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<nettime> perle vs hersh: on the transformation of jurisprudence (and mo
t byfield on Sat, 15 Mar 2003 08:22:05 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> perle vs hersh: on the transformation of jurisprudence (and more)

i've periodically banged my can on nettime and elsewhere (e.g., _mute_
magazine) about the seemingly abstruse issues of jurisdiction and forum,
and here it is again -- but this is a pretty stunning case. an ultra-
hawkish US government official, upset over an article by an american
journalist that appeared in (ironies abound) the _new yorker_, is suing the
journalist -- in england. why? 'because,' one article based on an interview
with the official explains, it is easier to win such cases there, where the
burden on plaintiffs is much less.' the details of this case can be found

it's tempting to dismiss this is yet another example of the bush
administration's lack of faith in the very system it so zealously seeks to
impose on the rest of the world. (the legal 'limbo' -- though 'caribbean
dungeons' would be more descriptive -- of the guantanamo prisoners is
another example; 'tort reform' efforts to cap liabilities is another). more
specifically, it's an example of the fear and loathing with which the
administration regards the one potent wildcard remaining in the US
political system: juries. but that's not a very useful direction to pursue.
instead, in my view, the bigger issue is international: the fact that legal
and administrative proceedings are, by various mechanisms and for various
reasons, less and less constrained by any commonsense understanding of,
yes, jurisdiction and forum.

some of this can be chalked up to the rise of the internet, which has
thrown some epistemological and ontological curveballs at commonsense
jurisprudence and governance. but that kind of assessment falls prey to the
tired kind of technological determinism that, say, missed the accidental
subtlety buried in dismissive claims like 'the internet is like CB radio.'
reverse that dismissal and you find something much more interesting: CB
radio is like the internet -- a medium or platform that allows for
aleatory, promiscuous communications on the basis of common interests
between people who didn't 9and probably still don't) know each other. the
point is that the internet could easily have become yet another 'dead
medium'; but it didn't because, for reasons that we'll never fully
understand, this seems to have been 'the right time' for such medium (or
whatever it is) to succeed. and the conditions that led to its (relative?)
success have, obviously, seen many other developments. one of them is the
dissolution or transformation of some of the most basic foundations of
jurisprudence and governance -- jurdisdiction and forum being the easiest
to name. so, while internetworking has certainly fueled these issues, it
just as certainly hasn't been the cause, adequate or proximate.

back to the case in point: there's no reason to believe that the above-
mentioned english lawsuit makes any mention of the net. in that regard,
it's unlike other famous cases, such as the defamation suit brought by the
australian mining magnate joseph gutnick over an article that appeared in
the dow-jones-owned _barron's_,[f] because it appeared on the net -- and,
it was (successfully) argued, was subject to australian jurisdiction.
however, there *is* a serious danger that efforts to address the problems
posed by the net for jurisprudence and governance will, when implemented,
spill 'back' into older media -- print, obviously, but speech as well -- if
not every other aspect of life.

this development cannot simply be plugged into traditional parochial
political stances. it would be easy, on the basis of an example like the
above-mentioned english lawsuit, to denounce this kind of 'forum-shopping'
-- that is, bringing a suit in the forum most advantageous to one's cause
-- as ludicrous. but, for example, today's _financial times_ runs a column
(patty waldmeir, 'An abuse of power: US courts should not punish companies
for human rights violations committed overseas' [14 march]) decrying the
fact that 'US plaintiffs' lawyers have revived a dormant 18th-century law'
-- the one-sentence-long (!) Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789 -- 'and made it
their chief weapon in a 21st-century battle over corporate responsibility
in an age of globalization.' according to the article, 'some 25 lawsuits
have been filed against big US and multinational corporations' under this

in a way, forum and jurisdiction are only a few more wrinkles in the
ever-expanding and ever-denser thicket of legal and administrative tools
and approaches that are the main 'products' of governance. put simply, as
more and more legislation and procedure accumulates day after day, year
after year, governance and jurisprudence are becoming an impossibly complex
realm, which -- necessarily -- will be ever-divided and subdivided into
specialties, subspecialties, sub-sub-specialties, and so on. and while one
can describe this abstractly, the fact remains that these are activities
performed by people. it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that many of
the claims made about the so-called 'crisis of the humanities' -- rampant
relativism, the myopia of specialization, disciplinary blurring,
methodological messiness, the loss of pragmatic or commonsense constraints,
etc, etc -- are the order of the day for governance itself. (in that
regard, louis menand's writings over the last several years, in which he's
argued _inter alia_ that this crisis is 'really' a by-product of the
humanities' failure to recognize their dwindling 'marketshare' in
education, almost certainly misses the mark: there's something much bigger
afoot -- say, one of those foucauldian 'ruptures.')

in any event, the problem, in trying to analyze these jurisprudential
development, is that one must either (a) appeal to some arbitrary set of
'first principles' that are extrinsic to the myriad legal and
administrative apparatuses in question, or (b) try to work 'within' those
frameworks to define sensible limitations.  the danger is that disparate
frameworks will be -- indeed, *are being* -- harmonized downward, to a
lowest common denominator. worse, this meta-level harmonization is itself
taking place in far too many fora for even all but the most substantial and
connected organizations to track. as a result, the systemic effect is that
these developments lie within the ken of only two kinds of formations:
governments and multinational corporations. 

just one example of such a forum is the Hague Conference on Private
International Law. if you're interested, see my article about it in _mute_
22 [december 01], 'The Hague Convention for Dummies.'[a] more generally,
jamie love has been a powerhouse when it comes to publicizing and
intervening in these issues; in particular, a few lists[b] run by his
Consumer Project on Technology,[c] and the related organization Essential
Information,[d] are an excellent source of information on these subjects --
for people who aren't deep into this stuff, the Random-bits[e] list is
probably best.

  [a] http://www.metamute.com/look/article.tpl?IdLanguage=1&IdPublication=1&NrIssue=22&NrSection=10&NrArticle=263&ST_max=0
  [b] http://lists.essential.org/mailman/listinfo
  [c] http://www.cptech.org/
  [d] http://www.essential.org/
  [e] http://lists.essential.org/mailman/listinfo/random-bits
  [f] http://www.nettime.org/Lists-Archives/nettime-l-0212/msg00104.html

ok, and here, finally, is a redux of the story behind the english lawsuit...

on the 17th, michael century sent a message to nettime with a pointer[1] to
an article that appeared in the (nominally) 17 march issue of the _new
yorker_, 'Lunch with the Chairman: Why was Richard Perle meeting with Adnan
Khashoggi?'[2] in the article, the venerable investigative reporter seymour
hersh -- the man who brought you the my lai massacre and the glomar
explorer, to name just two, though some of his more recent work has been
criticized as much tawdrier -- provides a subtle analysis of  a 3 january
lunch in marseilles involving perle, iran-contra arms-dealing alumnus adnan
khashoggi, and the saudi industrialist harb saleh al-zuhair. ostensibly,
the subjects on the table were a peace initiative involving iraq and
possible saudi investments in Trireme Partners L.P., a venture-capital
company in which perle is a managing partner. according to prince bandar
bin sultan, the former saudi ambassador to the US of 20 years, the peace
initiative was 'deniability, and a cover story,' and the real business was
trireme's attempts, in hersh's words, to 'seek the help of influential
Saudis to win [multibillion-dollar] homeland-security contracts with the
Saudi royal family.' unfortunately for perle, he's chairman of the Defense
Policy Board, 'a Defense Department advisory group'; though its members
serve without pay, they are 'considered to be a special government
employee[s] and therefore subject to a federal Code of Conduct,' which
'bar[s] a special employee from participating in an official capacity in
any matter in which he has a financial interest.'

however, it seems that perle isn't interested in limiting his reactions to
an english court. on 9 march, on CNN's 'late edition with wolf blitzer,' in
response to a question about the article, perle called hersh 'the closest
thing American journalism has to a terrorist.'[3] granted, bush officials
have developed quite a reputation for shooting their mouths off with
very unfortunate consequences; but it might be a serious mistake to dismiss
this remark as a blunder, because blunders don't come from nowhere.
instead, it suggests that perle -- and very likely more officials -- are
inclined, as many have feared, to think of legitimate (even *professional*)
dissent and inquiry in terms of 'terrorism.' hersh is a veteran of
decades, who presumably has the backing of conde nast, the _new yorker_'s
parent corporation. others, with less resources to draw on and/or
supporters with less prestige on the line, may not be so lucky. (see, for
example, CNN's capitulation in the face of political pressure in the
'tailwind' report, which involved allegations that the US defense
department had used nerve agents in laos during the vietnam war.)

on the 13th, dave farber's 'interesting people' list carried an item from
richard forno,[4] noting a 12 march article[5] in the otherwise hilariously
bad startup paper the _new york sun_ in which perle declared that he would
sue hersh for libel in england. 

for various reasons, i've included the three relevant items below: [A] the
_new york sun_ article, because is inaccessible unless you subscribe -- to
a paper with 'not long for this world' written all over it; [B] the
relevant excerpt of the larry king show, because i have no idea how long
CNN leaves that stuff up; and [C] the _new yorker_ article, because it's
excellent. :)

  [1] http://amsterdam.nettime.org/Lists-Archives/nettime-l-0303/msg00065.html
  [2] http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?030317fa_fact
  [3] http://www.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0303/09/le.00.html
  [4] http://www.interesting-people.org/archives/interesting-people/200303/msg00170.html
  [5] http://daily.nysun.com/Default/Scripting/ArchiveView.asp?BaseHref=NYS%2F2003%2F03%2F12&GZ=T&Page=2&CurrentPage=2&skin=NYSunA&pub=NYS&PageSize=5


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  [A] _new york sun_, 12 march, p.4 


By ADAM DAIFALLAH Staff Reporter of the Sun

WASHINGTON  --  Richard Perle, the influential foreign policy hawk, is
suing journalist Seymour Hersh over an article he wrote implying that Mr.
Perle is using his position as a Pentagon adviser to benefit financially
from a war to liberate Iraq.

"I intend to launch legal action in the United Kingdom. I'm talking to
Queen's Counsel right now," Mr. Perle, who chairs the Pentagon's Defense
Policy Board, a non-paying position, told The New York Sun last night.

He said he is suing in Britain because it is easier to win such cases
there, where the burden on plaintiffs is much less.

Mr. Hersh's article, which appears in the March 17 issue of the The New
Yorker magazine, said Mr. Perle met for lunch with two Saudi businessman in
France in January in an attempt to seek Saudi investment for a company Mr.
Perle is associated with, Trireme Partners L.P.

Trireme was created to "invest in companies dealing in technology, goods,
and services that are of value to homeland security and defense," according
to Mr. Hersh's article.

Mr. Hersh writes that Mr. Perle said that the meeting was convened only to
talk about a diplomatic alternative to war in Iraq. One of the meeting's
participants, Harb Saleh Al-Suhair, a Saudi born in Iraq, wanted to discuss
averting war with Mr. Perle. But according to the article, both Saudi
businessmen  --  Mr. Al-Suhair and Adnan Kashoggi  --  thought the purpose
of the meeting was to discuss Iraq as well as Saudi investment in Trireme.

But the article quotes all three participants saying that Saudi investment
in Trireme was not discussed at the lunch, because, as Mr. Al-Zuhair says,
Mr. Perle said "he was above the money "and that he "stuck to his idea that
'we have to get rid of Saddam.' " And to this day, according to the
article, no Saudi money has been invested in Trireme.

When asked what part of the article is incorrect, Mr. Perle told the Sun:
"It's all lies, from beginning to end."

The editor of The New Yorker, David Remnick, is sticking by Mr. Hersh's

"It went through serious reporting, with four members of the board talking
to Sy [Hersh], and rigorous factchecking, legal-checking and all the rest,"
Mr. Remnick told the Sun.

He said he took issue with Mr. Perle's description of Mr. Hersh on CNN
Sunday as "the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist."

"I would have thought after all this many years, Mr. Perle would be a bit
more refined than that," Mr. Remnick said.

The Saudi Arabian ambassador to America, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, is
quoted in the article accusing Mr. Perle of "blackmail."

A former deputy undersecretary of defense who worked with Mr. Perle,
Stephen Bryen, defended Mr. Perle as well.

"It's pretty outrageous for a leftwing columnist to make accusations like
this with no factual basis. Most of the many hours he works each day are
pro bono to help the administration with its policy on Iraq. He should get
is a medal of honor," Mr. Bryen said.

A senior fellow at the Hudson Institute who was the architect of a briefing
to Mr. Perle's Defense Policy Board on Saudi Arabia last summer, Laurent
Murawiec, said Mr. Hersh's piece is "pure bull."

"It sounds like the kind of thing that's done for the sole purpose and
intent to blacken someone. Richard has been in public life for over 30
years and his ethics have never been challenged by anybody. I found the
piece blindingly transparent as an ad hominem hack job. It's thoroughly
disgusting," Mr. Murawiec said.

Mr. Perle is a director of Hollinger International Inc., which is an
investor in the Sun.

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[B]  CNN, 'late edition with wolf blitzer' (excerpt)

 BLITZER: All right. Tom, hold on a minute. You know, we are basically all
out of time for this segment. But before you go, Richard, I want to give
you a chance to respond.

There's an article in the New Yorker magazine by Seymour Hersh that's just
coming out today in which he makes a serious accusation against you that
you have a conflict of interest in this because you're involved in some
business that deals with homeland security, you potentially could make some
money if, in fact, there is this kind of climate that he accuses you of

Let me read a quote from the New Yorker article, the March 17th issue, just
out now. "There is no question that Perle believes that removing Saddam
from power is the right thing to do. At the same time, he has set up a
company that may gain from a war."

PERLE: I don't believe that a company would gain from a war. On the
contrary, I believe that the successful removal of Saddam Hussein, and I've
said this over and over again, will diminish the threat of terrorism. And
what he's talking about is investments in homeland defense, which I think
are vital and are necessary.

Look, Sy Hersh is the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist,

BLITZER: Well, on the basis of -- why do you say that? A terrorist?

PERLE: Because he's widely irresponsible. If you read the article, it's
first of all, impossible to find any consistent theme in it. But the
suggestion that my views are somehow related for the potential for
investments in homeland defense is complete nonsense.

BLITZER: But I don't understand. Why do you accuse him of being a

PERLE: Because he sets out to do damage and he will do it by whatever
innuendo, whatever distortion he can -- look, he hasn't written a serious
piece since Maylie (ph).

BLITZER: All right. We're going to leave it right there. Richard Perle,
thank you very much. Tom Andrews, thanks for a good debate. I appreciate it
very much to you, as well.

ANDREWS: Wolf, thank you.

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[C] _new yorker_, seymour m. hersh, 'Lunch with the Chairman: Why was
Richard Perle meeting with Adnan Khashoggi?,' 17 march

Why was Richard Perle meeting with Adnan Khashoggi?
Issue of 2003-03-17
Posted 2003-03-10

At the peak of his deal-making activities, in the nineteen-seventies, the
Saudi-born businessman Adnan Khashoggi brokered billions of dollars in arms
and aircraft sales for the Saudi royal family, earning hundreds of millions
in commissions and fees. Though never convicted of wrongdoing, he was
repeatedly involved in disputes with federal prosecutors and with the
Securities and Exchange Commission, and in recent years he has been in
litigation in Thailand and Los Angeles, among other places, concerning
allegations of stock manipulation and fraud. During the Reagan
Administration, Khashoggi was one of the middlemen between Oliver North, in
the White House, and the mullahs in Iran in what became known as the
Iran-Contra scandal. Khashoggi subsequently claimed that he lost ten
million dollars that he had put up to obtain embargoed weapons for Iran
which were to be bartered (with Presidential approval) for American
hostages. The scandals of those times seemed to feed off each other: a
congressional investigation revealed that Khashoggi had borrowed much of
the money for the weapons from the Bank of Credit and Commerce
International (B.C.C.I.), whose collapse, in 1991, defrauded thousands of
depositors and led to years of inquiry and litigation.

Khashoggi is still brokering. In January of this year, he arranged a
private lunch, in France, to bring together Harb Saleh al-Zuhair, a Saudi
industrialist whose family fortune includes extensive holdings in
construction, electronics, and engineering companies throughout the Middle
East, and Richard N. Perle, the chairman of the Defense Policy Board, who
is one of the most outspoken and influential American advocates of war with

The Defense Policy Board is a Defense Department advisory group composed
primarily of highly respected former government officials, retired military
officers, and academics. Its members, who serve without pay, include former
national-security advisers, Secretaries of Defense, and heads of the C.I.A.
The board meets several times a year at the Pentagon to review and assess
the country's strategic defense policies.

Perle is also a managing partner in a venture-capital company called
Trireme Partners L.P., which was registered in November, 2001, in Delaware.
Trireme's main business, according to a two-page letter that one of its
representatives sent to Khashoggi last November, is to invest in companies
dealing in technology, goods, and services that are of value to homeland
security and defense. The letter argued that the fear of terrorism would
increase the demand for such products in Europe and in countries like Saudi
Arabia and Singapore.

The letter mentioned the firm's government connections prominently: "Three
of Trireme's Management Group members currently advise the U.S. Secretary
of Defense by serving on the U.S. Defense Policy Board, and one of
Trireme's principals, Richard Perle, is chairman of that Board." The two
other policy-board members associated with Trireme are Henry Kissinger, the
former Secretary of State (who is, in fact, only a member of Trireme's
advisory group and is not involved in its management), and Gerald Hillman,
an investor and a close business associate of Perle's who handles matters
in Trireme's New York office. The letter said that forty-five million
dollars had already been raised, including twenty million dollars from
Boeing; the purpose, clearly, was to attract more investors, such as
Khashoggi and Zuhair.

Perle served as a foreign-policy adviser in George W. Bush's Presidential
campaign -- he had been an Assistant Secretary of Defense under Ronald
Reagan -- but he chose not to take a senior position in the Administration.
In mid-2001, however, he accepted an offer from Secretary of Defense Donald
Rumsfeld to chair the Defense Policy Board, a then obscure group that had
been created by the Defense Department in 1985. Its members (there are
around thirty of them) may be outside the government, but they have access
to classified information and to senior policymakers, and give advice not
only on strategic policy but also on such matters as weapons procurement.
Most of the board's proceedings are confidential.

As chairman of the board, Perle is considered to be a special government
employee and therefore subject to a federal Code of Conduct. Those rules
bar a special employee from participating in an official capacity in any
matter in which he has a financial interest. "One of the general rules is
that you don't take advantage of your federal position to help yourself
financially in any way," a former government attorney who helped formulate
the Code of Conduct told me. The point, the attorney added, is to "protect
government processes from actual or apparent conflicts."

Advisory groups like the Defense Policy Board enable knowledgeable people
outside government to bring their skills and expertise to bear, in
confidence, on key policy issues. Because such experts are often tied to
the defense industry, however, there are inevitable conflicts. One board
member told me that most members are active in finance and business, and on
at least one occasion a member has left a meeting when a military or an
intelligence product in which he has an active interest has come under

Four members of the Defense Policy Board told me that the board, which met
most recently on February 27th and 28th, had not been informed of Perle's
involvement in Trireme. One board member, upon being told of Trireme and
Perle's meeting with Khashoggi, exclaimed, "Oh, get out of here. He's the
chairman! If you had a story about me setting up a company for homeland
security, and I've put people on the board with whom I'm doing that
business, I'd be had" -- a reference to Gerald Hillman, who had almost no
senior policy or military experience in government before being offered a
post on the policy board. "Seems to me this is at the edge of or off the
ethical charts. I think it would stink to high heaven."

Hillman, a former McKinsey consultant, stunned at least one board member at
the February meeting when he raised questions about the validity of Iraq's
existing oil contracts. "Hillman said the old contracts are bad news; he
said we should kick out the Russians and the French," the board member told
me. "This was a serious conversation. We'd become the brokers. Then we'd be
selling futures in the Iraqi oil company. I said to myself, ‘Oh, man.
Don't go down that road.'" Hillman denies making such statements at the

Larry Noble, the executive director of the Washington-based Center for
Responsive Politics, a nonprofit research organization, said of Perle's
Trireme involvement, "It's not illegal, but it presents an appearance of a
conflict. It's enough to raise questions about the advice he's giving to
the Pentagon and why people in business are dealing with him." Noble added,
"The question is whether he's trading off his advisory-committee
relationship. If it's a selling point for the firm he's involved with, that
means he's a closer -- the guy you bring in who doesn't have to talk about
money, but he's the reason you're doing the deal."

Perle's association with Trireme was not his first exposure to the link
between high finance and high-level politics. He was born in New York City,
graduated from the University of Southern California in 1964, and spent a
decade in Senate-staff jobs before leaving government in 1980, to work for
a military-consulting firm. The next year, he was back in government, as
Assistant Secretary of Defense. In 1983, he was the subject of a New York
Times investigation into an allegation that he recommended that the Army
buy weapons from an Israeli company from whose owners he had, two years
earlier, accepted a fifty-thousand-dollar fee. Perle later acknowledged
that he had accepted the fee, but vigorously denied any wrongdoing. He had
not recused himself in the matter, he explained, because the fee was for
work he had done before he took the Defense Department job. He added, "The
ultimate issue, of course, was a question of procurement, and I am not a
procurement officer." He was never officially accused of any ethical
violations in the matter. Perle served in the Pentagon until 1987 and then
became deeply involved in the lobbying and business worlds. Among other
corporate commitments, he now serves as a director of a company doing
business with the federal government: the Autonomy Corporation, a British
firm that recently won a major federal contract in homeland security. When
I asked him about that contract, Perle told me that there was no possible
conflict, because the contract was obtained through competitive bidding,
and "I never talked to anybody about it."

Under Perle's leadership, the policy board has become increasingly
influential. He has used it as a bully pulpit, from which to advocate the
overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the use of preemptive military action to
combat terrorism. Perle had many allies for this approach, such as Paul
Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, but there was intense
resistance throughout the bureaucracy -- most notably at the State
Department. Preemption has since emerged as the overriding idea behind the
Administration's foreign policy. One former high-level intelligence
official spoke with awe of Perle's ability to "radically change government
policy" even though he is a private citizen. "It's an impressive
achievement that an outsider can have so much influence, and has even been
given an institutional base for his influence."

Perle's authority in the Bush Administration is buttressed by close
association, politically and personally, with many important Administration
figures, including Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, the Under-Secretary of
Defense for Policy, who is the Pentagon's third-ranking civilian official.
In 1989, Feith created International Advisors Incorporated, a lobbying firm
whose main client was the government of Turkey. The firm retained Perle as
an adviser between 1989 and 1994. Feith got his current position, according
to a former high-level Defense Department official, only after Perle
personally intervened with Rumsfeld, who was skeptical about him. Feith was
directly involved in the strategic planning and conduct of the military
operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan; he now runs various aspects
of the planning of the Iraqi war and its aftermath. He and Perle share the
same views on many foreign-policy issues. Both have been calling for Saddam
Hussein's removal for years, long before September 11th. They also worked
together, in 1996, to prepare a list of policy initiatives for Benjamin
Netanyahu, shortly after his election as the Israeli Prime Minister. The
suggestions included working toward regime change in Iraq. Feith and Perle
were energetic supporters of Ahmad Chalabi, the controversial leader of the
anti-Saddam Iraqi National Congress, and have struggled with officials at
the State Department and the C.I.A. about the future of Iraq.

Perle has also been an outspoken critic of the Saudi government, and
Americans who are in its pay. He has often publicly rebuked former American
government officials who are connected to research centers and foundations
that are funded by the Saudis, and told the National Review last summer, "I
think it's a disgrace. They're the people who appear on television, they
write op-ed pieces. The Saudis are a major source of the problem we face
with terrorism. That would be far more obvious to people if it weren't for
this community of former diplomats effectively working for this foreign
government." In August, the Saudi government was dismayed when the
Washington Post revealed that the Defense Policy Board had received a
briefing on July 10th from a Rand Corporation analyst named Laurent
Murawiec, who depicted Saudi Arabia as an enemy of the United States, and
recommended that the Bush Administration give the Saudi government an
ultimatum to stop backing terrorism or face seizure of its financial assets
in the United States and its oil fields. Murawiec, it was later found, is a
former editor of the Executive Intelligence Review, a magazine controlled
by Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr., the perennial Presidential candidate,
conspiracy theorist, and felon. According to Time, it was Perle himself who
had invited Murawiec to make his presentation.

Perle's hostility to the politics of the Saudi government did not stop him
from meeting with potential Saudi investors for Trireme. Khashoggi and
Zuhair told me that they understood that one of Trireme's objectives was to
seek the help of influential Saudis to win homeland-security contracts with
the Saudi royal family for the businesses it financed. The profits for such
contracts could be substantial. Saudi Arabia has spent nearly a billion
dollars to survey and demarcate its eight-hundred-and-fifty-mile border
with Yemen, and the second stage of that process will require billions
more. Trireme apparently turned to Adnan Khashoggi for help.

Last month, I spoke with Khashoggi, who is sixty-seven and is recovering
from open-heart surgery, at his penthouse apartment, overlooking the
Mediterranean in Cannes. "I was the intermediary," he said. According to
Khashoggi, he was first approached by a Trireme official named Christopher
Harriman. Khashoggi said that Harriman, an American businessman whom he
knew from his jet-set days, when both men were fixtures on the European
social scene, sent him the Trireme pitch letter. (Harriman has not answered
my calls.) Khashoggi explained that before Christmas he and Harb Zuhair,
the Saudi industrialist, had met with Harriman and Gerald Hillman in Paris
and had discussed the possibility of a large investment in Trireme.

Zuhair was interested in more than the financial side; he also wanted to
share his views on war and peace with someone who had influence with the
Bush Administration. Though a Saudi, he had been born in Iraq, and he hoped
that a negotiated, "step by step" solution could be found to avoid war.
Zuhair recalls telling Harriman and Hillman, "If we have peace, it would be
easy to raise a hundred million. We will bring development to the region."
Zuhair's hope, Khashoggi told me, was to combine opportunities for peace
with opportunities for investment. According to Khashoggi, Hillman and
Harriman said that such a meeting could be arranged. Perle emerged, by
virtue of his position on the policy board, as a natural catch; he was "the
hook," Khashoggi said, for obtaining the investment from Zuhair. Khashoggi
said that he agreed to try to assemble potential investors for a private
lunch with Perle.

The lunch took place on January 3rd at a seaside restaurant in Marseilles.
(Perle has a vacation home in the South of France.) Those who attended the
lunch differ about its purpose. According to both Khashoggi and Zuhair,
there were two items on the agenda. The first was to give Zuhair a chance
to propose a peaceful alternative to war with Iraq; Khashoggi said that he
and Perle knew that such an alternative was far-fetched, but Zuhair had
recently returned from a visit to Baghdad, and was eager to talk about it.
The second, more important item, according to Khashoggi and Zuhair, was to
pave the way for Zuhair to put together a group of ten Saudi businessmen
who would invest ten million dollars each in Trireme.

"It was normal for us to see Perle," Khashoggi told me. "We in the Middle
East are accustomed to politicians who use their offices for whatever
business they want. I organized the lunch for the purpose of Harb Zuhair to
put his language to Perle. Perle politely listened, and the lunch was
over." Zuhair, in a telephone conversation with me, recalled that Perle had
made it clear at the lunch that "he was above the money. He said he was
more involved in politics, and the business is through the company" --
Trireme. Perle, throughout the lunch, "stuck to his idea that ‘we have
to get rid of Saddam,'" Zuhair said. As of early March, to the knowledge of
Zuhair, no Saudi money had yet been invested in Trireme.

In my first telephone conversation with Gerald Hillman, in mid-February,
before I knew of the involvement of Khashoggi and Zuhair, he assured me
that Trireme had "nothing to do" with the Saudis. "I don't know what you
can do with them," he said. "What we saw on September 11th was a grotesque
manifestation of their ideology. Americans believe that the Saudis are
supporting terrorism. We have no investment from them, or with them." (Last
week, he acknowledged that he had met with Khashoggi and Zuhair, but said
that the meeting had been arranged by Harriman and that he hadn't known
that Zuhair would be there.) Perle, he insisted in February, "is not a
financial creature. He doesn't have any desire for financial gain."

Perle, in a series of telephone interviews, acknowledged that he had met
with two Saudis at the lunch in Marseilles, but he did not divulge their
identities. (At that time, I still didn't know who they were.) "There were
two Saudis there," he said. "But there was no discussion of Trireme. It was
never mentioned and never discussed." He firmly stated, "The lunch was not
about money. It just would never have occurred to me to discuss
investments, given the circumstances." Perle added that one of the Saudis
had information that Saddam was ready to surrender. "His message was a plea
to negotiate with Saddam."

When I asked Perle whether the Saudi businessmen at the lunch were being
considered as possible investors in Trireme, he replied, "I don't want
Saudis as such, but the fund is open to any investor, and our European
partners said that, through investment banks, they had had Saudis as
investors." Both Perle and Hillman stated categorically that there were
currently no Saudi investments.

Khashoggi professes to be amused by the activities of Perle and Hillman as
members of the policy board. As Khashoggi saw it, Trireme's business
potential depended on a war in Iraq taking place. "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 were peddling influence."

When Perle's lunch with Khashoggi and Zuhair, and his connection to
Trireme, became known to a few ranking members of the Saudi royal family,
they reacted with anger and astonishment. The meeting in Marseilles left
Perle, one of the kingdom's most vehement critics, exposed to a ferocious

Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who has served as the Saudi Ambassador to the
United States for twenty years, told me that he had got wind of Perle's
involvement with Trireme and the lunch in Marseilles. Bandar, who is in his
early fifties, is a prominent member of the royal family (his father is the
defense minister). He said that he was told that the contacts between Perle
and Trireme and the Saudis were purely business, on all sides. After the
1991 Gulf War, Bandar told me, Perle had been involved in an unsuccessful
attempt to sell security systems to the Saudi government, "and this company
does security systems." (Perle confirmed that he had been on the board of a
company that attempted to make such a sale but said he was not directly
involved in the project.)

"There is a split personality to Perle," Bandar said. "Here he is, on the
one hand, trying to make a hundred-million-dollar deal, and, on the other
hand, there were elements of the appearance of blackmail -- ‘If we get
in business, he'll back off on Saudi Arabia' -- as I have been informed by
participants in the meeting."

As for Perle's meeting with Khashoggi and Zuhair, and the assertion that
its purpose was to discuss politics, Bandar said, "There has to be
deniability, and a cover story -- a possible peace initiative in Iraq -- is
needed. I believe the Iraqi events are irrelevant. A business meeting took

Zuhair, however, was apparently convinced that, thanks to his discussions
with Trireme, he would have a chance to enter into a serious discussion
with Perle about peace. A few days after the meeting in Paris, Hillman had
sent Khashoggi a twelve-point memorandum, dated December 26, 2002, setting
the conditions that Iraq would have to meet. "It is my belief," the
memorandum stated, "that if the United States obtained the following
results it would not go to war against Iraq." Saddam would have to admit
that "Iraq has developed, and possesses, weapons of mass destruction." He
then would be allowed to resign and leave Iraq immediately, with his sons
and some of his ministers.

Hillman sent Khashoggi a second memorandum a week later, the day before the
lunch with Perle in Marseilles. "Following our recent discussions," it
said, "we have been thinking about an immediate test to ascertain that Iraq
is sincere in its desire to surrender." Five more steps were outlined, and
an ambitious final request was made: that Khashoggi and Zuhair arrange a
meeting with Prince Nawaf Abdul Aziz, the Saudi intelligence chief, "so
that we can assist in Washington."

Both Khashoggi and Zuhair were skeptical of the memorandums. Zuhair found
them "absurd," and Khashoggi told me that he thought they were amusing, and
almost silly. "This was their thinking?" he recalled asking himself. "There
was nothing to react to. While Harb was lobbying for Iraq, they were
lobbying for Perle."

In my initial conversation with Hillman, he said, "Richard had nothing to
do with the writing of those letters. I informed him of it afterward, and
he never said one word, even after I sent them to him. I thought my ideas
were pretty clear, but I didn't think Saddam would resign and I didn't
think he'd go into exile. I'm positive Richard does not believe that any of
those things would happen." Hillman said that he had drafted the
memorandums with the help of his daughter, a college student. Perle, for
his part, told me, "I didn't write them and didn't supply any content to
them. I didn't know about them until after they were drafted."

The views set forth in the memorandums were, indeed, very different from
those held by Perle, who has said publicly that Saddam will leave office
only if he is forced out, and from those of his fellow hard-liners in the
Bush Administration. Given Perle's importance in American decision-making,
and the risks of relying on a deal-maker with Adnan Khashoggi's history,
questions remain about Hillman's drafting of such an amateurish peace
proposal for Zuhair. Prince Bandar's assertion -- that the talk of peace
was merely a pretext for some hard selling -- is difficult to dismiss.

Hillman's proposals, meanwhile, took on an unlikely life of their own. A
month after the lunch, the proposals made their way to Al Hayat, a
Saudi-owned newspaper published in London. If Perle had ever intended to
dissociate himself from them, he did not succeed. The newspaper, in a
dispatch headlined "washington offers to avert war in return for an
international agreement to exile saddam," characterized Hillman's
memorandums as "American" documents and said that the new proposals bore
Perle's imprimatur. The paper said that Perle and others had attended a
series of "secret meetings" in an effort to avoid the pending war with
Iraq, and "a scenario was discussed whereby Saddam Hussein would personally
admit that his country was attempting to acquire weapons of mass
destruction and he would agree to stop trying to acquire these weapons
while he awaits exile."

A few days later, the Beirut daily Al Safir published Arabic translations
of the memorandums themselves, attributing them to Richard Perle. The
proposals were said to have been submitted by Perle, and to "outline
Washington's future visions of Iraq." Perle's lunch with two Saudi
businessmen was now elevated by Al Safir to a series of "recent
American-Saudi negotiations" in which "the American side was represented by
Richard Perle." The newspaper added, "Publishing these documents is
important because they shed light on the story of how war could have been
avoided." The documents, of course, did nothing of the kind.

When Perle was asked whether his dealings with Trireme might present the
appearance of a conflict of interest, he said that anyone who saw such a
conflict would be thinking "maliciously." But Perle, in crisscrossing
between the public and the private sectors, has put himself in a difficult
position -- one not uncommon to public men. He is credited with being the
intellectual force behind a war that not everyone wants and that many
suspect, however unfairly, of being driven by American business interests.
There is no question that Perle believes that removing Saddam from power is
the right thing to do. At the same time, he has set up a company that may
gain from a war. In doing so, he has given ammunition not only to the
Saudis but to his other ideological opponents as well.


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