The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Richard Perle (American Prospect - 17 Dec 01)
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
Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR)
162 Montague Street, 2nd Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Tel.: 718-237-9145, x 21
Fax: 718-237-9147
Mobile: 917-407-3389
Personal E-Fax: 707-221-7449
Afghanistan Factsheets:

*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
CASI's website - - includes an archive of all postings.

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]