There's been some to-do of late about Defense Department adviser Richard N. Perle working to get federal approval for bankrupt Global Crossing Ltd.'s sale to two Asian companies, Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. and Singapore Technologies Telemedia.
Perle is selling his services at bargain-basement rates: $125,000 for his time, and $600,000 if the sale is successful. Perle, chairman of the Defense Policy Board, told the New York Times's Stephen Labaton that there's no conflict of interest or other ethical problem as long as he doesn't give advice to the board on something in which he has an interest. The deal must be approved by a government committee that reviews foreign investment in this country.
But Perle's going to have to do some very heavy lifting to snag those 600 large. The FBI and Pentagon reportedly are opposed to the sale because a Chinese company would control Global Crossing's state-of-the-art fiber-optic network, which is used by the federal government.
An even greater hurdle doubtless will be intense opposition to his effort on the Hill, most likely from a number of influential GOP senators, perhaps Sens. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), Trent Lott (Miss.), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), James M. Inhofe (Okla.) and Wayne Allard (Colo.).
About 31/2 years ago, that group and others pushed for a resolution asking Panama to review a contract it awarded for operating container ship terminals at both ends of the canal. That contract had been awarded to none other than Hutchison Whampoa, which Lott said at the time had "reported Chinese military and intelligence ties."
"It alarms me that these Chinese companies, frankly, they do what the government tells them to do," Lott said then at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing to look into this alarming situation, which he had said "could, in fact, be a threat to our national security."
"This administration [the Clinton administration] is allowing a scenario to develop where U.S. national security interests could not be protected without confronting the Chinese communists in the Americas," Lott wrote the Pentagon, saying, "We have given the farm away without a shot being fired."
Former defense secretary Caspar W. Weinberger told the committee that the canal's operations would always be threatened if the Chinese controlled the ports.
Hutchison Whampoa, is controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing. He and his empire, according to the Miami Herald, are linked to several companies known as fronts for Chinese military and intelligence agencies. One of the companies has been indicted for smuggling automatic weapons into the United States for sale to Los Angeles street gangs, the paper reported and "Li himself has been accused of helping to finance several deals in which military technology was transferred from American companies to the Chinese Army."
Nothing has happened at the canal, of course, but that may be only because the Chicoms haven't issued orders for their troops there to march north. Remember, it's only a two-day drive from there to Harlingen, Tex. -- in a Ferrari.
And if the Senate was worried about Communist Chinese control of the canal, imagine how senators will feel when they find out about possible commie control of a huge chunk of the communications infrastructure, not of Panama, but of the American homeland.
Tucked into the middle of President Bush's $74.7 billion spending plan for the war is a little item for $150 million to rapidly help "foreign indigenous forces . . . in response to . . . unanticipated emergency requirements that arise with increasing frequency" these days. The help to "friendly indigenous forces . . . includes . . . personnel costs" for these "irregular forces," the request said.
This sounds a lot like what politicians call "walkin' around money" on Election Day to help get out the vote. The $150 million does not include the cost of approximately 150 attache cases required to carry the cash. That would have to come out of another agency's budget.
The Fogs of War
It's a historic fact that the fog of war is nothing like the fog of a White House briefing. Wartime briefings sometimes are matters of zero visibility.
So yesterday, spokesman Ari Fleischer sparred with reporters first over a telephone chat between President Bush and his former good buddy, Russian President Vladimir Putin, about Russian military aid to Iraq.
"This is not the first time the United States has raised this concern," Fleischer said.
But the Russians said it was Putin, not Bush, who brought up the aid allegations and denied them.
Contradiction? "I don't think it's a contradiction," Fleischer told reporters. But he then agreed to check who brought it up first.
Reporters also asked about Bush's Sunday statement that aid would begin moving into southern Iraq in 36 hours. Fleischer said, "We didn't expect the -- the Iraqis to cease caring about their own people, to cease feeding their own people, to put up impediments to the humanitarian relief supplies," such as laying mines.
Moments later, a reporter asked about "your comment before about how you didn't expect the Iraqis to interfere with humanitarian aid. . . ."
"I didn't say that," Fleischer said.