The Wolfowitz Ouster, Redux

Fox News journalist James Rosen has a long and largely sympathetic account

of Paul

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

was dead."

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

he did.

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