*A lead architect of the Iraq war, he believed shock and awe would
transform the Middle East. But his policies failed -- along with his
tenure at the World Bank.*
*By Sidney Blumenthal*
May. 24, 2007 | Paul Wolfowitz's doctrines are a summa of numerous
failed political dogmas of the 20th century. His notion of politics was
essentially Bolshevik, but less democratic in practice than Lenin's.
Wolfowitz had no concept of mass politics. Nor did he have an idea of
democratic centralism, the core of Leninism, by which the vanguard led
the cells of the party. Wolfowitz believed only in the vanguard. The
dutiful student of obscurantist authoritarian philosopher Leo Strauss
operated as a solitary intellectual at the head of a single cell, the
lone Wolfowitz. His view of international political dynamics was a
strange concoction of the most heated, impassioned idea of Leon Trotsky
-- the permanent revolution -- admixed with the most rigid, Manichaean
metaphor of John Foster Dulles -- the domino theory of the Cold War.
Dulles' idea, applied to Southeast Asia, was a reaction to his mistaken
understanding of Communist expansion as Trotskyist in conception. From
this thesis and antithesis came the synthesis of Paul Wolfowitz. Welcome
to the dustbin of history.
The squalid ending of Wolfowitz's glittering career, bickering over lies
about payments to his girlfriend,
submerged his grandiosity. Wheedling with the World Bank board, he
appeared as a shadow of his former self, the intellectual field marshal
pulverizing the opposition with the artillery of his arguments, reduced
to using a Washington lawyer to make fine points. His class enemies --
the CIA <http://dir.salon.com/topics
the State Department and the McGovernites -- had retreated under his
barrages, but he found himself at last whining of persecution at the
hands of the sort of bureaucrats he had brushed aside throughout his
Wolfowitz's vision promised nothing less than a rupture with the entire
world order. By one decisive act of will, all that existed -- all --
would be transformed. After a brief, very brief, interval, collective
happiness and universal harmony would be ushered in. With shock and awe,
change would roll in mighty waves, pounding all with its unceasing force.
He was a good boy, not a rebel. Unlike some neoconservatives who had
begun on the left and swerved right, his path was straight. His
mathematician father's only complaint about him was that he had not
become a mathematician. Instead, young Wolfowitz fell under the spell of
one of his father's friends, Albert Wohlstetter, an old Trotskyist
turned Cold War nuclear theologian. Wolfowitz was a pupil in the most
exclusive school. (Richard Perle was another acolyte of Wohlstetter's.)
Wolfowitz's study of nuclear policy was more than a higher mathematics;
it was a kind of mystical Kabbalah. Strauss' influence on him at the
University of Chicago was decidedly minor. His connection at the
University of Chicago with Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi exile, and Zalmay
Khalilzad, another neocon later to be U.S. ambassador to Iraq, was more
significant than having Strauss as a teacher. His true master was
Wohlstetter, master of throw-weights. Wolfowitz's doctoral thesis was on
why Israeli development of a nuclear weapon threatened Middle Eastern
Wolfowitz's recruitment onto the "B Team" in the late 1970s, created
under the Ford administration through conservative pressure in order to
discredit the CIA's assessments of the Soviet Union's nuclear
capabilities, signaled his entrance into the sanctum sanctorum of
nuclear theologians and Republican policymaking. The factual rebuttal of
the B Team's assertions was not a black mark. Conservatives were on the
ascendancy and Wolfowitz was a rare young man among them with a
first-class mind and education.
With the end of the Cold War
without a mission fastened onto a new id´e fixe. As the undersecretary
of defense for policy in the first Gulf War, serving under Secretary
Dick Cheney, Wolfowitz had concurred in the decision not to pursue
Saddam Hussein to Baghdad after expelling him from Kuwait. He had been
present at the Feb. 21, 1991, meeting where that policy was approved and
uttered not a skeptical or contrary word. But when the elder Bush was
defeated, Wolfowitz in exile became the champion of regime change. He
developed an elaborate utopian scheme based on the overthrow of Saddam
-- instant democracy in Iraq, inciting democratic revolutions throughout
the Middle East, accompanied by the equally sudden quiescence of the
creating peace for Israel while doing away with any negotiations
involved in a peace process. And he imagined Saddam, a brutal enough
tyrant, as an octopus, his tentacles manipulating nearly every horror.
Even after every available piece of evidence and trials proved
otherwise, he continued to insist that Saddam was behind the Oklahoma
City and 1993 World Trade Center bombings.
By now Wolfowitz had compiled a distinguished foreign policy résumé
marking his upward mobility -- from the Arms Control and Disarmament
Agency to director of State Department policy planning, from deputy
assistant secretary of defense to ambassador to Indonesia -- and then,
as the dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International
Studies, he was paired with Condoleezza Rice as tutor to Gov. George W.
Bush. Unlike Rice, however, Wolfowitz did not intuitively grasp the mind
of his new student. He did not have a natural facility for the art of
stroking. He sought to impress through his brilliance. Being
acknowledged as the smartest aide in the room was how he had gotten
ahead before. His breadth of detail and depth of concepts had gained him
a series of patrons, from George Shultz to Cheney, who knew how to
harness his cerebral talents. But Wolfowitz was not a man for nicknames
and locker-room jokes. Despite his privileged proximity to the
candidate, Bush did not take to him. And between administrations
Wolfowitz was almost lost in the shuffle.
Originally, Wolfowitz aspired to be deputy secretary of state. But the
newly named secretary, Colin Powell,
Wolfowitz as a Cheney aide during the Gulf War opposing his various
positions, and rejected him. Instead, he deployed Washington lawyer and
former Reagan chief of staff Kenneth Duberstein, acting as his
representative, to offer Wolfowitz the consolation prize of ambassador
to the United Nations. Leaving the cockpit of action for a place
despised by neoconservatives would have been a cruel punishment.
Wolfowitz was suspended in a void. The Kremlin-like politics of the Bush
transition determined his fate.
Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana, staffed by a close Cheney friend, favored by
social conservatives for his hostility to gays in the military as a
member of the Armed Services Committee, emerged as the first choice for
secretary of defense. He was to be part of a two-for-one package.
Richard Armitage, armed with Pentagon experience, would be his deputy
and run the department. But after Powell eclipsed Bush in the press
conference where his nomination as secretary of state was announced,
Cheney immediately understood that the Coats scenario threatened his
intention to become the most powerful vice president in history. While
Coats was dim, Armitage was adept. And this combination empowered
Powell, potentially giving him dominion over not only State but also
Defense. Once this prospect loomed, Cheney, whose clashes with Powell
went back to the Gulf War, sought an alternative. Meanwhile, the
neoconservative press sounded the alarm. The Weekly Standard ran an
article headlined: "The Long Arm of Colin Powell: Will the Next
Secretary of State Also Run the Pentagon?" Coats cooperated by
undermining himself. His interview with President-elect Bush was a
combustible mix of bad chemistry. The dreary Coats didn't laugh at
Bush's jibes and instead declared his skepticism about "Star Wars"
missile defense and complained about Powell. Instantly, he fell through
the trapdoor, shipped to Germany as ambassador.
Donald Rumsfeld, who had been secretary of defense under Gerald Ford,
wanted to be director of the CIA. His longtime rival, the elder Bush,
opposed his appointment to the position he himself had once held. Bad
blood had flowed through their relationship since the Ford years, when
Rumsfeld had systematically sidelined Bush. In 1988, Rumsfeld endorsed
Sen. Bob Dole for the Republican presidential nomination against Vice
President Bush. When he won, Bush cut Rumsfeld out of the
administration. At dinner parties in Chicago, where Rumsfeld worked as a
corporate executive, he entertained with vicious derision of Bush as a
hopeless wimp, according to someone who was at several of these affairs.
With Coats out, Cheney, Rumsfeld's former deputy, moved him in as
secretary of defense, establishing a broad basis for Cheney's empire.
Rumsfeld did not want to accept Armitage as his deputy because he was
Powell's best friend, and Powell snapped up Armitage for himself. The
lines were being drawn for the internal Cold War that would play out
over the first term between Powell and Cheney. But where did that leave
Wolfowitz thought that he ought to be director of the CIA. But as soon
as he advanced himself, his estranged wife, Clare, wrote a private
letter to President-elect Bush saying that he could not be trusted. This
embittered letter remained a closely guarded secret, although a former
high official of the CIA told me about it. Chris Nelson also reported it
on April 16 in his widely respected, nonpartisan foreign policy
newsletter: "A certain Ms. Riza was even then Wolfowitz's true love. The
problem for the CIA wasn't just that she was a foreign national,
although that was and is today an issue for anyone interested in CIA
employment. The problem was that Wolfowitz was married to someone else,
and that someone was really angry about it, and she found a way to bring
her complaint directly to the President. So when we, with our
characteristic innocence, put Wolfowitz on our short-list for CIA, we
were instantly told, by a very, very, very senior Republican foreign
policy operative, 'I don't think so.' It was then gently explained why,
purely on background, of course. Why Wolfowitz's personal issues weren't
also a disqualification for DOD we've never heard." The Daily Mail of
London also reported on his wife's letter at the time that Wolfowitz was
appointed president of the World Bank in 2005. Asked about it by the
newspaper, Clare Wolfowitz did not deny it, saying, "That's very
interesting but not something I can tell you about."
President-elect Bush summoned George Tenet, the holdover CIA director.
"I guess this is the end," Tenet told a colleague as he headed out the
door, that colleague told me. When he returned, a surprised Tenet said,
"He wants me to stay until he can find someone better."
Cheney and Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who had
been Wolfowitz's Wolfowitz before he became Cheney's Cheney -- his
student when Wolfowitz taught at Yale and his assistant when Wolfowitz
served under Cheney at the Pentagon -- intervened. Cheney guided
Wolfowitz to a safe harbor as deputy to Rumsfeld. But Rumsfeld was
unenthusiastic and hesitated. Wolfowitz told him to decide on the spot
or he would go to the United Nations, so Rumsfeld took him.
Once in place, Wolfowitz became an indispensable node of the
neoconservative cell. He brought in his coterie of neocons to staff an
intelligence operation, the Office of Special Plans, outflanking the CIA
by circulating its own reports around regular channels to the office of
the vice president (run by Libby). Now Wolfowitz was at the center of an
embedded Team B.
Despite their shared views, Rumsfeld came to distrust Wolfowitz.
"Rumsfeld considered himself fully qualified to supervise the grander
themes, and had no intention of ceding the role to Wolfowitz," writes
Andrew Cockburn in his biography, "Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and
Catastrophic Legacy." "The net result was that neither man paid the
requisite attention to routine tasks of management and decision making,
although Wolfowitz did make an effort to perform both." Always a
disorganized manager, Wolfowitz handled things badly. Meanwhile, he had
to call Armitage to find out what was going at Principals Committee
meetings because Rumsfeld wouldn't tell him.
Wolfowitz set to work at once to implement his master plan. He brought
up overthrowing Saddam in the first National Security Council meeting
with the president, eight months before 9/11. In the immediate aftermath
of the terrorist attacks, Wolfowitz hammered on the idea of striking at
Less than a month before the invasion, for which his intelligence
operation had provided the justifications (later all disproved as sheer
disinformation), Wolfowitz was approaching an ecstatic state of being.
He could see the shape of things to come through the fog of war. On Feb.
19, 2003, in an interview with National Public Radio, he held forth on
the new dawn: "But we're not talking about the occupation of Iraq. We're
talking about the liberation of Iraq ... Therefore, when that regime is
removed we will find one of the most talented populations in the Arab
world, perhaps complaining that it took us so long to get there. Perhaps
a little unfriendly to the French for making it take so long. But
basically welcoming us as liberators ... There's not going to be the
hostility ... There simply won't be."
Five months later, on July 23, 2003, after his trip to Iraq, Wolfowitz
was still in an elevated state. "There is no humanitarian crisis," he
said. "There is no refugee crisis. There is no health crisis. There has
been minimal damage to infrastructure -- minimal war damage ... So,
fortunately, much of what ... we planned for and budgeted for has not
Wolfowitz's girlfriend, Riza Shaha, a Tunisian-Saudi British citizen,
London School of Economics educated, Arab feminist, neoconservative and
intimate of the circle of favored Iraqi exile Chalabi, was his perfect
partner. He had her detailed at one point to a defense contractor, SAIC,
and she reported back to the World Bank, where she said that conditions
were just fine in Iraq for bank loans.
But when Wolfowitz leapt to the bank presidency she could not remain
there under the World Bank rules. As he drew up elaborate blueprints for
the bank, he handled her transfer and compensation ineptly. Thus his
usual managerial failings extended to his girlfriend problem, which
Bush, Cheney and the rest of the administration were left standing on
the monument of Wolfowitz's legacy in Iraq. Atop Wolfowitz's tomb they
reviewed the troops and issued brave statements about the future.
On the day Wolfowitz agreed to resign, the sedate employees of the bank
surged into the corridors, celebrating the day of liberation by hoisting
champagne glasses and bursting into song: "Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah,
nah, nah, hey hey, goodbye!"
* -- By Sidney Blumenthal*