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Among the neo-conservatives advising US President George W. Bush on matters military and imperial, Richard Perle looms large as Chairman of the Defense Policy Board, an unpaid policy brain trust appointed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Perle, a former Reagan-Administration Assistant Defense Secretary, is associated, through numerous radiating lines of Washington patronage, to a gaggle of Reaganite and Bush Senior re-treads moving and shaking in Washington today.

These include members of neo-imperialist organizations like the American Enterprise Institute and Project for the New American Century, which bring together such ambitious America-uber-alles luminaries as Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and Bill Kristol. They urge military policies engineered to make the Middle East US-friendly by force, and have been instrumental in inducing Bush Junior to serve up Saddam Hussein as a convenient scapegoat for the maddeningly elusive Osama bin Laden.

"Saddam Hussein is at the very core of the war against terrorism. There can be no victory in the war against terrorism if, at the end of it, Saddam Hussein is still in power...because he is the symbol of defiance of all Western values," Perle asserted during an interview a scant four weeks after the 9/11 atrocity.

So what's this got to do with the technology industry? Nothing, one would hope; but unfortunately, financially-dessicated telecoms outfit and former giant Global Crossing is looking to get bought by bargain-hungry foreigners, and the Department of Defense deems this rather a poor idea. The US government uses the company's pipes, so its sale to Hutchison Whampoa, owned by a Hong Kong business tycoon, and Singapore Telemedia, a phone company owned by the local government, raises rather obvious national-security difficulties and doubts.

Thus Perle has been retained by Global Crossing to work his persuasive magic with stubborn DoD skeptics. He's being paid US $725,000 for his lobbying efforts if they succeed, a mighty sum when one considers the company's slide from a $4 billion behemoth to a $400 million pipsqueak with gargantuan debts. The regulatory organ Perle has been hired to 'persuade' is called CFIUS (Committee on Foreign Investment in the US), and it has the legal power to block the sale. The problem is that Perle appears to have been assigned the task of using his position with the Defense Policy Board to benefit a private client, something frowned upon in Washington. Because $600,000 of Perle's anticipated reward is contingent on the sale going through, it's hard to deny that he's motivated to bend perceptions on his client's behalf.

"As the chairman of the Defense Policy Board, I have...intimate knowledge of the national defense and security issues that will be raised by the CFIUS review process that is not...available to the other CFIUS professionals," Perle wrote in an affidavit. Perle told the New York Times that this extremely suggestive language was inserted due to a "clerical error". He said that he had seen it in a draft and had struck it out. He later said that after striking it out, it mysteriously re-appeared in the final copy, which he signed without noticing the error.

He rejects any notion that there could be influence peddling going on. "I'm not using public office for private gain because the Defense Policy Board has nothing to do with the CFIUS process," the NYT quotes him as saying. And of course that's strictly correct; but he has something to do with it, and his position with DPB is a major reason why he's been chosen. We might question the wisdom of a high-level defense advisor who sees nothing wrong with selling a network used by Uncle Sam to the Chinese, and wonder if his advice on re-structuring the Middle East is of any better quality.

Perle has also been in the news recently for other reasons. Displeased by a piece on him in the New Yorker by veteran journalist Seymour Hersh, Perle moderately told CNN: "Look, Sy Hersh is the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist, frankly." Then for good measure followed it up by telling the New York Sun that the New Yorker piece was " all lies, from beginning to end," and that he was launching a libel action in London. Says the Sun: "He said he is suing in Britain because it is easier to win such cases there, where the burden on plaintiffs is much less."

Nice. The Register's local spotters feel that Perle may have got slightly the wrong impression about the UK libel process, but nevertheless look forward to seeing him there in the witness box. Alongside, we trust, Adnan Khashoggi and a galaxy of stars from recent and not-so-recent Republican administrations. ®

Related links:
Hersh's article
Perle adds Hersh to axis of evil
Shock and Awe rolls in the New York Sun

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