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Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, January/February 2004, pages 9, 95

Neocon Corner

Is "Prince of Darkness" Richard Perle About to Go Down in Flames?

By Andrew I. Killgore

Richard PerlePhoto credit AFP/Photo/Stephen JaffeRICHARD PERLE has played the American political system like an orchestra. In Tehran in 1973 he informed this writer that it was Sen. Henry (Scoop) Jackson of Washington state, for whom Perle was administrative assistant at the time, who got him interested in the Middle East. This was surely a prevarication since, from all indications, Perle has always been a fervent Zionist, a dyed-in-the-wool Israel-Firster. (Regrettably, he did not reveal the source of his fascination with the south of France, where he maintains a second home.)

The "senator from Boeing" and his assistant had come to Tehran as part of a congressional delegation, and it was as a member of the U.S. Embassy staff that I had breakfast with the pair. Despite the Zionist lobby's intensive efforts to promote Jackson for president of the United States, the campaign sputtered out because of Jackson's flat personality.

Perle has been in and out of the government—and always active in Zionist organizations—since he first joined Jackson's staff in 1969. His most important assignment was as assistant secretary of defense for international security policy from 1981 to 1987, during the Reagan administration. In the first year of the current Bush administration, Perle was named chairman of the Pentagon's advisory Defense Policy Board by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. In that capacity Perle arranged for a nonentity, Rand Corporation analyst Laurent Murawiec, to make a speech—immediately leaked—denouncing Saudi Arabia, the neocons' favorite target.

While the Prince of Darkness may be best known as a Zionist idealogue, on occasion he also has attracted press notice as a man interested in making money (after all, those French villas don't come cheap). Finally, however, in mid-November, his desire for profit may have gotten the better of ideology.

Perle is seriously mixed up in the problems of Hollinger International and its founder, Sir Conrad Black, who gave up his Canadian citizenship to accept a British peerage. Black's publishing empire includes the British Daily Telegraph, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Jerusalem Post. In his original incarnation as a Canadian wheeler-dealer, Conrad Black gobbled up most of that country's daily newspapers. At one time, in fact, he had the fastest growing newspaper business in the world, according to the Nov. 18 Financial Times. He ingratiated himself with conservative elites such as Margaret Thatcher, Henry Kissinger (who also is on the board of Hollinger International), and William Buckley. A glance at Hollinger's board and executives might give an impression that it was the Israel Lobby personified. Richard Perle is a board member of Hollinger International.

According to the Nov. 19 Washington Post, Hollinger's tangled corporate structure paidBlack and his close associates $200 million in salary, management fees and "non-compete" compensation—while the conglomerate itself made only $23 million in profit.

Now the Securities and Exchange Commission has issued subpoenas to officials of Hollinger International. The SEC is looking for unauthorized payments by Black to current and former company executives. According to the Nov. 20 Washington Post, "The regulators are likely to shine a brighter light on the actions of Black, the company's auditors and its other directors, who include Henry A. Kissinger and Richard N. Perle, the former chairman [and still member] of the National Defense Policy Board."

According to the Post, Perle heads Hollinger Digital, which put $2.5 million into a venture capital firm called Trireme Partners that aimed to cash in on the huge post-9/11 U.S. military and homeland security buildup. Coincidentally, Trireme's managing partner is Perle himself—who, from his position on the Defense Policy Board, pushed for just such a military buildup.

Gerald Hillman, managing partner of Hillman Capital, received $14 million from Hollinger, according to London's Financial Times. Hillman also is a Trireme partner. The Dec. 10 Financial Times reported that a minority invester in Hollinger International is taking steps to file a lawsuit against its management and current and former board members, including former Illinois Gov. James Thompson and "defense adviser" Perle.

Boeing, the American aircraft manufacturer, gained access to Perle's Defense Policy board in 2002 by "taking a $20 million stake" in Trireme, according to the Financial Times. Boeing said it made the investment as part of a "broad strategy" to invest in companies with "promising" defense-related technology.

This pastAugust, according to the Financial Times, Perle co-authored an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal arguing in favor of a controversial deal in which the Air Force would lease from Boeing one hundred of its 767 aircraft refueling tankers. Perle did not disclose Boeing's $20 million "stake" in Trireme, and Boeing said it had no knowledge that Perle had advised the company on the leasing arrangement.

Boeing chief executive Phil Condit recently "stepped down" following allegations of misconduct.

Is the Teflon Perle also about to get caught in the web he so artfully has woven?

Andrew I. Killgore is publisher of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, on Middle East Affairs.

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