Conrad Black and the Corruption of Empire

The neocons, we are told by the Telegraph, are “unfazed despite war in Iraq,” as the headline put it. The occasion for this reassuring news was an interview with the combative Dark Prince of the neoconservatives, Richard Perle, who complained about all the nasty name-calling on the part of his enemies:

“Fascist. Warmongerer. Imperialist. With the smallest of sighs, Richard Perle, aka Prince of Darkness, ticked off a checklist of the insults he has received in recent months.”

Crybaby Perle starts a war on the playground and then goes weeping and wailing to the teacher when the other kids call him names. The poor thing! Oh, but that’s the very least of it:

“He saved the most emotive until last: neo-conservative. After all, what greater insult is there in right-thinking circles these days than neo-con – that buzzword for all that is ‘scary’ and single-minded about Bush’s America?”

Neoconservative is supposed to be just another “buzzword” – but it’s interesting that the word is now considered an insult. The reason isn’t touched on in the Telegraph piece, however, which is meant to give Perle a platform to show off his defiance –

“‘I haven’t noticed that we are keeping our heads down,’ he commented drily.”

– and crow about the President’s inability to separate himself from the neocons’ foreign policy prescriptions. “There may be no war next year in the countdown to the presidential election,” the Telegraph confides, “but if Mr Bush is re-elected – or even if a Democrat takes office – battle could be rejoined.” Especially if Perle and his fellow neo-Jacobins have anything to say about it, which they did, and do.

As Perle quite accurately points out:

“On September 11 2001, the president said we will not distinguish between those who committed the acts of terrorism and the countries that harbored them and supported them. And that is now the first principle of American policy. “

The neocons’ hold on the White House is assured, according to Perle, because the principle of preemption is now “fundamental.” This new fundamentalism, he openly admits, will likely end in war:

“So, does this entail a risk we will find ourselves in conflict . . . with other governments? Sure, it does.”

This assessment is indisputable, but surely he meant hope, not risk. Perle has long advocated an American jihad against virtually all Middle Eastern countries but for Turkey, and, perhaps, King Hussein’s Jordan. It was Perle, you remember, who brought in the ex-LaRouchie Laurent Murawiec to brief the Defense Policy Board on a strategy to “liberate” Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

He’s the War Party’s traveling ambassador of bad news, a Bizarro World version of a U.S. diplomat, whose objective is to spread ill will instead of good will. One day he’s proclaiming that Russia must be expelled from the G-8, the next day he’s scolding the Turks, and threatening war with Syria. His latest stunt: a trip to London in tandem with the Bush visit during which he said that, yes, the invasion of Iraq was illegal – but so what?

As an AEI fellow and free-lance pundit, and a government official with the Pentagon’s Policy Advisory Board, his position is curiously ambiguous. Neither official nor strictly unofficial, Perle seems to be conducting his own foreign policy, openly contemptuous of the State Department and heedless of even the White House:

“Mr Bush famously said he looked into Mr Putin’s soul and found a man he could trust. ‘It means he should look again,’ said Mr Perle.”

Perle has often been an embarrassment to the White House, as when his financial interests seemed to be so intimately tied in with his role as a government advisor that he was accused of having a conflict of interest. While several newspapers – including those of the Hollinger group, of which Perle is a director – headlined the story “Pentagon Clears Richard Perle of Wrongdoing,” the Washington Post cited the inspector general’s report as follows:

“‘Mr. Perle arguably represented Global Crossing and Loral in a particular matter which is pending in the department or agency of the government in which such employee is serving,’ the report says. But since Perle did not serve in his capacity as head of the advisory board for more than 60 days during the year, he did not run afoul of the ethics laws in question.”

In other words, he got off on a technicality. And no sooner had he made this narrow escape, but he faced another, potentially far bigger threat.

The burgeoning investigation into Hollinger International Inc. – once the third-largest English language newspaper empire in terms of circulation, including the British Telegraph, the Jerusalem Post, and the Chicago Sun-Timesthreatens not only Perle, but several of his cronies.

Presided over by Lord Conrad Black, the Canadian media mogul who gave up his citizenship to become a British aristocrat, the Hollinger combine is a particularly muscular tentacle of the neocon media octopus, and its demise would mark a great setback for the War Party.

Although he still remains the single biggest shareholder, Black was forced to step down as CEO, along with two other confederates, after a company investigation found that he took $7.2 million in unauthorized pay. This is not counting millions in payments to Black’s front companies, for “management services,” while the company’s stock fell in the face of rising media stock prices. Minority stockholders are up in arms. The Securities and Exchange Commission is also investigating, widening its probe to include an examination of the financial shenanigans indulged in by members of Hollinger’s board, who rubberstamped the abuse and misuse of investors’ money. Steven Pearlstein, writing in the Washington Post, has a particularly clear-eyed take on the matter:

It’s amazing the coincidences you find digging into Hollinger International, the publishing empire that includes Chicago’s Sun-Times and London’s Daily Telegraph and is quickly slipping from Conrad Black’s control.

“Let’s start with the board of directors, which includes Barbara Amiel, Conrad’s wife, whose right-wing rants have managed to find an outlet in Hollinger publications. And there’s Washington superhawk Richard Perle, who heads Hollinger Digital, the company’s venture capital arm. Seems that Hollinger Digital put $2.5 million in a company called Trireme Partners, which aims to cash in on the big military and homeland security buildup. As luck would have it, Trireme’s managing partner is none other than… Richard Perle.

“… There’s Gerald Hillman, managing partner of Hillman Capital, which also got a $14 million investment from Hollinger, according to the Financial Times. Hillman is also a partner at Trireme.”

Both Perle and Hillman are members of the Defense Policy Board, the nerve center of neoconservative influence in this administration, where policy, ideology, and the pursuit of profits combine to motivate a constant stream of war propaganda. They lied us into war, and now we’re finding out that they’re thieves as well as liars. The character issue is constantly raised by conservatives as being paramount: we’ll see how they deal with Hollinger-gate, with so many of their own caught with their hands in the till. If it is now an insult to be called a neocon, as poor persecuted Richard Perle whines, then the reason why ought to be clear enough.

What’s funny is that Lord Black, author of the recently published Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Champion of Freedom, recently took libertarian Jim Powell to task for questioning the Roosevelt myth. Black retails the liberal-Marxoid misconception that FDR was somehow the “savior of capitalism.” The irony is that Black’s hero seemed to be describing his future hagiographer when he said, in his first inaugural address:

“The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths.”

A more succinct summary of the decline and fall of Conrad Black would be hard to imagine.

Black’s disgrace, and that of his cohorts, reveals the corruption at the heart of the War Party, and fairly defines the crony capitalism that will overshadow, destroy, and replace the free market if and when the empire-builders triumph.


My sources at National Review – oh yes, we have our spies! – tell me that David Frum, chief enforcer of neocon orthodoxy, is on his way out as an editor of the magazine. Commissar Frum‘s overwrought excoriation of antiwar conservatives and libertarians – including Robert Novak, Pat Buchanan, Chronicles editor Tom Fleming, and Lew Rockwell, as well as myself – did not go over well with many on the Right, even among those who supported the war. If he, in turn, is being purged – due, no doubt, to some intra-neocon dispute – one can only note, with a certain amount of unconcealed satisfaction, that he who lives by the purge shall perish by the purge.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].