Perle: ‘I Never Believed Saddam Was Responsible For 9/11’

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer interviewed former Iraq war architect Richard Perle to get his response to accusations by George Tenet that he was advocating an attack against Iraq in the days after 9/11. Perle acknowledged meeting Tenet a week after 9/11 at the White House, but claimed he never conversed with Tenet. Perle then said, “I never believed Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11.”

But CNN played a clip from 9/16/01 that showed Perle telling the network:

Even if we cannot prove to the standard that we enjoy in our own civil society they are involved, we do know, for example, that Saddam Hussein has ties to Osama bin Laden. That can be documented.

Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/05/perlesaddam.320.240.flv]

There is more strong evidence that Perle was advocating a war against Iraq shortly after 9/11. As ThinkProgress has noted, Perle signed a letter to President Bush on 9/20/01 that stated the following:

[E]ven if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.

Moreover, conservative pundit Robert Novak recalls in a column today:

Over the telephone on Sept. 17, Perle told this column that there were few good targets in Afghanistan but many in Iraq. Perle, a former assistant secretary of defense, was then chairman of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board.

After thoroughly trashing Tenet, Perle later in the same interview cited him as a source for a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. “There was a relationship,” Perle said. “It has not only been documented, as I said in the clip. But George Tenet himself has written a letter that indicates this.”

Tenet did indeed write a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2002 claiming an Iraq-al Qaeda relationship. But Tenet recently told Blitzer, “We were sloppy in that letter.”