The collateral damage inflicted by this week’s US mid-term elections is beginning to look almost as horrific as a street scene after a Baghdad bombing. The President has been humiliated, the Republicans have lost control of both houses of Congress and the Defence Secretary has been blasted out of his bunker.

But will there be another even more controversial victim – the very ideology that underpinned the war in Iraq? Are we about to see the sequel to The Bonfire of the Vanities – are we about to see The Bonfire of the Neo-Cons?

Glimpses of that bonfire have just emerged from a sneak preview of the January issue of Vanity Fair magazine, featuring a parade of leading neo-cons talking about their president in ways that would have seemed profane only a year ago.

The bonfire is lit by the spiritual leader of the neo-cons, the “Prince of Darkness” Richard Perle, who says that total defeat — leaving Iraq as an anarchic “failed state” — is becoming more likely. And the central cause of “this unfolding catastrophe”? Devastating dysfunction within the administration of President George W Bush. Perle now says that going to war in Iraq was a mistake and that “at the end of the day, you have to hold the president responsible … I don’t think he realised the extent of the opposition within his own administration, and the disloyalty.”

Then former White House speechwriter David Frum — who co-wrote Bush’s 2002 State of the Union address that accused Iraq of being part of an “axis of evil” – weighs in, blaming failure in Iraq on “failure at the centre” — starting with President Bush. And “lifelong neo-con” Kenneth Adelman describes the Bush national security team as “among the most incompetent teams in the post-war era … not only did each of them, individually, have enormous flaws, but together they were deadly, dysfunctional.”

Neo-conservatism. It seemed like such a good idea at the time. 

Peter Fray

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