Fox News journalist James Rosen has a long and largely sympathetic account
Wolfowitz’s ouster from the World Bank in the November issue of Playboy.
At the beginning of the piece he’s unambiguous:
What happened to Wolfowitz was more akin to a putsch, the work of entrenched
enemies who seized on a false pretext to engineer the overthrow of a flawed
and mistake-prone leader closely identified with an unpopular war.
But the meat of the article shows that both Wolfowitz and his companion, Shaha
Riza, were often their own worst enemies in terms of how they dealt with their
situation. Riza, especially, comes across as someone with no political nous
whatsoever, who systematically alienated just about anybody who could help her
– including Wolfowitz. And Rosen also reveals that Wolfowitz might have
been caught up in even more scandal than people realized at the time.
The whole piece is worth reading (assuming you’re OK with the Playboy ads which
surround it), if only to see the kind of thing that results when a Fox News
journalist ventures into print:
Wolfowitz and Riza, in short, were hardly Brangelina, but they had each other.
And as they prepared for Wolfowitz to assume the World Bank presidency, a
position that carries a five-year term and may be renewed by the bank’s executive
board, they likely envisioned themselves spending the next decade working
together — individually but under the same roof — to advance the passionately
pro-democracy agenda that bound their love.
But Rosen does uncover an older Wolfowitz-Riza scandal, dating back to Wolfowitz’s
tenure at Defense, which was news to me, and is if anything more shocking than
anything alleged to have happened at the World Bank:
A high-ranking State Department official remembered the couple’s relationship
intruding on another national security initiative: Libyan strongman Muammar
al-Qaddafi’s historic secret agreement to disclose and dismantle all his country’s
weapons of mass destruction and ballistic-missile programs in exchange for
the restoration of diplomatic ties with the United States.
Announced in December 2003, the Libyan deal represented one of the most sensitive
and significant projects of the first Bush term. Senior administration officials
repeatedly cited the invasion of Iraq, then just nine months old, as a prime
factor in Qaddafi’s change of heart. During his first debate with Senator
John Kerry, at the University of Miami in September 2004, Bush boasted about
the war’s effects. "By speaking clearly and sending messages that we
mean what we say," Bush said, "we’ve affected the world in a positive
way. Look at Libya. Libya was a threat. Libya is now peacefully dismantling
its weapons programs. Libya understood that America and others will enforce
doctrine, and the world is better for it."
Yet this momentous initiative was almost torpedoed by the Wolfowitz-Riza romance.
"When we were doing Libya," the State Department official recalled,
"we kept on running into all this resistance at OSD [Office of the Secretary
of Defense], and I kept wondering, What’s the problem over there? Finally
someone told me, ‘It’s Wolfowitz. He has a Libyan American girlfriend who
hates Qaddafi.’ And Wolfowitz was adamant that there’d be no deal until Qaddafi
I’m quite sure this was not public knowledge when Wolfowitz was being ousted
from the World Bank; if it had been, I doubt he’d have lasted even as long as