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2003-03-31

The Prince of Darkness Resigns: A Look at the Controversial Businesses Dealings of Pentagon Adviser Richard Perle

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“Last week, Richard Perle, the influential Pentagon adviser, was speaking on his mobile phone outside a Senate office building when trouble came from an unlikely source: the parking attendant.

"It’s not about the oil," Mr. Perle was heard to shout at the attendant in apparent frustration before returning to his call.

It was that sort of week for Mr. Perle, one of the leading architects of the US policy on Iraq, who has been embroiled in a storm of controversy over his outside business interests."

That was the opening of a piece in the Financial Times on Saturday. The paper went on to report:

“Mr. Perle was appointed chairman of the Defense Policy Board in 2001 by Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary. Although the board members are not paid government employees, they have grown in stature because of Mr. Perle’s close ties to the administration’s hawks.

His role came under scrutiny after the New Yorker magazine reported that Mr. Perle had attended a lunch in January with two Saudi businessmen to seek funding for his venture capital group, Trireme Partners, which invests in defence and security companies. One of the Saudis was alleged to be Adnan Kashoggi, the arms dealer at the centre of the Iran-Contra scandal.

Mr. Perle denied the allegations, and threatened to sue the publication for libel in London. But the controversy did not end.

He finally resigned his chairmanship on Thursday night after his work for Global Crossing, the bankrupt telecommunications company, sparked calls in Congress for an ethics investigation.

Mr. Perle was to be paid $750,000 by the company to help win government approval to sell its assets to a Chinese-controlled company. The deal has been blocked by the defense department and the FBI, which object to a Chinese company controlling the vital fiber-optic network that the government uses. Mr. Perle had bristled at the suggestion that he has done anything improper, or should leave the board altogether. He said in a letter to Mr. Rumsfeld that he was resigning his post to prevent a political distraction.

Asked about the controversy last week, he suggested it was the work of a leftwing conspiracy.

He told the Financial Times, "I’m beginning to think that people who’ve been saying on the internet that I am part of a small neo-conservative cabal that runs the world actually believe what they are saying."

  • Frida Berrigan, Senior Research Associate with the Arms Trade Resource Center of the World Policy Institute and author of the piece "Richard Perle: It Pays To Be the Prince of Darkness" which appeared recently in In These Times.

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