No announcement, but World Bank internal memo reveals new assignment for Shaha Riza
Shaha Ali Riza, lately in the news as World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz‘s Saudi-born girlfriend, has been assigned to the U.S. State Department. The move, which has not been announced by either huge agency controlled by the Bush regime, means that she’ll be working with Dick Cheney‘s daughter Liz Cheney, a top official in the key Near East Affairs bureau.
That’s the word from one of my moles in the World Bank. This significant assignment — a hardened link between the money of the World Bank, which is supposed to focus on poverty, and the neocons’ aims of trying to salvage their privatization plans for Iraq — has not be reported anywhere else, to my knowledge, and I see no word of it on the World Bank website either.
This new loan by the World Bank is strictly from hunger, and it’s sure to do nothing to help us in the Arab world. Wolfowitz’s girlfriend and Cheney’s daughter, in charge together of the U.S. State Department’s Near East bureau?
W.B. Staffer One, as I’ve referred to this particular source, copied me on a September 16 internal memo from Christiaan J. Poortman, the W.B.’s vice president for Middle East and North Africa (MENA, in bank parlance), that says in part:
The Bank has received a request from the US State Department for the secondment of Shaha Riza — on external service — to the Near East Affairs Office of Partnership Initiative. In accepting this assignment Shaha will be responsible for setting up and managing an International Multilateral Foundation that will support reform in the MENA region.
I have agreed to this request which will allow Shaha to continue her work with civil society, complementing our own work on the reform agenda of our partners in the region. Shaha’s assignment will be effective September 19, 2005. Please join me in wishing Shaha the best in her new assignment.
Yeah, Poortman “agreed to this request.” At least it gets Riza out of the office. Wolfowitz got a grand sendoff by the Pentagon in late April, when he left to take over the World Bank. Maybe co-workers had cake for Riza, but maybe not. A similar public pronouncement of a new post didn’t happen for Riza, whose job at the World Bank — basically, head flack for the MENA office — caused plenty of grumbling about nepotism by other W.B. staffers.
In the world of political appointees, however, no one takes a back seat to Liz Cheney (left). She’s now Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, and her bureau has taken over the issuance of the Weekly Status Report, which charts the Bush regime’s “progress” in Iraq and is notable for its extreme fudging of statistics about how many Iraqi cops and soldiers are ready to take over their chaotic country. But Liz Cheney has been a player, by virtue of her daddy, for a few years now. He’s simply returning the favor. As Slate‘s Timothy Noah pointed out last year, Dick Cheney probably owed his Vietnam War draft deferment to the birth of daughter Liz.
Now that she’s fully grown, she’s a key architect of our muddled foreign policies in the Middle East — or at least that’s the job her name earned her. Keep reading, and I’ll give you an example of her crucial role in the disastrous Iraq occupation.
Back in the summer of 2003, when it was already apparent that the Bush regime hadn’t adequately planned for the aftermath of its unjustified invasion of Iraq, the Washington Post’s Peter Slevin and Dana Priest wrote a piece called “Wolfowitz Concedes Iraq Errors,” tracing back that disastrous fumbling. The July 24, 2003, story noted:
The U.S. occupation, now costing $4 billion a month, has no clear end. And an assessment by outside experts commissioned by the Pentagon warned last week that the window of opportunity for postwar success is closing.
Now the occupation costs closer to $6 billion a month, and any “window of opportunity” in Baghdead has probably been shattered by the nonstop explosions these days.
Throughout 2002, as the invasion was being planned, British officials warned that the Pentagon wasn’t planning for the aftermath, as the Downing Street Memo and other documents now have confirmed. Of course, Hurricane Katrina shows that the Bush regime isn’t too sharp when it comes to any aftermath.
In the case of Katrina, we’re paying the cost of unjustified inaction before a crisis. In the case of Iraq, we’re paying the cost of unjustified action that caused a crisis.
We’ve known for quite a while that in 2002, the top officials of the Bush regime ignored State and Pentagon careerists when it came to planning a post-war occupation. Here’s a passage from the Post story that elaborates on this:
Officials critical of the occupation planning said some problems could have been predicted — or were, to no avail, by experts inside and outside the Pentagon.
Before the invasion, for example, U.S. intelligence agencies were persistent and unified in warning the Defense Department that Iraqis would resort to “armed opposition” after the war was over. The Army’s chief of staff warned that a larger stability force would be needed.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and his team disagreed, confident that Iraqi military and police units would help secure a welcoming nation.
That was written long before the 2004 election at which these inept imperialists were re-confirmed by the voters. Fool me once, fool me twice, tsk-tsk.
And it was clear back in the summer of 2003 that Wolfowitz himself had screwed up. Slevin and Priest noted:
Career civil servants who had helped plan U.S. peacekeeping operations in Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo said it was imperative to maintain a military force large enough to stamp out challenges to its authority right away. Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, then-Army chief of staff, thought several hundred thousand soldiers would be needed.
Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz rebutted him sharply and publicly.
“It’s hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself and to secure the surrender of Saddam’s security forces and his army,” Wolfowitz told the House Budget Committee on Feb. 27, . “Hard to imagine.”
When Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld and Cheney — the chief handlers of George W. Bush when it comes to foreign policy — keep appointing one another’s pals to all the key posts, it’s not hard to imagine such disastrous groupthink. As Slevin and Priest reported long, long ago:
The circle of civilian Pentagon officials given the task of planning the occupation was small. From its early work, it all but excluded officials at State and even some from the Pentagon, including officers of the Joint Staff.
“The problems came about when the office of the secretary of defense wouldn’t let anybody else play — or play only if you beat your way into the game,” a State Department official said. “There was so much tension, so much ego involved.”
The Pentagon planners showed little interest in State’s Future of Iraq project, a $5 million effort begun in April 2002 to use Iraqi expatriates and outside experts to draft plans on everything from legal reform to oil policy. Wolfowitz created his own group of Iraqi advisers to cover some of the same ground.
Defense rejected at least nine State nominees for prominent roles in the occupation; only after Powell and others fought back did Rumsfeld relent. Tom Warrick, leader of the Future of Iraq project, was still refused a place, at the reported insistence of [Dick] Cheney’s office.
And now it’s happened yet again — Wolfowitz and Cheney seem to be making their circle smaller and smaller — with the move of Wolfowitz’s girlfriend to State to work with Cheney’s daughter, forging an ever-closer link between the bank’s vast funds and the Bush regime’s cockamamie schemes.
That this nepotistic, despotistic cycle has resulted in a new responsibilities for Shaha Riza shouldn’t be surprising. As the July 2003 Post story noted:
Retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay M. Garner, who was appointed to be the first civilian coordinator in the occupation, said in an interview that he asked Wolfowitz for an expert on Iraqi politics and governance.
Wolfowitz turned not to the roster of career specialists in the State Department’s Near Eastern Affairs bureau, but to a political appointee in the bureau: Elizabeth Cheney, coordinator of a Middle East democracy project and daughter of the vice president; she recruited a State Department colleague who had worked for the International Republican Institute.
Now about Shaha Riza’s new job. Looks like she’ll be flacking for what the State Department calls the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), which is directly under control of Liz Cheney. Here’s part of the puffery already produced about that grand scheme of privatizing the Middle East:
Among the hallmark activities being conducted under the auspices of MEPI are the launch of the Middle East Entrepreneurship Training in the U.S. (economic pillar); creation of a Middle East Justice Institute and Regional Campaign Schools for women candidates (political pillar); “Partnership Schools” that offer creative, innovative alternatives for quality and relevant education for children and serve as models for governments as they build schools in the future (education pillar); and regional micro-enterprise and business internships for women (women’s pillar).
To date, the administration has committed almost $293 million to MEPI over four fiscal years. This MEPI funding is in addition to the bilateral economic assistance we provide annually to the Middle East.
For that money, we could have built a damned wall around New Orleans.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 22, 2005