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http://www.prospect.org/print-friendly/print/V12/22/marshall-j.html The American Prospect Volume 12, Issue 22. December 17, 2001. Inside Job Joshua Micah Marshall If you've caught much of the TV commentary about the "war against terrorism," you've probably seen a lot of Richard Perle, the portly, Ronald Reagan-era assistant secretary of defense who kept the defense-hawk home fires burning throughout the Bill Clinton years from a perch at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. On such shows as MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews and CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, Perle advocates taking our fight against Osama bin Laden to the next level and using American military power to overthrow Saddam Hussein. And if the president's recent comments are any indication, his media blitz is having an effect. Politics is a rough business, so it's no surprise that Perle -- a veteran of vicious turf battles during the Reagan administration -- is hitting the airwaves to push his point of view. But that's not the whole story. Though Perle draws no government salary, he holds a Pentagon appointment and he has an office in the Pentagon's E-Ring, a short hop from that of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. He has access to all manner of classified information; he's in the loop on war planning. Rumsfeld recently told CNN's Bob Novak that Perle is "not a government official." But by most commonsense definitions, Perle isn't a former member of the Reagan administration; he's a member of the current administration. Early last summer, Rumsfeld appointed Perle chairman of the Defense Policy Board, a Pentagon advisory panel charged with overseeing military preparedness and engaging in defense policy big-think. Perle's Defense Department supporters had been eager to bring him back to the Pentagon, but they knew that his controversial Reagan-era record would make it difficult, if not impossible, for him to get confirmed by the Senate. The DPB chairmanship looked like the perfect solution. And since his appointment in June, Perle has transformed the once-obscure sinecure into an important advisory position. Perle's media campaign is part of the larger and much-publicized debate among Republican defense and foreign-policy hands over how the war on terrorism should be conducted: a worldwide attack on al-Qaeda and its supporters or a broader ranging, Godfather-like settling of accounts with all of America's enemies. Nongovernment hawks, like William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, can rally the troops from the outside. But supporters of the latter strategy who can't escape their administration ties, like Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, can't be publicly critical of the targeted policy: It's the one backed by Secretary of State Colin Powell, after all. So how is Perle able to play both sides of the street? One prerequisite is the continued acquiescence of Rumsfeld. "I think Rumsfeld has loved this stuff," says one of Perle's former Reagan-administration colleagues, though whether Rumsfeld's go-ahead for these rants is explicit or implicit is anyone's guess. But Perle's own chutzpah and simple media sloppiness play even more important roles. Overseas and in defense-community publications like Defense Daily and Air Force Magazine, Perle is routinely identified as what he is: the chairman of the Defense Policy Board and one of Rumsfeld's senior advisers. But producers and reporters in the mainstream press almost always identify him as a "former assistant secretary of defense," as he was dubbed on Hardball in late November. Hardball producer Noah Oppenheim equivocates as to whether Perle's misdirected identification served Perle's purpose or the show's own: " It's the kind of thing we would probably mention if we knew." In any case, Oppenheim continues, it's not as though Perle was on to talk about administrative policy. Perle's foreign-policy freelancing first raised eyebrows on October 5th, when he chided the British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in The Daily Telegraph for a "failed" and "embarrassing" mission to Iran in which Straw sought to enlist Tehran's assistance in the war against terrorism. That evening, Perle proved that his beef with foreign secretaries isn't limited to the United Kingdom. Appearing (again, as "former assistant secretary of defense") on CNN's Crossfire, he attacked an insufficiently hawkish member of Bush's National Security Council, called Colin Powell's coalition building "foolish," and charged the State Department with bucking the president's policy by pushing Israel to make a deal with the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Leaning on Israel "was a change in policy," said Perle, "a very undesirable change in my view; and I don't believe it was the president's policy. I think it originated, it began, and it ended in the Department of State." Those are pretty strong words about the State Department and Powell, coming as they do from a senior adviser to one of Powell's senior cabinet colleagues -- Rumsfeld. But Perle has kept up his efforts, giving numerous print and television interviews as the ringleader of the anti-Saddam Hussein, anti-Colin Powell cabal. Of late, he's become a frequent guest on CNN's nightly wartime chat show War Room, one of the few programs to correctly identify his current Pentagon affiliation. Perle's have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too punditry may be getting more difficult. Executives at CNN are now discussing whether they have adequately disclosed Perle's advisory role at the Pentagon. (After all, how much sense does it make to have one of the defense secretary's policy advisers analyzing administration policy on the evening news?) They plan to identify him more accurately in any future appearances. But even if Perle's double game gets shut down at CNN and other news outlets, it may have already accomplished its mission: President Bush issued an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein in late November. As the fighting in Afghanistan moves toward a conclusion, senior administration officials have been sending out messages that Iraq is moving to the top of the list of targeted regimes in the war against terrorism. If Perle can no longer make the case against Saddam, maybe he can leave it to another defense appointee, like Rumsfeld. Nathaniel Hurd Associate Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) 162 Montague Street, 2nd Floor Brooklyn, NY 11201 USA Tel.: 718-237-9145, x 21 Fax: 718-237-9147 Mobile: 917-407-3389 Personal E-Fax: 707-221-7449 E-mail: email@example.com Website: http://www.cesr.org/ Afghanistan Factsheets: http://www.cesr.org/Emergency%20Response/afghanfactsheets.htm *The contents of this message may contain personal views which are not the views of ISP, unless specifically stated* -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email firstname.lastname@example.org CASI's website - www.casi.org.uk - includes an archive of all postings.