Washington did not expect such a shameful setback. At the height of the most righteous war for a liberated and democratic Iraq, its main proponent was caught out in a corruption scandal. The person who resigned "over a conflict of business interests" was none other than Richard Pearle, head of the Pentagon's defence policy commission.
It is equivalent to taking a handcuffed pastor away during a pious sermon for stealing.
While still a deputy defence secretary in the Ronald Reagan administration, Pearle won the nickname of "Prince of Darkness" for his unparalleled obscurantism over nuclear arms control. He was the most zealous advocate of abandoning the ABM Treaty, a most cherished dream of his, which was fulfilled under George W. Bush.
The Prince of Darkness rules the roost within a narrow circle of neo-Conservative intellectuals who preach the doctrine of the "new American century", that is a sort of US historical mission as the main architect of a new global system. US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Under-Secretary John Bolton and head of the US vice-presidential administration Lewis Libby, are all the prince's close associates and friends.
It is considered that in such an environment Pearle had exclusive possibilities for influencing George W. Bush. Mainly in one direction - to push and prod the president to overthrow Saddam Hussein by force. When we hear the White House making noises about the export of democracy to the Middle East, we hear the echo of advice given by the now former head of the Pentagon's defence policy committee.
To cut a long story short, if we could make a list of the most arduous and influential protagonists of the Iraqi war in the US ruling elite, Pearl would top it.
And all of a sudden this scandal. The press has catapulted the Prince of Darkness into broad daylight.
It emerged that Pearle unobtrusively accepted the post of a consultant for a major American communications company, Global Crossing, for a consideration of 750,000 dollars. Moreover, the payment of 600,000 out of that sum was made dependent on whether the "consultant" pushes through the Pentagon a shady deal in the area close to the war zone in Iraq.
The same services were rendered by the commercial traveller Richard Pearle to the British company Autonomy Corporation. The company deals in complex computer hardware for satellite tracking and, according to the London Guardian, is making colossal super-profits these past days from the Iraq war. That is understandable: Pearle was one of Autonomy's directors with a stake of 75,000 shares. What is more, in the course of the first week of the intervention in Iraq, he took part in closed conferences of the famed investment house Goldman Sax, where he offered consultancy services to clients concerning "investment opportunities" opening up in the war.
In his resignation letter, Richard Pearle describes all this conglomerate of corruption as a "conflict of business interests". But influential Democratic Senator Carl Levin, member of the Senate's armaments committee, saw in that no less and no more than "misdemeanor in office". Pearle's business tricks, the senator tells us in his letter to Rumsfeld, "create the impression that he used his public office for private gain. This erodes society's belief in that the department (of defence) takes unbiased decisions".
Rumsfeld was compelled to accept the resignation of his favourite, but left him as a rank-and-file member of the Pentagon's defence policy committee. The Prince of Darkness kept his court status.
The leniency of punishment is easy to explain. Pearle's striving to cultivate personal business on Iraqi blood is in effect no less immoral than deals already being hastily made in Iraq by occupying authorities. It is not accidental that the first contract to restore and develop oil deposits went to Halliburton company, long and closely linked with business interests of US Vice-President Dick Cheney.
With every day, the Iraqi intervention is increasingly exposing itself as a method of commercial profit.
While resigning, Pearle found a curious way of praying for forgiveness of his sins. He announced that he was tearing up relations with his sponsor - the communications corporation Global Crossing - and was donating all his receipts from it "to the families of servicemen and servicewomen killed in Iraq". The war proponent does not seem to admit that these families may throw out the money made on the deaths of their near ones.
At the same confidential conferences of the Golden Sax investment house, Pearle also instructed his clients concerning "consequences of the Iraqi war for confrontation with North Korea". That is, the provident Prince of Darkness was already taking glimpses of the future, beyond the ruins and ashes of Iraq. North Korea, not yet touched by American missiles, will also someday become a pie greedily sought by the occupying businessmen, he is sure.
Exporters of American democracy to the Middle East are insatiable.