Under the Radar
ETHICS — WOLFOWITZ’S HYPOCRISY ON CORRUPTION: Soon after his tenure as president of the World Bank began, former Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz made it clear that “the new boss is going to be tough on corruption.” He held up $800 million in lending to Indian health projects because of corrupt politicians in the Indian government, froze loans to Chad because the government had reneged on its promise to use oil revenue for poverty reduction, and cancelled 14 road contracts in Bangladesh because of corrupt bidding. But now, Wolfowitz’s tenure is in danger of coming to an abrupt end because of his own corruption scandal. Following revelations that Wolfowitz arranged for his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, to be given a promotion — including an annual salary of $193,590 — that “clearly does not conform” to bank procedures, the chair of the World Bank Staff Association called yesterday for him to “act honorably and resign.” When Wolfowitz addressed employess at the press conference, “calls of ‘resign, resign‘ resounded through the World Bank’s atrium.” Wolfowitz apologized for his handling of the promotion yesterday, saying, “I made a mistake, for which I am sorry.” His apology is not likely to stem calls for his resignation, as the World Bank’s board of directors issued an unfavorable finding of facts on his role in Riza’s promotion today and promised to “move expeditiously to reach a conclusion on possible actions to take.” The Treasury Department’s top international adviser, Undersecretary of International Affairs Timothy Adams, offered kind words about Wolfowitz yesterday, but “deflected questions on whether the Bush administration continues to support him,” though Deputy White House Press Secretary Tony Fratto told reporters yesterday that President Bush retains “full confidence” in him.
ETHICS — WHITE HOUSE STONEWALLS WAXMAN’S INQUIRY INTO CHENEY-LINKED MZM CONTRACTS: On March 26, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) wrote a letter to White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten demanding “all contracts, subcontracts, and task orders between MZM, Inc. … and the Executive Office of the President.” As The Progress Report has reported, there is good reason to believe fired U.S. attorney Carol Lam was targeting the White House’s connections to MZM contractor Mitchell Wade, who pled guilty to paying more than $1 million in bribes to former Rep. Duke Cunningham. Despite no record of having ever received a federal contract, Wade’s firm received a $140,000 contract in 2002 to provide a system to screen the President’s mail. In his letter, Waxman requested that the White House provide documents relating to the White House-MZM contracts as soon as possible, but not later than Friday, April 6. Yet as the North County Times reports, Waxman has yet to receive the information he requested. “‘The White House response is clearly not adequate at this point,’ Waxman said in a written response to questions from the North County Times. On Friday, the White House gave its initial response to Waxman’s March request, with President Bush’s special counsel Emmet T. Flood saying there would be a delay.” Waxman said he is willing to grant an extension, but that “any extension should be accompanied by a firm and expeditious schedule for production.” He noted that on Jan. 23, his committee asked the Department of Homeland Security to provide it with documents on the Department’s $30 billion contract with Boeing to design and build a comprehensive border security plan. Fifteen days later, he received 1,800 pages in documents in response to the request. By contrast, Waxman noted, “The [MZM] contract is small and complying with the request should not be complicated.”
HUMAN RIGHTS — BUSH’S SUDAN AMBASSADOR REFUSES TO CLASSIFY DARFUR AS GENOCIDE: Last month, President Bush’s Special Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan Andrew Natsios told a group of Georgetown students that the “term genocide is counter to the facts of what is really occurring in Darfur.” In a testy exchange with Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing yesterday, Natsios defiantly refused to characterize the ongoing violence in Darfur as a genocide. When Menendez asked him, “Do you consider the ongoing situation in Darfur a genocide, yes or no?” Natsios retorted, “I just answered your question. … There is very little fighting between rebels and the government and very few civilian casualties going on in Darfur right now.” A recent Oxfam report on Sudan stated that “today the situation is as desperate as ever,” as “in the first two months of 2007, more than 80,000 more people fled the ongoing violence.” “The ongoing violence in Sudan’s Darfur region continued to rise” as peacekeepers were fatally attacked in North Darfur just this week. Furthermore, the violence is increasingly dispersing. The United Nations reported yesterday that in the “latest sign that violence plaguing Darfur is spilling into neighboring Chad,” between 200 and 400 Chadians were feared dead in an “unusually brutal attack” last month. “What is happening in Chad has Darfur as its epicenter,” said a U.N. spokesman. “We’ve been warning this for months.” Natsios’s comments are part of a sad effort by the Bush administration to declare victory in the midst of an ongoing slaughter. To learn what can you do about the situation in Darfur, visit the Enough Project.