Cupid and Cupidity
By MAUREEN DOWD
There have been many tender love stories in war.
Ike and Kay. Pamela Harriman and Edward R. Murrow. Aeneas and Dido. Achilles and his tent temptation, Patroclus.
But my favorite is the unfolding saga of Wolfie and Shaha. Never has a star-crossed romance so perfectly illuminated a star-crossed conflict.
The weekend meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were consumed with the question of how the bank chief could fight corruption while indulging in cronyism. Who could focus on a weak yen when you had a weak Wolfie with a strong yen for Shaha?
In addition to the story about Paul Wolfowitz’s giving his girlfriend, Shaha Ali Riza, a promotion and a $60,000 raise because he felt guilty that she had to be transferred from the World Bank to the State Department when he took over, The Times reported yesterday on more imperialist hanky-panky.
Steven Weisman and David Sanger wrote that in 2003, when Wolfie was No. 2 at the Pentagon, the office of his consigliere, Douglas Feith, directed a private contractor to hire Ms. Riza, then at the World Bank, to spend a month traveling in Iraq to study ways to set up the new government.
(It was simple to get the contractor, the Science Applications International Corporation, to play along. As Vanity Fair reported, the Pentagon awarded SAIC seven contracts valued at more than $100 million before the war, without competitive bidding. Mr. Feith’s deputy was Christopher Henry, a former SAIC senior vice president.)
Wolfie and Shaha did not let a little thing like World Bank rules — which barred the bank from providing economic assistance to an area under military occupation — keep them from pushing the neocon delusions.
When she returned, Ms. Riza briefed members of the executive board of the World Bank on her trip, giving them a sanguine account of Iraq’s future and the fate of women there.
“The bank was under a lot of pressure at the time to do something in Iraq very quickly,” Jean-Louis Sarbib, a former bank vice president for the Middle East and North Africa, told The Times. But some of the bank’s directors, he said, were “very concerned about why she was briefing the board, under which authority and with whom she had gone there. I did not know anything about this at the time, and I was the vice president, and she was reporting to me.”
As they rushed to war, the neocons delighted in blowing off international treaties, international institutions and diplomats, treating them as impediments and whiners. So it only made sense that Wolfie wouldn’t hesitate to blow off rules he didn’t like once he began running an international institution himself.
Sometimes you’ve got to break some rules and tell some half-truths to help the world.
Despite fears among the bank’s member governments that Wolfie’s smug and stupid behavior is impairing the bank’s credibility, he has dug in his heels and said he will stay put. The president has backed him up.
Astonishingly, W., Wolfie, Dick Cheney and the Prince of Darkness himself, Richard Perle, have learned nothing from their mistakes of blindness and hubris, except to sweep them under the bed and indulge in more blindness and hubris.
In a chapter shown last night of the PBS series “America at a Crossroads,” Mr. Perle chatted with Pat Buchanan, his old colleague from the Reagan administration, arguing that America should ignore naysayers and work for regime change in Iran.
“There’s got to be some advantage to being a superpower,” Mr. Perle said grandly.
Asked by Bob Schieffer on “Face the Nation” on Sunday whether the administration had a credibility problem, given the problems with Alberto Gonzales, the optimistic statements about the death spiral in Iraq and the perjury conviction of Scooter Libby, the vice president replied, “You do the best you can with what you’ve got, obviously,” an echo of Rummy’s famous “You go to war with the Army you have.”
In America last week to promote a book about the occupation of Iraq, Ayad Allawi, Iraq’s former prime minister and failed U.S. puppet, told a group at the Council on Foreign Relations that the Bush administration had invaded an “imagined” country.
The Financial Times reported Mr. Allawi as saying that “the Iraqi exiles who advised the U.S. war planners described the country of their memories. Sadly, the Iraq with a solid infrastructure, a solid middle class and a secular tradition had ended ‘decades ago.’ ”
Shouldn’t Rummy and Cheney have followed their own advice: You go to war against the country you have, not the one you imagine?