Daily Archives: November 2, 2006

It is sometimes fun – in a grim sort of way – to trawl back through some of the predictions that were being made in the United States, just before the invasion of Iraq. Of all the various delusional statements that were made at the time, one of my favourites comes from Richard Perle – then head of the Pentagon’s Defence Policy Advisory board. Perle was debating with Daniel Cohn Bendit, now a member of the European Parliament and once a rock-throwing revolutionary on the streets of Paris in 1968. As Cohn Bendit pointed out, by 2003 the two mens’ positions had been reversed. When it came to Iraq, it was Perle who was the revolutionary and Cohn Bendit, who was the cautious conservative. During the course of their discussion (which is worth reading in its entirety – it’s quite short), Cohn Bendit suggested that there was a risk that the Americans might be seen as occupiers in Iraq. This elicited the following Perle of wisdom:

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The news  that the British are once again putting out feelers to Syria is intriguing. The Brits have long held out hopes that Assad might prove a voice for moderation in the Middle East – and that he might be particularly receptive to overtures from the UK. After all, he trained in British medical schools and his wife was born in London and worked as an investment banker here.

As it happens, my brother-in-law was on the same training course as Bashar at a major London eye hospital in the early 1990s. Bashar’s name and face are pretty recognisable to anyone with an interest in Middle Eastern politics. So, after some hesitation, my brother-in-law and a Lebanese pal wandered over to him in the canteen and asked Bashar if was by any chance related to the Hafez al-Assad, the president of Syria. Bashar denied it point blank and returned to eating whatever slop they were serving in NHS canteens at the time.

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