The Book on Richard Perle
Alton Miller, who served as Press Secretary to Mayor Harold Washington,
teaches "Politics and the Media" at Columbia College Chicago. He is also a
member of PCG's Board of Directors. His other commentaries are also available online.
In the aftermath of the U.S. attack on Iraq, public debates have developed around a range of related issues: whether the Bush administration knowingly lied about Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction; the competence of American occupation forces to restore basic public services; how, or whether, a popular government should be installed or allowed to develop; to what extent the United Nations should participate in reconstruction.
More hypothetical, perhaps, are the sometimes philosophical questions that will nonetheless continue to roil public opinion around the world: whether the war hindered or helped the U.S.-led war on terrorism; whether the Battle of Iraq, as the Bush administration now prefers to term it, should be seen as a preliminary to continued military action in the region, merely one battle in a continuing war; the implications for North Korea, Iran, and other nations in the orbit of the Axis of Evil; the ethics of a propaganda effort more targeted on U.S. public opinion than on the enemy, blurring psyops with the 2004 U.S. presidential campaign.
There are two topics, however, that are still being handled gingerly by those few who venture to touch them at all. Ultimately, they cry out for discussion and debate, but they are fraught with danger.
One is the question of the extent to which U.S. interests have been conflated with Israeli interests by U.S. policy-makers.
The other is the question of whether the attack on Iraq was conceived with war profits in mind.
These are subjects to be raised with trepidation. In a climate where right-wing media figures are questioning the patriotism, even the loyalty, of administration critics, it borders on thinking the unthinkable. But think we must.
Bush's Extremist Jews
Fortunately for those who fear being misunderstood as anti-Semitic, there is a Jewish publication, principled and prestigious, which has long proven itself unafraid to grapple with issues like the first topic. In the current (May/June) issue of Tikkun, self-described as A Bimonthly Jewish Critique of Politics, Culture and Society, Paul Buhle writes of Bush's Extremist Jews:
Among the visionaries of Washington's global power-grab, a select group of American Jews are more influential than at any time in history and in ways neither benign nor idealistic... Take a deep breath, reader, because we need to take a hard look at history. More than at any time in the previous history of American crises, with the possible and partial exception of the later 1930s and during the anti-fascist war, the current situation has not only striking but essential Jewish connections, some positive, some terrifyingly negative.
Buhle deals with the positive including Jewish leadership in civil liberties issues, from civil rights to the ACLU, which, along with countless other temporary associations or alliances, up to the present day, owe their existence to Jewish activists and patrons.
When he shifts his attention to the terrifyingly negative, he has in mind the overrepresentation of Jewish intellectuals among neoconservative trends (think of Irving Kristol or the flagship journal The Public Interest, launched on CIA cash payments)... and the ploys of Cold Warrior Sen. Henry Scoop Jackson a politician perhaps more single-mindedly devoted to the accelerated development and deployment of weapons, to the prospects of wars, real and potential, than any liberal or conservative was likely to be again until the Cold War had yielded to another frame of global conflicts, who parlayed the issue of Soviet Jewry into a Cold War trade issue: For the first time in a generation, establishment American Jewish organizations were energized around a cause that did not seem (as Israel often did) to raise questions of dual loyalty, but instead highlighted human rights.
Jackson's most severe critics admit that he had a real issue, even as he used it with the same exquisite cynicism that he exploited his labor credentials. After the passage of the Jackson-Vannik amendment, Russian Jews successfully emigrated by the tens of thousands to Israel and to the West Bank. Even better for Jackson and his neocon Jewish cohorts, those new emigrants then served as a veritable human barrier against Palestinian nationhood.
Jackson died in 1983, but by that time the Jewish neocons of whom Buhle writes had a prominent role in the Reagan presidency:
They were caught in what was dubbed Contragate, a vastly more pervasive violation of constitutional statutes than the Watergate break-in that brought down Richard Nixon a decade earlier. Elliot Abrams figured most prominently in the Contragate scandal, though Richard Perle also had a supporting role. But unlike the Nixon crew, the Contragate conspirators beat the rap, largely because Congress feared the revelation of too many secrets hidden on both sides of the aisles. Condemned for lying to Congress, attacked for involvement in serious human rights violations, these neocons never went to jail. Today, we find many of them (including John Poindexter, who was convicted and then pardoned by Bush Sr.) back in power. They're bigger, less checked by any democratic restraints, than ever. They are, to listen to what their proud parents must be saying in private, practically the Jews Who Run The World.
We sense, as we read Tikkun, that we are overhearing a family argument. I hope that the skinheads and anti-Semites who stumble on this column are clear that Buhle never suggests and we expressly repudiate any notion of a Jewish conspiracy as we follow this line of thought.
But you do not have to be a follower of Pat Buchanan to consider how easy and intellectually sloppy it would be to confuse American foreign policy interests with the agenda of the political regime currently making decisions in Tel Aviv both domestic decisions about Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and foreign policy decisions about which enemies to assassinate, which peoples to intimidate.
It's a discussion that needs to happen in high places, in accordance with high rhetorical standards, before it bubbles up out of the low places as a kind of toxic waste.
The Profits of War
The second issue, that of war profiteering, is another tricky subject. Would anyone really believe that at the highest levels of leadership, dollars were determinative in a decision to go to war? This is not just another way of asking, Was the war really about oil. And it is not just another example of conservatives blatantly exploiting political opportunities to enrich their friends through, for example, tax policies. This is a subject for another day, perhaps or perhaps another venue. But we'll flag it here for attention later, because it provides a possible ten-figure motive for cynical manipulation of honest, genuine, concern for the security of the state of Israel.
The two issues converge in the person of Richard Perle, who is already no doubt the subject of civics classes, masters theses and doctoral dissertations on subjects like Presidential Power and the Pax Americana.
The book on Richard Perle is compounded in journalist's accounts of the facts as they become available. Of the vast and growing literature on the subject of Perle & Co., the following guide may serve as a primer:
The Ideology of the War Makers
Richard Perle, an architect of administration strategy in the Mid-East, has recently (3/27) resigned as chairman of the Defense Policy Board, a key advisory arm for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. The resignation has sparked fresh attention to the role of the brain trust behind the war. On this page is a collection of items relating to these issues, in reverse chronological order, dating back over ten years.
April 18, 2003
Chaos in the Middle East is the Bush Hawks' Plan: In their view, invasion of Iraq was not merely, or even primarily, about getting rid of Saddam Hussein. Nor was it really about weapons of mass destruction, though their elimination was an important benefit. Rather, the administration sees the invasion as only the first move in a wider effort to reorder the power structure of the entire Middle East, writes Joshua Micah Marshall in The Washington Monthly.
April 3, 2003
Richard Perle's Corporate Adventures: Richard Perle's resignation as chairman of the Defense Policy Board capped a tumultuous month for the neoconservative who spent the past decade stoking the fires for the U.S. onslaught on Iraq. Perle's fate was sealed when it was reported that he was active in Trireme Partners, a private fund currying Saudi investment in homeland security companies; and in the Autonomy Corporation, a British company that sells eavesdropping software to the FBI and to U.S. and British and Italian intelligence; and lobbying for Global Crossing at the Pentagon. Some Democrats now argue that Perle's conflicts of interest are so serious that he should quit the board altogether. But such an ethical threshold would force almost one-third of Rumsfeld's board off the panel. Nine of the board's thirty members have ties to defense and security-related companies that collectively won more than $76 billion in US defense contracts over the past two years. read story...
March 30, 2003
Corruption at the Defense Policy Board? "Of the 30 members of the Defense Policy Board, the government-appointed group that advises the Pentagon, at least nine have ties to companies that have won more than $76 billion in defense contracts in 2001 and 2002. Four members are registered lobbyists, one of whom represents two of the three largest defense contractors." So reports the Center for Public Integrity.
Read the story about conflicts of interest...
Board members list with capsule profiles...
March 17, 2003
Perle Caught in a Conflict of Interest?Seymour M. Hersh, in The New Yorker magazine, wrote a revealing account of Richard Perle's role as "a managing partner in a venture-capital company called Trireme Partners [which invests] in companies dealing in technology, goods, and services that are of value to homeland security and defense... Trireme’s business potential depended on a war in Iraq taking place." Hersh quotes "the Saudi-born businessman Adnan Khashoggi [who] brokered billions of dollars in arms and aircraft sales for the Saudi royal family, earning hundreds of millions in commissions and fees... 'If there is no war,' he told me, 'why is there a need for security? If there is a war, of course, billions of dollars will have to be spent.' He commented, "You Americans blind yourself with your high integrity and your democratic morality against peddling influence, but they [Perle and his partners] were peddling influence."
February 20, 2003
Chronology of the Doctrines of War: Frontline, the PBS public affairs series, has developed a chronology of the development of the 1992 Perle-Wolfowitz vision of a war for American hegemony in the Middle East. Policy analysts note that there are many elements in the 2002 NSS document which bear a strong resemblance to recommendations presented in Paul Wolfowitz's controversial Defense Planning Guidance draft written in 1992 under the first Bush administration. Note that on 9-13, two days after 9-11, Wolfowitz signals that the U.S. will enlarge its campaign against terror to include Iraq: "I think one has to say it's not just simply a matter of capturing people and holding them accountable, but removing the sanctuaries, removing the support systems, ending states who sponsor terrorism. And that's why it has to be a broad and sustained campaign." He has been working toward this moment for over a decade (see below).
April 7, 2003
Famed Prince of Darkness Richard Perle is a political animal unique to Washington. He has successfully melded personal, ideological and commercial entrepreneurship into a polished package that looks kosher just so long as no one examines its particulars. Too bad for Perle, Rabbi Sy Hersh decided to take a look in the March 17 New Yorker.
March 28, 2003
Perle's Role as Warmaker Now Out in the Open: With the war underway, new battle lines to shape the parameters of U.S. policy toward post-war Iraq have moved out of the shadows and into public view. Neoconservatives who allied themselves with traditional right-wing Republicans to push for war in Iraq are now trying to enlist veterans of the Democratic administration of former President Bill Clinton to realize their post-war plans for transforming Iraq. more...
March 27, 2003
Perle and the Project for a New American Century, or PNAC, a group founded in 1997 that has been agitating since its inception for a war with Iraq: The Committee has set out to "educate" Americans via cable news connections about the need for war in Iraq. This group met recently with National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice regarding the ways and means of this education.
February 21, 2003
The PNAC Agenda is a Fantasy of Empire: Above all else, PNAC desires and demands one thing: The establishment of a global American empire to bend the will of all nations. They chafe at the idea that the United States, the last remaining superpower, does not do more by way of economic and military force to bring the rest of the world under the umbrella of a new socio-economic Pax Americana.
January 25, 2003
Frontline Interview with Richard Perle: In this interview with Frontline, Perle makes the case for using a war with Iraq to remake the Middle East, and he stresses the significance of Sept. 11 in shaping the Bush administration's thinking about the links between terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. He acknowledges the continuity from war planning in 1991-1992, and the opportunity provided by 9-11 to revive those plans.
January 13, 2003
How Did the War Party Get Started? Conservative columnist Georgie Anne Geyer, writing for the American Conservative, quotes the president from the book, 'Bush at War': “Look, our strategy is to create chaos, to create a vacuum.” Citing "another quote from the president, in which he again reflects the obsessive chaos theory of the neoconservatives surrounding him like sentinels and for whom Iraq has become the sina quo non of political existence: 'We will export death and violence to the four corners of the earth in defense of our great nation.' Whew."
September 29, 2002
The President's Real Goal in Iraq: "The official story on Iraq has never made sense," wrote Jay Bookman, the deputy editorial page editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, last September. "The connection that the Bush administration has tried to draw between Iraq and al-Qaida has always seemed contrived and artificial. In fact, it was hard to believe that smart people in the Bush administration would start a major war based on such flimsy evidence."
September 17, 2002
White House National Security Policy – U.S. as the Sole Superpower: "The major institutions of American national security were designed in a different era to meet different requirements. All of them must be transformed.
It is time to reaffirm the essential role of American military strength.We must build and maintain our defenses beyond challenge. Our military’s highest priority is to defend the United States."
March 11, 2002
The Objective Was Clear: Topple Saddam. But how? The Bush Administration was sharply divided about Iraq. There was widespread agreement that Saddam Hussein must be overthrown, but no agreement about how to get it done. The President gave his feuding agencies a deadline of April 15th (2002) to come up with a "coagulated plan," as one senior State Department official put it, for ending the regime. The President expected to meet that month with Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister, whose support for the Iraqi operation was considered essential...
November 5, 2001
Wolfowitz and Perle: Three Decades of War Planning: For almost 30 years, says Jude Wanniski, Wolfowitz and Perle have complemented each other nicely, with Perle playing the tactician and Wolfowitz the more circumspect scholar. But around the end of the Gulf War, Wolfowitz was anything but circumspect, arguing not only for a final push to Baghdad but, later and more vociferously, for fielding U.S. forces in support of the ill-fated Kurdish and Shia intifadas against Saddam. Since then, he's backed all possible funding and support for the Iraqi National Congress, a hopelessly ineffectual expatriate (and, many say, corrupt) opposition group.
Perle Associates Draft a Blueprint for U.S. Strategy: "Today, the U.S. is blessed with wealthy, powerful and democratic allies in every part of the world; it is in the midst of the longest economic expansion in its history; and its political and economic principles are almost universally embraced. At no time in history has the international security order been as conducive to American interests and ideals. The challenge for the coming century is to preserve and enhance this "American Peace." Yet unless the United States maintains sufficient military strength, this opportunity will be lost." Make you nostalgic? This strategy document is by the Project for the New American Century, established in the spring of 1997 when participants Paul Wolfowitz, William Kristol, and other Perle associates were out of office during the Clinton years.
January 26, 1998
Perle, Wolfowitz, Kristol, Neo-Cons' Open Letter to Clinton: "Given the magnitude of the threat, the current policy, which depends for its success upon the steadfastness of our coalition partners and upon the cooperation of Saddam Hussein, is dangerously inadequate. The only acceptable strategy is ... removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power. That now needs to become the aim of American foreign policy."
July 8, 1996
Perle Drafts a Strategy Document for Israel: "Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq – an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right – as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions... Syria recently signaled that it and Iran might prefer a weak, but barely surviving Saddam, if only to undermine and humiliate Jordan in its efforts to remove Saddam..." Perle's document on "Securing the Realm" urged Israel to stop moralizing and get tough.
August 24, 1995
Ideological Roots: Jude Wanniski Argues for Empire: "The United States, after all, is unique itself in the family of nations. It is the only nation that began as a state, one that brought forth a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the principle that all men are created equal. The success of this experiment, which has drawn from a leadership pool that contains the children of every nation on earth, is now in a position to teach and guide the world at large. It is a benevolent American Empire that is now our responsibility, one that should hold back its threats of military might in order to influence by example."
March 8, 1992
Wolfowitz Strategy Document Leaked to N.Y. Times: In the waning months of the first Bush administration, the N.Y. Times reported: "In a broad new policy statement that is in its final drafting phase, the Defense Department asserts that America’s political and military mission in the post-cold-war era will be to ensure that no rival superpower is allowed to emerge in Western Europe, Asia or the territories of the former Soviet Union.
A 46-page document that has been circulating at the highest levels of the Pentagon for weeks, and which Defense Secretary Dick Cheney expects to release later this month, states that part of the American mission will be "convincing potential competitors that they need not aspire to a greater role or pursue a more aggressive posture to protect their legitimate interests." North Korea and Iraq were singled out.
March 23, 2003
Backstory: How did the U.S. end up taking on Saddam?: "F___ Saddam. We're taking him out." Those were the words of President George W. Bush, who had poked his head into the office of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. It was March 2002, and Rice was meeting with three U.S. Senators, discussing how to deal with Iraq through the United Nations, or perhaps in a coalition with America's Middle East allies. Bush wasn't interested. He waved his hand dismissively, recalls a participant, and neatly summed up his Iraq policy in that short phrase. The Senators laughed uncomfortably; Rice flashed a knowing smile. The President left the room. Read the entire story from Time Magazine:
April 2, 2003
Backstory: The Thirty-Year Itch: Three decades ago, in the throes of the energy crisis, Washington's hawks conceived of a strategy for US control of the Persian Gulf's oil. Now, with the same strategists firmly in control of the White House, the Bush administration is playing out their script for global dominance. So reports Mother Jones in this in-depth report on the past 30 years of planning for war in Iraq.
April 12, 2003
The Bush Administration:A series of articles from The Nation magazine reportage and editorial opinion on the policies and practices of the Bush White House. more...
March 29, 2003
Primary Sources Related to the American Empire: What were the origins of the Bush Doctrine that openly declares our national investment in a Pax Americana? Here are additional sources of information:
May 13, 2003
Other Stories on War Profits: This is a cumulative repository of current stories tracking contracts in Iraq: