Richard Perle, a leading Pentagon adviser on Iraq, last night launched an extraordinary
tirade against Europe which he accused of losing its moral direction and providing
succor to Saddam Hussein.
"I think Europe has lost its moral compass. Many Europeans have become so obsessed
by the prospect of violence they have failed to notice who we are dealing with,"
he said in an interview with the Guardian.
Mr Perle expressed serious reservations about the United Nations chief weapons
inspector, Hans Blix, and the ability of his team to disarm Iraq.
But he reserved his most scathing comments for Germany and Chancellor Gerhard
Schröder's new anti-war stance.
"Germany has subsided into a moral numbing pacifism. For the German chancellor
to say he will have nothing to do with action against Saddam Hussein, even if
approved by the United Nations, is unilateralism," Mr Perle said.
France, which led resistance within the UN security council to the Bush administration's
drive for an automatic mandate for war against Iraq, fared little better.
Did the French show more signs of moral fibre? "I have seen diplomatic maneuver,
but not moral fibre," Mr Perle said.
He exempted Tony Blair from his criticism, saying the British prime minister
had displayed the outrage towards President Saddam that should be felt.
But he accused the European left in general of choosing to ignore the realities
of the Iraqi leader's excesses.
"I don't see how anyone, particularly any liberal, can say anything that can
be construed as protecting the regime of Saddam Hussein. And yet that's the position
that many on the left have taken."
Mr Perle's comments reflect the strained ties between Washington and Europe
since George Bush came to power in 2000 over a range of issues, from the environment
to trade and now Iraq.
US-German relations slumped to their worst since 1945 in the wake of Chancellor
Schröder's recent anti-Iraq war election campaign.
Mr Perle, who is close to key hawks within the Pentagon and who was an early
advocate of regime change in Baghdad, predicted that Iraq was just the first of
a long list of dictatorships and countries harboring terrorists that merited the
international community's attention. He mentioned Iran, Syria and North Korea.
Referring to North Korea's recent admission that it had a nuclear weapons program,
he said: "Now you understand what he [President Bush] meant by axis of
evil. There are some people you can't do deals with. You could not do a deal with
Hitler, and you can't do a deal with Saddam Hussein or with North Korea."
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2002