Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Oh, Wolfowitz

I've been too busy to write much about the other brewing scandal in Washington, that of Paul Wolfowitz and his girlfriend's cushy job. It's not because I'm a big fan of his; in fact, whenever I need a good "laugh or else I'll cry" moment, I hunt up links like this one to read up on arguably his finest moment: the trashing of Gen. Eric Shinseki:

In his testimony, Mr. Wolfowitz ticked off several reasons why he believed a much smaller coalition peacekeeping force than General Shinseki envisioned would be sufficient to police and rebuild postwar Iraq. He said there was no history of ethnic strife in Iraq, as there was in Bosnia or Kosovo. He said Iraqi civilians would welcome an American-led liberation force that "stayed as long as necessary but left as soon as possible," but would oppose a long-term occupation force. And he said that nations that oppose war with Iraq would likely sign up to help rebuild it.

Bwahahaha! Flat wrong on the first, and the second might have been true if we hadn't a) sent too few troops to keep order or b) prevented it.

Then throw in this:

Mr. Wolfowitz spent much of the hearing knocking down published estimates of the costs of war and rebuilding, saying the upper range of $95 billion was too high, and that the estimates were almost meaningless because of the variables. Moreover, he said such estimates, and speculation that postwar reconstruction costs could climb even higher, ignored the fact that Iraq is a wealthy country, with annual oil exports worth $15 billion to $20 billion. "To assume we're going to pay for it all is just wrong," he said.

Bwahaha! HA HA HA!

Oh, that Wolfowitz. What a kidder.

After manfully helping guide us into a bad war, he was rewarded with a chance to do real damage at the World Bank, where he was able to hector debtor nations to be more fiscally responsible while helping squeeze their economies with austerity measures and stiff payback schedules.

Actually, he hasn't been that bad at the World Bank. His anticorruption drive has drawn fire, but there's much to like about it, and while critics have a point about being careful not to intrude too much on a nation's internal affairs, it's hard to sympathize with countries complaining about crackdowns on bribery -- especially when they're countries like China, which doesn't actually need the money it borrows from the Bank.

Upon taking the helm of the bank, though, Wolfowitz had to find a new job for his girlfriend, a bank employee. That's fair. And I have no problem with the transfer being a promotion or opportunity: she should not see her career suffer simply because her boyfriend got promoted.

So while the details -- like her massive pay raises -- raised some eyebrows, it struck me as relatively small potatoes, even if it undercut Wolfowitz's anti-corruption agenda.

But this is just ridiculous.

The U.S. Defense Department ordered a contractor to hire a World Bank employee and girlfriend of then-Pentagon No. 2 Paul Wolfowitz in 2003 for work related to Iraq, the contractor said on Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for Science Applications International Corp., or SAIC, said the Defense Department's policy office directed the company to enter a subcontract with Shaha Riza, under which she spent a month studying ways to form a government in Iraq.

Wolfowitz, a key Iraq war architect who left the Pentagon in 2005 to become president of the World Bank, is already under fire for overseeing a high-paying promotion for Riza after he took the helm of the poverty-fighting global lender.

This isn't as egregious as it could be, because the contract paid expenses only, not a salary. And right now all we have is the claim of a contractor. But if this turns out to be true, it's unacceptable. The Pentagon had no business insisting that a contractor hire someone connected to a senior Pentagon official.

What remains to be seen as well is whether Wolfowitz himself had any hand in this. If he did, he will face more than ethical questions: he'll probably face criminal charges.

Wait, was that a tear? Nope. My mistake.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Criminal Charges? For what---doing what the Ethics Committee of the World Bank Board instructed him to do? They instructed him to find her another job and to take care of it. They also agreed she'd be compensated properly for having to leave. Usually when someone is forced to leave through no fault of their own....and they were a good employee to boot---they are given a severance package. The fact that her new salary looks so large is most likely due to that fact. And it's something the Ethics Committee of the Board AGREED to. I see no wrong-doing it. And if Wolfowitz were not a Republican, we'd be hearing NOTHING about it.


4/18/2007 9:36 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Re-read the post. I'm not talking about his World Bank problems. I'm talking about something that happened at the Pentagon while he was the No. 2 official there.

4/18/2007 9:49 PM  

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