Wolfowitz’s Blame Game


If the time finally comes when Paul Wolfowitz is forced to publicly account for his role as chief architect of the Iraq invasion, look for him to blame everyone else but himself.

He’ll blame his attackers. And if he can possibly do so, he might very well blame his girlfriend. That’s what he’s doing in his wrangle with the World Bank.

The World Bank panel’s final report on Wolfowitz’s shoddy, unethical behavior regarding his sweetheart deal for his sweetheart, Shaha Ali Riza, heavily criticizes Wolfowitz from dragging the institution through the mud. And it, in effect, brands him a liar.

So, don’t wait for his book on Iraq — or for his 60 Minutes interview touting that book. Go right to the bank panel’s report on the tenets Wolfie followed. I noted late yesterday some of the panel’s harsh findings.

A closer look at the report confirms that Wolfowitz never had any business being “selected” (named by Dick Cheney and the others for whom George W. Bush is front man) to head the World Bank in the spring of 2005.

Fresh from helping initiate the invasion of Iraq, in which the U.S. flouted international rules of conduct, Wolfowitz apparently believed that the World Bank’s rules didn’t apply either. From the bank’s Ad Hoc Group investigating panel:

The Ad Hoc Group would note that the documents it has reviewed leave the Group with the impression that Mr. Wolfowitz, from the outset, challenged the way in which the Bank’s internal governance rules regarded personal relationships.

The report continues:

Mr. Wolfowitz regarded the relationship [with his girlfriend] as possibly giving rise to an “appearance” of a conflict of interest. In the view of the Ad Hoc Group, the relationship he disclosed went beyond creating an “appearance” and gave rise to an “actual” conflict. By resisting the Bank’s prohibition on “professional contact” and arguing that recusal only from personnel matters would suffice, Mr. Wolfowitz placed himself, in a matter in which he had a personal interest, in opposition to the established legal framework of the institution he had been selected to head and in a conflict of interest situation even in the domain where he had proposed to recuse himself.

When the whole situation started to unravel (started initially by my September 2005 story about his sweetheart’s sweetheart deal to go work with Cheney’s daughter Liz at the State Department), Wolfowitz responded like any other petty despot: He attacked his attackers. The bank panel notes:

The Group is troubled by Mr. Wolfowitz’s own public statements as well as those of his lawyer made on his behalf . . . Of greater concern to the Group is the attitude it reveals about the nature of the process currently underway. It has turned an internal governance matter into an ugly public relations campaign in which Mr. Wolfowitz believes he is being publicly attacked and therefore has resorted to public attacks of his own which denigrates the very institution he was selected to lead. The statements ridicule the governance framework and process established by the 185 member countries of the Bank.

The Ad Hoc Group believes that this is of concern for a variety of reasons: 1) it places Mr. Wolfowitz’s personal interests ahead of institutional interests; 2) it casts Mr. Wolfowitz as an adversary of the World Bank when, as noted above, the process underway should not be regarded as adversarial; 3) it results in the institution being seen in a bad and unfair light in the public eye; and 4) it has produced an environment that, put mildly, is not conducive to maximum work efficiency or positive staff morale.

The Group believes that the President’s actions are inconsistent with his obligation to “maintain the highest standards of integrity in [his] personal and professional conduct and observe principles of good governance” as required by the Code of Conduct.

Principles? Codes? Wolfie’s current position is laughable. As the report says (and as I noted yesterday):

Mr. Wolfowitz has taken the position that there were no rules that applied to the situation, and therefore no rules could have been broken in resolving the matter as he did.

The bank panel says he couldn’t be more wrong about that:

Instead of setting the example of adhering to the highest (and in this case well-established) standards, he initiated a negotiation with the institution he was to lead and then sought to dilute the standard the Bank had adopted for itself. The Ad Hoc Group is troubled by these actions coming as they do from the person responsible for setting the “tone at the top” and the example that all staff should follow.

Shaha Riza is bound to be troubled, too. Wolfie claimed to the bank’s investigating panel that the bank’s ethics panel was afraid to deal with Riza because she was “angry and upset” over her past treatment. Hey, Wolfie, stop projecting. You’re the one who’s afraid of her temper. But, true to your bungling, you’re just going to make her madder by thus blaming her for part of this situation.

You don’t have to be a psychologist to parse this passage in Peter Goodman‘s story in this morning’s Washington Post:

The ethics committee told Wolfowitz he could not directly supervise Riza, who also worked at the bank, after he arrived in 2005. He said, however, that the panel declined to oversee her job transfer and compensation, instead ordering him to handle those tasks.

“Its members did not want to deal with a very angry Ms. Riza, whose career was being damaged as a result of their decision,” Wolfowitz said in his response to the investigating committee’s report. “It would only be human nature for them to want to steer clear of her.”

Wolfie sounds as if he speaks from experience. She gets that pissed off, eh? Wait till she reads the report and sees that you have blamed her supposed wrath for your own foolish actions.

Maybe that will solve the conflict of interest problem. No girlfriend, no conflict of interest. Case closed.

No, that won’t happen — publicly, at least. The next big thing to happen publicly will be Wolfowitz’s exit from the bank. But the longer he stays around, the more difficult it is to get him to withdraw gracefully.

Kind of like Iraq.