Wolfowitz Leaves Pentagon Without Causing Further Casualties
He gets to play soldier one last time. We'll never forget him.
Paul Wolfowitz, leaving the Pentagon for the World Bank, got a grand send-off Friday, a complete military review with marching troops, flags, speeches, and all that. And he saluted back.
It was one of the few military exercises lately that Wolfowitz, architect of our Iraq debacle, had anything to do with in which no American soldiers were killed or wounded. Collaterally, no Iraqis were harmed during the production of this ceremony.
Permanently embedded reporter Jim Garamone of the American Forces Press Service wrote:
- Wolfowitz thanked the men and women of the military and the civil service. "They are the ones who serve America quietly and professionally every day," he said. "They are the ones who deserve our special and lasting gratitude."
More than 1,500 of them, plus upwards of 21,000 Iraqis, are permanently quiet.
The current crop of Pentagon civilians and other top Bush regime officials slays me. They just love the military trappings of their jobs, even though most of them did all they could to stay out of action when they were young enough to fight.
I stayed out. I was No. 13 in the first draft lottery for the Vietnam War and was called up for an Army physical in Kansas City in early 1970. I flunked it with a psychiatric 4-F, thanks to a sympathetic doctor who wrote, "If inducted into the Army, Mr. Harkavy will become psychotic." Many of us college mooks that day in Kansas City were fortunate to stay out of that disastrous and wrong war. Not so the farm boys and inner-city kids who didn't want to go; they didn't have friendly draft counselors and doctors to help them stay out of the slaughter.
Thirty-five years later, all I can say is that, unlike fellow draft dodgers Wolfowitz, Cheney, and Bush (yeah, he dodged it by joining the National Guard), I'm not sending young Americans overseas to risk death for the sake of corporate profits.
My colleague Tom Robbins produced a list last August of the current administration's draft-dodger codgers; check it out. He dug up one of my favorite quotes, student- and marriage-deferred Dick Cheney's excuse: "I had other priorities in the '60s than military service."
My favorite fellow 4-F'er is Rush Limbaugh: He got his because of a case of anal cysts, as I noted back in March '04.
Wolfowitz skated by on student deferments at Cornell and the University of Chicago. But he knows how to salute (see photo).
A sadder Wolfowitz-related exit is the announced end of worldbankpresident.org, the lively site that sizzled with inside info from before Wolfowitz's nomination to now.
Belgium-based Alex Wilks, a co-producer of the site, penned his farewll the other day, but promised to release the hounds on Wolfie if the situation warrants. In the meantime, the site will stay up, he says. And it's a good resource and record of recent history.
And there are plenty of thoughtful stories analyzing the new reign of Wolfie the World Banker, like Daphne Eviatar's April 26 Salon analysis of "the war hawk's fealty to the oil industry."
Actually, I'm glad Wolfie was moved into the World Bank job by George W. Bush's handlers. That just gives more visibility to the World Bank and to poor countries (most of the planet).
Expressing that idea in a more sophisticated and lively way is progressive George Monbiot, a columnist for the Guardian (U.K.), whose April 5 "I'm With Wolfowitz" piece is provocative and shrewd. Here's part of Monbiot's reasoning:
Wolfowitz's appointment is a good thing for three reasons. It highlights the profoundly unfair and undemocratic nature of decision-making at the bank. His presidency will stand as a constant reminder that this institution, which calls on the nations it bullies to exercise "good governance and democratization" is run like a medieval monarchy.
It also demolishes the hopeless reformism of men such as [Joseph] Stiglitz and George Soros who, blithely ignoring the fact that the US can veto any attempt to challenge its veto, keep waving their wands in the expectation that a body designed to project US power can be magically transformed into a body that works for the poor. Had Stiglitz's attempt to tinker with the presidency succeeded, it would simply have lent credibility to an illegitimate institution, enhancing its powers. With Wolfowitz in charge, its credibility plummets.
Best of all is the chance that the neocons might just be stupid enough to use the new wolf to blow the bank down. Clare Short laments that "it's as though they are trying to wreck our international systems". What a tragedy that would be. I'd sob all the way to the party.
Monbiot probably did goof on Harry Dexter White (below, left), the guy who brainstormed the creation of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in the '40s.
Monbiot characterized White as an evil genius, but White's daughter Joan Pinkham wrote from Amherst, Massachusetts, to defend her departed dad, who was branded a Commie-lover by the right wing way back when. Here's most of what Pinkham had to say:
Monbiot correctly attributes to White the conception of the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (now the World Bank). But he goes on to speak of White's nefarious intentions (the burden of economic stabilization should be placed on the countries least able to bear it); of the completely negative response of the allied nations to the Bretton Woods proposals; of White's insistence on an undemocratic voting system and a US veto; of his decision that the new institutions would be in Washington etc.
As conceived by my father, these two institutions were designed to create a more equitable, stable, and prosperous world economy. Being neither an economist nor a historian, I cannot pretend to explain how they were eventually converted into the instruments of reaction that Monbiot so rightfully excoriates today. An economist friend, when I asked him how this had come about, once responded with a laugh: "The bankers took them over!" In any event, I would like to assure Monbiot that the present incarnations of the progressive institutions imagined by my father are perversions of their original purposes. The irony is that Harry White, a loyal civil servant with a humane and internationalist outlook, is now attacked from both ends of the political spectrum. Since his untimely death in 1948, he has been repeatedly accused of having betrayed US interests in favor of Soviet communism. Now he is also accused of having relentlessly promoted the hegemony of US capitalism.
See, Wolfie's appointment to the World Bank is a good thing if it focuses more attention on the Bank, its history, and the countries it supposedly helps.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in New York, delivered to your inbox.