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Thursday, September 16, 2004

Who is Richard Perle?

Here is a good article about a man who has mostly stayed in the shadows but has been a powerful conservative political player in Washington for many years.

A center of ethical controversy as long as he has been in Washington – twice in the 1980s over perceived conflicts of interest with Israel – Perle has survived because of powerful patrons like Kissinger and Black, whose wife, Barbara Amiel, also serves on the board of the Jerusalem Post. Black's Hollinger holdings include some 200 publications, including conservative newspapers such as the Chicago Sun-Times, London Daily Telegraph, Sydney Morning Herald and Jerusalem Post.

Perle turned down an appointment in the Bush Defense Department in order to take the position as chairman of the policy board and continue his business interests, which center around Trireme Partners Ltd., a company that invests in defense and security companies and has Kissinger as one of its advisers.

Perle was forced out of his Pentagon position when it became public this year that Global Crossing was paying him to lobby the Pentagon at the same time he was heading the Pentagon advisory group. His resignation came two weeks after allegations by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker that Perle used his position as Pentagon adviser to try to profit from the war in Iraq.

Last April, even after resigning his Pentagon post over conflicts of interest, he was invited by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations to testify as an "expert" on Iraq. According to Juan Cole, professor of history at the University of Michigan and a leading expert on Iraq who was also on the panel, Perle used his time "flacking for Ahmad Chalabi." Perle was added to the panel at the last minute, says Cole, "and it is mysterious why he was there, since ours was supposed to be an 'expert' panel."

With these latest charges, even people in the foreign policy establishment can see Perle for what he is: a sleazy, self-interested operator. Leslie Gelb, a former colleague of both mine and Perle's and president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, says Perle was "seduced by money."

Quite a few fall for the charms of that seduction, and that in itself is nothing new. However, the fact that a person like Perle has been time and again appointed to powerful official positions is a sign that our system of checks and balances is not working as well as it should. Unfortunately, we may not have heard the last of him yet.

How comforting to know U.S. foreign policy – especially the war power – is in the hands of such principled people. If Bush is re-elected, rest assured Richard Perle will be back.

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