written mostly last spring and summer. A mutual friend of David Frum and me, David Gersen (ph), our colleague at the American Enterprise Institute, phoned me up one day and he said, you know, I have been listening to you guys talk about these issues and you have got interesting things to say. Why don`t you write a book? And it clicked more or less immediately, because I promised my wife Leslie that I would never write another book. She lived through the last one, and her saying was, one book per marriage. And I took that pretty seriously.
LAMB: Sow, how did you two do it? How did you divide up the writing?
PERLE: Well, we spent a lot of time talking and sort of outlining the argument we wished to make. David`s a better writer than I am. So he wrote more of it than I did. He would send chapters. I would revise them, add material, take material out. At the end of the day, it reflects the thinking of both of us. And somebody`s who`s really clever at this can probably go through paragraph by paragraph and find my paragraphs and find his.
LAMB: You -- in the early part of the book, you dedicate your part of it to Mr. Wohlstetter, who was -- who was he?
PERLE: He was - he was a great man, dear friend. He was probably the single most significant influence on strategic thinking in this country in the post-war period. He was at one time chairman of the research council at the RAND Corporation, he was university professor at the University of Chicago. He was a man trained in mathematics and logic, who was extraordinarily rigorous. He always asked the question, is this true? He -- he abhorred conventional wisdom unless he could establish it for himself. And while I was never formally his student, he inculcated in me the importance of being as rigorous as one possibly could, of checking and double-checking.
LAMB: Where did you meet him?
PERLE: I met him in Hollywood, California, where I grew up. I was a student of Hollywood High School. So was Albert`s daughter, Joan. And Joan invited me over one day for a swim at Albert`s house. And sitting around the swimming pool, I fell into a conversation with him about an article he had just written, called "The Delicate Balance of Terror." I think it was published in 1957. It remains to this day a masterpiece of compression, with very important ideas, eloquently and economically stated. And it was an article that had profound impact on American strategic thinking and it had a big impact on me. I realized then that this was a subject of immense interest, strategic policy. And it was one about which it was possible to say interesting things and to master arguments, and -- it changed my life in the sense that I ended up switching from an English major to an international relations major.
LAMB: And how much education do you have, total?
PERLE: I did a master`s degree at Princeton. I should have gone all the way. In fact, I passed all the qualifying exams for the Ph.D., and -- then, by accident I ran into a remarkable man, Henry Jackson, Scoop Jackson who said to me, you won`t really understand these Washington things until you come and work here. So come work for me for a year and you can finish your doctoral thesis in your spare time. And of course, there was no spare time working for Scoop.
LAMB: What was Senator Jackson`s basic thinking about world affairs? Was there -- is there a premise there?
PERLE: Oh, yes, there was a clear premise. It was that American strength in standing up to totalitarianism was vital not only for this country, but for the world. And he abhorred the fascists and then the communists who came after them. He was a great believer in our system of individual liberty. He was a great civil libertarian. But he was the son of Norwegian immigrants. And he had seen Norway, a little country, tremendously progressive country; national health insurance more than half a century ago, three-quarters of a century ago. But he saw that little country crushed by the Nazis. And the lesson he took from that was that we had to be strong. If we were not strong, we invited aggression.
LAMB: Albert Wohlstetter and Scoop Jackson died in what years?
PERLE: Scoop died in 1983, in September of 1983. And Albert died five years ago.
LAMB: If both of them came back today and saw the influence that most people think you have in this town, what would they -- what would their reaction be?
PERLE: Well, I think they -- I think they would be pleased in the way in which a father is pleased, because both of them were -- were very fatherly. My father died shortly after I went to work for Scoop. And Scoop felt toward all of his staff a kinship. And so he -- he was really very much like a father. And Albert was all along a great mentor and friend.
LAMB: Your parents both dead?
LAMB: You grew up where?
PERLE: I grew up in -- in Los Angeles. My father was in business. He`d established a business for himself after having managed one on the East Coast, moved the family to California after the war.
LAMB: What kind of business?
PERLE: Wholesale textiles.
LAMB: And did you have brothers and sisters?
PERLE: One brother.
LAMB: What influence did your parents have on you, what kind of influence?
PERLE: They were wonderful people. They were not intellectuals, although they certainly had -- had a high regard for learning, and they subsidized my education for a very, very long time. But they were -- they were honest, hard-working. They -- they expressed American values at their best. My father was a completely decent employer, kind to his employees. They were just great people.
LAMB: As you know, this book has gotten you some enemies and, of course, some friends. And I want to read the opening paragraph of Michiko Kakutani`s review in "The New York Times" and get your reaction to it. "The title of this new book by David Frum and Richard Perle, `An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terrorism` says it all. It captures the author`s absolutist, Manichean language and worldview, their cocky, know-it-all tone, their swaggering insinuation that they know how to win the war on terror, and that the readers, the Bush administration and the rest of the world had better listen to them." I assume you read that.
PERLE: I did.
LAMB: What was your reaction to that and other things she said? And I can mention some of those.
PERLE: Well, I disagree about her characterization of the tone. We don`t know it all. We lay our argument out, and we lay it out knowing that it will be contested and that people with other views will express those views. We expect to be criticized and argued with for every proposition in that book. What we`ve tried to do was make an assessment of the nature of the terrorist threat, how well we are coping with it, how effective our institutions are in dealing with it. And then we look at the specific problems posed by some countries that have either supported terrorists or given them sanctuary or are building the kinds of weapons that can fall into terrorist hands. I wish we could focus on the issues. And if she doesn`t like the tone, so be it. But there is not an awful lot about the substance of the argument in that review.
LAMB: When do people get under your skin?
PERLE: Well, they don`t, for the most part. I`ve learned a long time ago that there`s plenty of scope for disagreements. You don`t have to respond in an angry way to people who disagree with you. And I try not to. Even when I get outrageous questions from student audiences, I try to answer them, if I`m permitted to. I guess it does annoy me a bit when -- when you`re not given an opportunity to make your point.
LAMB: Have you seen this ed that was in "The New York Times" a couple of weeks ago by ...
LAMB: Now, I`m trying to find it here -- find it here. Must -- here it is. This is an ed by the ThomasPaine.common sense. And it`s -- it starts out -- it`s got -- the headline on it, it`s on the op-ed page of "The New York Times," says "Perle`s Wisdom," and this is an organization run by John Moyers, Bill Moyers` son. And he starts off by saying, "Nothing ennobles a nation more than citizens who shoulder the burdens of war time. Nothing degrades a nation more than those who lobby for war while enriching themselves on its spoils. Think Richard Perle. You can`t miss him these days." And they go on -- it goes on to describe how you got your book going. And then they go on and criticize people like me who never -- I`ll read what he says. "He still has the president`s ear, and not one interviewer, not Charlie Rose, not NBC` Matt Lauer, not CNN`s Wolf Blitzer has forced him to fully answer the conflict of interest charges." What do you say to the charge that you have a conflict of interest in all this?
PERLE: Well, the first thing I would say is that if they had troubled themselves to do even minimal research, they would have discovered that after various charges were made about conflicts of interest, the inspector general at the Defense Department conducted a thorough review that went on for many months. It is a judicial proceeding, essentially. I gave testimony under oath. So, I imagine, did other people. And they came to the conclusion, and I think it is posted on the Defense Department Web site, correctly came to the conclusion that there was no conflict of interest, that everything I had done had been entirely consistent with the rules that govern membership on an advisory committee.
The conflict that was alleged was that my membership on an unpaid advisory committee constituted a conflict, because I had clients and gave consulting services to companies, and in the end it was demonstrated that there was no conflict. And indeed, the inspector general went beyond that to say that there was not even an appearance of a conflict of interest, which they defined, and rightly, as the judgment of a reasonable person in possession of the facts. TomPaine.com is not in position of the facts. And if they were, they could only have made that statement maliciously.
LAMB: We`ll talk some more about this business of conflict of interest. You are on the Defense Policy Board. What is that -- Elliot Cohen (ph), by the way, on this network a couple days ago said it doesn`t amount to much.
PERLE: Well, it is basically a group of people who come together quarterly with the secretary of defense for about an hour, an hour and a half, at the end of two days of deliberations. And in the course of the two days, they -- they receive briefings and discuss among themselves the important issues facing the secretary of defense. And then they offer him advice. There are very clear rules about what we do and what we do not advise on. And we do not advise, as individuals, because the group makes no collective findings. And it doesn`t make policy. But we do not comment on any issue in which we have a financial interest. That`s a rule that is common sense. It is the basic conflict of interest rule. I have abided by that very scrupulously. And -- and that is what the inspector general of the Defense Department found.
Now, the accusations were widely published. The exoneration, I`m sorry to say, wasn`t so widely published. So I`m delighted that you asked me the question.
LAMB: When all of this dust settles on this, did any of this hurt you financially? The fact that you had to get -- relinquish your chairmanship of the policy?
PERLE: Well, I relinquished -- I did not have to relinquish it, I relinquished it voluntarily, because this all broke just as the war against Saddam Hussein was getting under way. And the secretary of defense and the White House spokesman were being asked questions, and the questions became more and more extravagant, implying corruption and all kinds of things. So I didn`t think it was fair to burden them with having to defend me in circumstances where the ultimate defense was a thorough inquiry. And that thorough inquiry, it was going to take many months, as indeed -- as indeed it did.
But the allegations were in many cases just outrageous lies. In other cases, they were misconstruction that may well have been innocent. Sy Hersh, for example, accuses me in an article in "The New Yorker" of offering to modify my views on -- on Saudi Arabia, if some Saudis invest in a fund that I am a co-manager of. That was an out and out fabrication. And the people that he purports to quote have given depositions in which they say they never said the things that he attributes to them. But that went all over the country, all over the world, and it was one of the things that was investigated by the inspector general.
LAMB: By the way, did you get hurt in any way in this?
PERLE: Yes, sure. It`s very painful. It is painful -- it was painful for me, for my family. My son is a law student now in his second year. He was horrified when I stepped down from the Defense Policy Board. And he said to me -- he said, "Dad, you have always been a fighter. Said, why are you -- why are you giving this up?" And I tried to explain that I couldn`t properly burden the secretary of defense and the White House with my troubles, which couldn`t be settled quickly. But that was very painful.
And, of course, you never quite recover from accusations that -- because the exoneration never quite catches up. I`ll give you one example. "The Los Angeles Times" accused me of giving a briefing to Goldman Sachs investors on how to profit from the war. That was the phrase that they used. It was a complete lie. And an examination of the transcript of that briefing would indicate that it was a geopolitical perspective. It had nothing to do with profiting from the war. I never made any suggestion about how people might profit from the war.
LAMB: Is -- talk some about this whole business of conflict of interest again. How far should -- the public sitting outside looks at that Defense Policy Board, and you know, you`re not the only one who`s been accused of profiteering from that whole thing. How far should someone be allowed to go? And by going inside the Pentagon, having special treatment, you get introduced to people that I assume you can call on the phone if you want to. And there is -- how do you do, how does the public feel that they are not getting duped by people, you know, who serve on these boards?
PERLE: Well, the rule is that you do not render advice or attempt to influence the government on any matter in which you have a personal financial interest. And if people violate that rule, they are violating the law. Normally, you don`t get allegations that that rule has been violated without -- without some basis for that. In my case, the investigation was launched on the basis of newspaper stories, and newspaper stories that were flatly wrong. "The New York Times," for example, wrote a story suggesting that I had been retained by a company called Global Crossing to lobby the Defense Department to relax the demands that it was making on the company in terms of security arrangements.
That was completely and totally untrue. I never lobbied anyone in the Defense Department, never talked to anyone in the Defense Department about Global Crossing, except to try to understand what the company would need to do to satisfy the Defense Department. And I was lobbying the company to meet the demands of the Defense Department, not the Defense Department to relax its demands on the company. But the story was written that suggested otherwise, and fortunately there was enough documentation available to the inspector general so that they were able to establish that that story was false.
LAMB: One last question on this particular thing. Did the administration ask you to step down as chairman?
PERLE: No. No. And Don Rumsfeld made a very kind statement when I resigned the chairmanship, saying he had complete confidence in me. And then when I was cleared, he said that he thought that his confidence had been vindicated.
LAMB: On page six you write this: "Generals, diplomats and lawmakers who retired and now work for the Saudi government or Saudi companies huff and puff at the damage the war on terror is doing to the U.S.-Saudi relationship." That is just a start in this book of a lot of attention to the Saudis. How important are the Saudis to this war on terror?
PERLE: I think the Saudis are very important because they have put vast sums, tens of billions, at the disposal of extremist institutions. They propagate the views, the outlook, the ambitions and the institutions of a Muslim sect, the Wahhabi sect, which is not the tolerant Islam that -- that most Muslims would -- would favor. It is, in fact, an exclusionary, divisive, hostile, bitter doctrine that calls for establishing an Islamic universe and for using whatever means are necessary to accomplish that.
LAMB: You write, "Saudi Arabia presents a unique problem. Unlike Mexico and unlike Britain, it is over -- it has over a quarter century spent hundreds of millions of dollars to corrupt the American political system." How?
PERLE: I think there are huge amounts of Saudi money that flow to law firms and lobbyists, and it is conscious and it is deliberate, and it is intended to obtain a sympathetic hearing for Saudi views and Saudi policy. As long as we were ignorant or largely ignorant of the damage that the Saudi billions were doing in propagating this extremist vision, there were no crucial issues in the U.S.-Saudi relationship, and so it wasn`t as important as it is today.
But today it`s very important. And I think that we need to debate the Saudi policies. And the administration has asked the Saudis to terminate this funding, and people tell me there`s some movement in the direction of doing that. I think I will be convinced when we see some "for sale" or "for rent" signs on some of these extremist institutions, which are spread all over the world. They are in Pakistan. They are in Europe. They are -- they`re in this country.
LAMB: How many former American ambassadors to Saudi Arabia are on the Saudi Arabian payroll?
PERLE: I think most of the former ambassadors have worked either with private Saudi companies or with the government. And I -- they don`t necessarily disclose that. So I can`t give you a list. But I think most of them have in one way or another derived their income from the Saudi connection.
LAMB: The James Baker law firm out of Houston has an office in Riyadh. We know of the bin Laden family involved in the Carlyle Group, and the relationship with George Herbert Walker Bush to all of that. You see where I`m going with this. The Bush administration has a lot of people that have relationships with Saudi Arabia. Is that a bad idea?
PERLE: Well, it is very hard to judge the nature of those relationships. And I think, having been judged wrongly on a pretty shallow basis, I`m really loathed to judge individuals without full possession of the facts. So, I don`t want to comment on individuals. But I think, given the difficulties that now have risen in the U.S.-Saudi relationship, they need to be dealt with at arm`s length. And not, in my view, given the kind of sympathy that we would accord to a country that was working hard to prevent the damaging consequences of their past policies.
LAMB: What`s the basis of -- as you say in your book, the hatred for Israel by the Arab countries?
PERLE: I think there`s a whole range of views here, but some of it is -- is instrumental. That is to say, it is being manipulated by dictatorial governments that -- that are clinging to power themselves. And, of course, dictatorships require enemies. They require enemies at home to justify their secret police and the other apparatus of oppression. And they require enemies abroad to justify large military forces and a denial of basic rights to their -- to their citizens.
We make the point in the book, that -- that almost -- with the exception of Jordan, no country gives Palestinians a decent break. They don`t allow them to become citizens, even when they`ve lived in those countries for years and years. They`ve made almost no contribution to the dealing with the problems of the -- of the Palestinians there. They are content to see them kept in camps so that they can mobilize their own people and mobilize the hostility of their own people toward Israel, I think in large measure for their own political purposes.
LAMB: Just for a moment, how many people are in Israel?
PERLE: Five million, roughly.
LAMB: How many people -- wait, you mentioned something like 22 Arab countries, total number of people in Arab countries?
PERLE: Oh, it`s well over 150 million.
LAMB: Let me ask the question again, how could hundreds of millions of people work up such a lather over five million people?
PERLE: Well, in part it is a question of perception. The nightly news coverage in most of the world portrays the Israelis as brutal oppressors. It shows little, if any, sympathy for the plight of Israelis who are having to contend with suicide bombings, with attacks on school buses and pizza parlors and the like. I have a lot of sympathy for the -- for the Palestinians. And David and I argue that a Palestinian state could be a very good thing, provided, as President Bush has argued, that it is not corrupt, that it doesn`t use terror as -- as a political instrument for violence, and that it moves in a democratic direction. That would be a worthy interlocutor for the Israelis, and on that basis it`s entirely possible that some solution can be found.
But I don`t think you are ever going to get a solution there, we don`t think you will, if you have a dictatorship on the Palestinian side, partly for the reason I was mentioning a moment ago. Dictators need enemies. And so, the irredentism, the -- the continuing hostility with Israel will not be mitigated by a dictatorship if it becomes the leadership of the Palestinian entity.
LAMB: Have you ever been to Saudi Arabia?
PERLE: I was in Saudi Arabia, yes.
PERLE: A long time ago, before the establishment of OPEC, or at least before OPEC was ever effective. In 1973, I went there with Scoop Jackson. The Saudis did not want to let me in originally.
PERLE: Because I`m Jewish. And their policy, in those days, was you do not give visas to Jews. And so -- when the passports of the five us who made this trip, Dorothy Faustig (ph) on Scoop`s staff, and two others on the staff, and I was sent over to the Saudi embassy -- they all came back, except two -- Dorothy`s and mine. They didn`t like women either. Still don`t. Our -- our passports never came back with the visas, and then repeated calls produced excuses for why the visas had not appeared. And finally Scoop said to the State Department, you tell the Saudi government that if the visas aren`t here tomorrow, I`m canceling the trip. And the visas showed up the next day.
And when I arrived in Riyadh, it was a very friendly reception. And I spent the whole night after the initial dinner, until 4:00 in the morning, talking about the Palestinian issue and other issues with a bunch of the younger princes in Saudi Arabia, one of whom is now the foreign minister. It was a fascinating experience.
LAMB: You write in your book "only three million of Saudi Arabia`s 14 million citizens are employed." There are only 14 million citizens in Saudi Arabia?
PERLE: I think the total population is well over 20 million. But I think that`s the right number for citizens.
LAMB: And then you say, while there are seven million foreigners living in Saudi Arabia, the government takes care to ensure that their ways do not influence the natives. Why do they need seven million foreigners, and can those foreigners become Saudi Arabian citizens?
PERLE: I don`t believe they can. And they need somebody to work, because by and large, the Saudis don`t work. That`s a very crude generalization. And there are undoubtedly Saudis and Saudis who work hard, and there are certainly Saudis who would like to see reform in -- in Saudi Arabia, and who would like to see an end to the policy of sending money to the extremists. So I don`t want to paint all Saudis with the same brush, but that is not a country in which the privileged have to work hard. And they don`t because the wealth comes up out of the ground. It is corrosive; it`s corruptive. It is not good for Saudi society. And privately, Americans who have lived and worked in Saudi Arabia, and even some Saudis will -- will say what I have just said.
LAMB: You say, "Since 1990, the unemployment rate in the Arab world has been very, very high, 25 percent in Saudi Arabia". You say much of the Saudi Arabian unemployment is voluntary. Why?
PERLE: Well, it`s voluntary if you`re going to live comfortably because you are part of the elite structure that receives a share of the national wealth, whether you work or not.
LAMB: Why hasn`t the government here, name your politician, called for sacrifice when it comes to energy, alternative energy policies, and a chance to get off the Saudi Arabian ...
PERLE: I think ...
LAMB: ... you know, requirement -- I mean relying on Saudi Arabia.
PERLE: Sure. Well, they have been...
LAMB: I`m serious -- I`m talking about a serious call.
PERLE: Right. I think, part of the reason is that -- that oil is spongeable. So if we reduced our consumption of oil dramatically, it would not have a serious effect on -- on the Saudis, who -- who in the end produce a lot of oil, but it`s a small percentage of what`s consumed every day. I think we -- the world consumes 90 million barrels a day, and the Saudis produce seven or something like that. So that is not the way to deal with the Saudis, although we certainly should be doing what we can to reduce our dependence on imported oil. But, you know, the brutal fact is that the Saudis produce oil for a few pennies a barrel, and the rest of the world -- much of the rest of the world pays many dollars for the same product. So it`s very difficult to produce a change in Saudi policy by trying to manage our energy policy.
LAMB: You talk about how -- you know, and we mentioned some of this, how the Saudis use their money here with former American officials, and that they also, if you go to a presidential library, you will find up on the wall big contributors to Saudi Arabian government. Prince Bandar is the dean of the diplomatic corps here in town. What do you think of him?
PERLE: I think he lies. He lied about me. He is the person who is quoted in the Sy Hersh piece I was talking about, saying that I was attempting to blackmail the Saudis. It`s a total lie. Complete fabrication.
LAMB: What about his wife`s contribution to possible terrorists?
PERLE: Well, he`s made an explanation for that. But I don`t know how one goes about proving it. I -- I think given the track record of the Saudis, given the number of 9/11 terrorists who were Saudis, and the flow of funds, everything that Saudis say in their own defense about this has to be treated with some skepticism.
LAMB: In Barbara Bush`s new book, there is a picture of Prince Bandar in there and a story about how he came to visit and cooked for the whole family. In other words, implying a close relationship. Is the Bush family too close to the Saudis?
PERLE: That`s not a relationship I can judge. I don`t have any insight into it. But look, Prince Bandar is a very engaging fellow. He is charming, he is lively, he is intelligent. And around Americans, he speaks our language. So it`s not surprising that -- and he`s been here a very long time. The Saudis have been shrewd, having found an ambassador who is effective, leaving him in place.
I think he`s starting to wear a little thin. He`s -- I don`t see the old composure now. And it is in part because until recently, he did not have to contend with some pretty ugly truths about what the Saudis have been doing. No, he would deny that they have been supporting terrorism. But they have been supporting extremist institutions that are the wellspring of terrorism. It`s not poverty. It is a vision of the world. People are not dying because somebody else is poor. They are dying because they want to change the world, and we are the principal obstacle to the changes they have in mind. And what they have in mind is that we infidels, you and me, most Americans, most Muslims for that matter, all but the most extreme, we need to be brought into line and subjected to Sharia, Islamic law.
LAMB: George Soros was on BOOKNOTES last week. And as you know, he takes a different view than you do on the world. I want to run a clip of something he said and get your reaction to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE SOROS, AUTHOR: New American Century, and I quote their whole doctrine, is this ideology, that -- that international relations are relations of power, not law. That international law follows what power has accomplished. And since we are so powerful, we ought to use our power, and the previous administrations have been remiss in not -- in doing that. And we must correct that. We must build up our military forces, and we must project that power. And I think this idea is a dangerous idea. It`s false and it`s counterproductive. And then, because of the terrorist attack, this group gained the upper hand and has dominated our policy since then.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAMB: And he`s talking about the NewAmericanCentury.org. You signed the letter in 1998, and a whole group of people that signed it are now inside the administration, and their names are on the screen there. And you can see your name`s up there at the top right. Bill Kristol. You know all these people, obviously, Bob Kagan, Bob Zoellick, James Woolsey, Richard Armitage. And as a matter of fact, you even criticize Richard Armitage in your book about his attitude toward the Saudis, if I remember.
PERLE: Toward Iran.
LAMB: Yes. And ...
PERLE: ... declared Iran to be a democracy. That`s a -- that`s a statement I think he will ultimately regret.
LAMB: But go back to this. Your -- your enemies see TheNewAmericanCentury.org as the great conspiracy. It`s an -- tell us about the organization, and why did you sign the 1998 letter to President Clinton saying, go after Saddam?
PERLE: Because I believed then, as did the other signatories of that letter, that he posed a significant threat. Remember that at the end of the Gulf War, he was obliged to do certain things, including limit his military activities, including weapons of mass destruction. There were inspectors in - in Iraq pursuant to that. He threw them out, or he basically made it impossible for them to remain. So we were at a crisis point. I think the failure of the administration to respond to that contributed greatly to our subsequent jeopardy, because we were seen to be weak and ineffective, unwilling to follow through on the demand that the U.N. inspectors be permitted to - to do their work. So I don`t for a moment regret signing that letter. I think we were right to sign it. I only regret that the Clinton administration did not respond by taking the appropriate action.
LAMB: What about -- you have got -- George Soros has his own organizations and spends hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide to influence the world. And TheNewAmericanCentury.org has its own organization. Is this really a government that`s run by these shadow groups?
PERLE: No, of course, not. And -- I`m a little surprised that George Soros would subscribe to what amounts to a kind of a conspiracy theory. By the way, I wish the New American Century has 1 percent of what George Soros spends to influence opinion. I think influence tends to flow to ideas that are convincing and credible. We`re not furtive, we`re not secretive. This has got to be the most transparent conspiracy ever. We all write. We publish books. We are on television all the time. We state our views. We state them pretty openly. And it is the principal means by which we communicate, not whispering dark ideas in some vulnerable ear.
LAMB: Do you ever get together -- if you got that group together, you could all sit around and say, we won in this situation. We got Saddam Hussein, and our influence made a difference.
PERLE: I think the president came to the conclusion on the basis of the evidence that he saw, that Saddam was a threat, that leaving him in place to defy the international community as he was, with every reason to believe that he possessed weapons of mass destruction and might share them with terrorists, harboring terrorists as he did, he was a threat who had to be dealt with. I don`t think any of us on that list were responsible for his appreciation of that situation. I think he came to it entirely on his own. And by the way, that view is widely shared, not universally to be sure, but widely shared by responsible and experienced people.
LAMB: And you have not talked to this president since he`s been in office?
PERLE: No, I have not.
LAMB: Have you tried?
PERLE: No, I haven`t tried. He knows - he knows where to find me. I think he`s very well advised by the people who work for the government, which is as it should be.
LAMB: How often do you advise Don Rumsfeld?
PERLE: Well, I participate in meetings of the Defense Policy Board. And they take place quarterly, roughly quarterly. And occasionally but rarely, we will have a conversation outside the context of that board.
LAMB: Knowing what you know now, or even before, would you have sold the idea of going into Iraq differently?
PERLE: Well, I tried to sell it on the grounds that if we failed to deal with Saddam, we would, first of all, be missing an opportunity to liberate 25 million people. And I thought that was a worthwhile and indeed a noble objective. And I believe that to this day. And I think 25 million people owe their freedom to this president, and to our men and women in uniform. And I have no doubt that in the long run of history, this will be seen for what it was, a selfless act of liberation.
But he also posed a threat. If we had said, we will go after the Taliban in Afghanistan, that`s the war on terrorism, but when it comes to Saddam Hussein, that`s - that`s a bigger challenge than we are prepared to accept, I think we would have drawn the wrong bottom line under our readiness to combat terrorism. And it would have been an enormous encouragement to the terrorists, that we just were not prepared to take many risks in order to defend ourselves.
So I think we did the right thing. We ended up in the public discourse with a tremendous emphasis on the weapons of mass destruction. And I think the reason for that, in part, is that the -- those who were concerned, to put the argument forward in a way that would gain the broadest international approbation, were listening to the advice of lawyers and others who said, you know, regime change may be noble, but an argument that no one can quarrel with is the argument that you have got to deal with Saddam`s weapons of mass destruction.
So there was never one argument. There were many arguments. Just as there was never one argument in opposition. There were many arguments in opposition. And I find it a bit disingenuous to suggest now, after it`s done, that somehow the other arguments for regime change were never relevant. They were relevant all along and the president often articulated them.
LAMB: Page 189. "Both of the authors of this book," and the other author is David Frum, "both of the authors of this book have spent many dozens of hours talking to journalists from around the world, almost all of whom eventually worked their way up to the one big question. Is the war on terror a Zionist plot? The question is posed with beguiling directness by journalists from East Asia, with excruciating awkwardness by journalists from Germany, and with elegant sinuosity," I assume that`s the word, "by journalists from Britain, but it is always asked." So, therefore, let me be one of many...
LAMB: Is this a Zionist plot?
PERLE: No, of course it isn`t a Zionist plot. Of course it isn`t. And in fact, prior to the removal of Saddam, if you listened only to what Israelis thought, they thought we were going to the wrong place. At least a lot of Israelis in key positions did. They felt we should go after Iran, that Iran posed a more serious and a more immediate threat. So it wasn`t even Israeli policy, for those people who want to suggest that we were simply following Israeli policy. Dismissing my views and David`s and others as motivated not by what we say our motives are, but by some hidden motivation, which is somehow to advance the interests of Israel, is a way of avoiding the argument, in my view. Because once you say that, there`s not much left to debate.
LAMB: Well, how important is Israel and its future to you personally?
PERLE: Israel is a democracy. It is one that I admire. It is in a very difficult situation now that we desperately like to find a way to resolve. It`s a country whose destruction, I think, would be a tragedy, not only for Israelis but for the whole world. So I have great sympathy for the plight of the Israelis, which does not and need not come at the expense of sympathy for the plight of Palestinians, who are rather badly governed.
LAMB: But as you know, the next step, the next question is, you, Richard Perle, were an adviser to the Likud Party.
LAMB: Never? It`s not true?
PERLE: Not true.
LAMB: Why is that printed so often?
PERLE: Nowadays, something gets printed once and it gets reprinted forever.
LAMB: You have never been paid by the Likud Party in Israel?
LAMB: Any organization paid it?
PERLE: Never consulted with the Likud Party, or any organization of the Likud Party.
LAMB: If you type in -- go to Google and type in "Richard Perle" and "Likud Party," bingo, all over the place.
LAMB: Where did it start, then?
PERLE: I don`t know where it started. It`s false. I know where the labeling me "the prince of darkness" started. It started with a case of mistaken identity. Many years ago when I was a young Senate staffer in my 20s, a British reporter wrote a profile. I think he wanted to write about a Senate staffer and he chose me. And as he did his research, he talked to people who knew me. One of whom was Dennis Healy (ph), former defense minister, former deputy prime minister in Britain. And Dennis Healy (ph), confusing me with Bob Novak, syndicated columnist, said to this reporter, well, in Washington, Perle`s known as the Prince of Darkness.
Of course, it wasn`t true. Nobody had ever called me the Prince of Darkness. But once he wrote that story and somebody subsequently wrote a story about me and went to the clippings and repeated it, that was that. So, somebody says I`m an adviser to the Likud Party. It gets repeated probably thousands of times.
I astonished an Israeli interviewer -- a British interviewer a few weeks ago, who said, how long have you known Ariel Sharon? I said, I`ve never met him. Never met him. I was once at -- in the audience for a briefing that he gave to a group of people, including Scoop Jackson. It was a trip I made to Israel where he was among the people who briefed us. But I`ve never had a personal meeting with Ariel Sharon.
LAMB: How close are you to Beebe Netanyahu?
PERLE: Oh, he is -- Beebe`s an old friend. I think he -- he has been very clear and very outspoken on the importance of combating terrorism, not least of all because he lost - lost his brother in a terrorist attack. So I have a high regard for - for Beebe. I don`t agree with everything he says and does.
LAMB: If Israel -- and I know this is not going to happen -- but if Israel`s taken out of this equation, totally out of this equation, would the terror continue?
PERLE: Yes, absolutely. I mean, the people who - who drove airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were not motivated by a desire to advance the Palestinian cause or destroy Israel. They wanted to destroy the United States. And they -- I mean, it sounds crazy that they would have an ambition as large as destroying the United States of America, but they see us as an obstacle to their larger purpose, and their larger purpose is to dominate the world with their beliefs and their law. And Israel could disappear tomorrow and they - they would still pursue these fanatical objectives.
LAMB: I know you`ve covered these issues at some length in your book. But I want to go, with the little time we have left, I want to go through a number of things and just get your quick comment on them. The State Department.
PERLE: You know, they are in the business of arranging the compromises. That`s what the State Department does. And diplomats are trained to look for the overlapping common interest. And that`s often a very useful thing to do. But there are times when it is not a useful thing to do. You may find some theoretical overlapping interest between the United States and Iran today, for example. The State Department is trying to do that.
I see it quite differently. I see an Iranian leadership, a group of mullahs who were supporting terrorism, who created Hezbollah, who are chasing nuclear weapons. And I think the overlapping interests pale alongside the differences between us. And so I`d like to see us help change that regime. And we argue for this in the book. Not by invading Iran. We are often accused of wanting to invade everyone. In fact, we don`t recommend any invasion. But by helping those Iranians who despise the government that dominates their lives.
LAMB: You talk about a favorite "trick," in quotes, at State, a trick that they use when they want the world -- they want to change the government`s attitude on an issue. Explain how that works. Is that your - is that your input in this, or is that Frum?
PERLE: Yes, no, that`s - that`s certainly my input, because I lived that experience. They - they go out and they solicit the views of other governments, and they do it in such a way that the views expressed by other governments just happened to support the preferences of the Department of State. They have been doing it for years. And I think we tell the story in the book of one occasion, one interagency meeting in the Reagan administration, where an assistant secretary of state, my counterpart, it was Larry Eagleburger. Larry said, well, the Europeans are all demanding that we do things in a certain way. It was the way he wanted to do them.
And I said, I had been reading the cables. I have not seen that in the reporting. The meeting adjourned inconclusively. And when we reconvened two days later, Larry walked into the room and he threw down a pile of cables from exactly those governments saying, we understand you may be considering, and they then all weighed in on the State Department side. And it was perfectly clear what had happened. They had been working the phones. They`d said to our diplomatic officials in embassies in London, and Paris, and Bonn, please go in and solicit the view of the government. And by the way, it would be helpful if they said the following. And, of course, they did.
LAMB: Imagine somebody watching this who is not involved in the town saying, I can`t believe what I`m hearing. You have got my taxpayer money is going to that town so that the Pentagon and the State Department can fight each other all the time by using other governments. Explain that to somebody who doesn`t understand all of this.
PERLE: Well, I think it`s not a very good practice. And of course, by the time these issues get to the president, he`s not so dependent on cables, because he`s seeing these leaders face to face. And I think this president has been a superb judge of differences of opinion between the agencies. There`s always going to be creative tension between the Departments of State and Defense. And I don`t think that`s damaging. Properly managed, it means that the president is exposed to a range of views, and a thoughtful president will comprehend that range of views and make the right decision.
LAMB: You think that political ambassadors versus Foreign Service ambassadors are a good thing. Why?
PERLE: Some of the best ambassadors I have seen in the field were people who did not come up through the Foreign Service but had acquired other skills in life, either in business or the media, or what have you. And that full range of skills is very useful. If you spend your whole life in the diplomatic service, talking to other diplomats, you miss a lot. So take Robert Strauss, who was a political appointee, served in several embassies, in Turkey and Sri Lanka, at NATO, in Brussels, he was brilliant. Don Rumsfeld was a great NATO ambassador. Charlie Price was a first-rate ambassador to the U.K. Evan Galbraith, first-rate ambassador to Paris. Some of our best ambassadors. Tom Foley, congressman, in Japan, and Mike Mansfield before him. Some of our best and most effective ambassadors have been people with real political skills, with a knowledge of business and industry, who have lived real lives, not in the cocoon of the Foreign Service.
LAMB: By the way, is your colleague, who wrote this book with you, David Frum, glad that he wrote the phrase "axis of evil?"
PERLE: Yes, I think he`s glad, and I think subsequent events have demonstrated that the North Koreans are the arms merchant to the others in the axis of evil. Iran, which is the as yet unmolested member of the axis, is up to its eyeballs in terrorism. I don`t think he would take that back, not for a minute.
LAMB: Our guest has been Richard Perle, co-author of this book, "An End to Evil." Thank you very much.
PERLE: Thank you.
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