February 27, 2004
By Julian Borger in Washington
Richard Perle, the hawkish Pentagon adviser who was one of the most fervent advocates for the invasion of Iraq, has resigned, it emerged yesterday.
Mr Perle's resignation last week after 17 years at the Defence Policy Board, an advisory group, was not announced officially but was confirmed by the Pentagon and Mr Perle yesterday after a copy of his resignation letter was leaked overnight.
In that letter, dated February 18, Mr Perle said he had decided to leave the board so that his views would not be attributed to George Bush or the defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, in an election year.
The veteran strategist - who was known as the Prince of Darkness for his hardline views while assistant secretary of defence under Ronald Reagan - had been under scrutiny for his business activities and his close links to the Iraqi politician, Ahmad Chalabi, who was responsible for much of the questionable intelligence on Iraq passed to Washington before the war.
Mr Perle is reportedly being investigated for $3m (£1.6m) in undeclared bonuses he received from an investment firm, Hollinger International. Some of Hollinger's investments went to his own company, Trireme.
Boeing was also found to have invested $20m in Trireme, not long before Mr Perle advocated a Pentagon scheme for leasing Boeing fuel tankers to support the Iraq war. He has denied any conflict of interest.
Mr Perle did not return calls yesterday, but his office said his sudden resignation was "absolutely not" connected to his business affairs.
He has also come under pressure for his staunch support of Mr Chalabi, the leader of the Iraqi National Congress. According to one administration source, President Bush is "furious" at Mr Chalabi's nonchalance at allegations that prewar intelligence on Iraqi weapons, much of it supplied by his organisation, was groundless.
Mr Perle helped introduce Mr Chalabi to senior members of Congress and Bush administration officials, in an effort to lobby for military action against Saddam Hussein. Last week he told the Christian Science Monitor: "The CIA has been engaged in a character assassination of Ahmad Chalabi for years now, and it is a disgrace."
He also denied that he was being investigated for leaking the name of Valerie Plame, a CIA agent whose husband, Joe Wilson, had questioned the US case for war: "I have not been questioned about it, and I wish whoever is putting this out would cease and desist."
He apparently did not tell the newspaper he had resigned from his post.
In his letter to Mr Rumsfeld, he said he was stepping down because he did not want his political views "to be attributed to you or the president at any time, and especially not during a presidential campaign".
In a new book, An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror, written with a former Bush speechwriter, David Frum, Mr Perle called for fundamental reform of the state department and the CIA.
"Many of the ideas in that book are controversial and I wish to be free to argue them without those views or my arguments getting caught up in the campaign," Mr Perle wrote in his resignation letter.
Bryan Whitman, a spokesman for Mr Rumsfeld said: "The secretary thanked him for his many years of service under both Democratic and Republican administrations, and for his energy and intellect."
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004