|April 30, 2007|
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“The World Bank is a vital source of financial and technical assistance to developing countries around the world,” with its central mission being global poverty reduction and the improvement of living standards. After Paul Wolfowitz was appointed by President Bush as World Bank President in 2005, he tried to express his commitment to these goals, claiming, “One of the things that’s fun about this job is [that] development is a unifying mission and you can get a lot of people together across a table to put their political differences aside.” But as President, Wolfowitz has shirked the Bank’s unifying mission in favor of an advancing his private agenda. Today, Wolfowitz “faces a panel of the bank’s directors in Washington over his personal intervention to secure pay increases and benefits for his girlfriend.” “Wolfowitz intends to offer a ‘substantial‘ defense of his actions, showing there was no conflict of interest in the steps he took on behalf of [his girlfriend] Shaha Riza.” But his engineering of the pay raise for Riza has already been concluded to have breached ethics rules, and the Bank panel will also investigate Wolfowitz’s “hiring of former White House aides to influential, and highly paid, jobs in his inner circle.” Wolfowitz’s deep-seated cronyism reflects how his corruption and right-wing agenda have extended far past the scandal surrounding Riza’s salary and now pervades several different facets of the World Bank’s development policies.
IRAQ WAR CRONYISM: As Deputy Secretary of Defense, Wolfowitz was a “leading architect” of the Iraq war who painted rosy pictures of a U.S. invasion, saying it was “wildly off the mark” to think hundreds of thousands of troops would be needed and that the Iraqis “are going to welcome us as liberators.” Faced with growing criticism over the Riza scandal today, Wolfowitz argued, “For people who disagree with things they associate with me in my previous job, I am not in my previous job.” But Wolfowitz has let his previous position impose a heavy influence at the Bank. He secured an exorbitant salary for his girlfriend Shaha Riza, who “reinforced Wolfowitz’s resolve” to invade Iraq. Moreover, of five top Bank officials appointed by Wolfowitz, three were senior leaders of governments that provided strong backing for U.S. policy in Iraq. In February, the Government Accountability Project learned that Wolfowitz planned to expand the Bank’s lending operations in Iraq, despite there being “no functioning banking system” to secure those loans. Among World Bank staff, “it has been noted that Mr. Wolfowitz’s passion for fighting corruption, which he has said saps economic life from the world’s poorest nations, seemed to evaporate when it came to reviewing lending to Iraq.” Wolfowitz has also appointed advisers to Vice President Cheney and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to influential positions within the Bank.
REGRESSIVE FAMILY PLANNING AGENDA: As the leader of the World Bank, Wolfowitz is imposing Bush’s conservative social policies on international development. Documents uncovered this month reveal that Wolfowitz and his right-wing appointees attempted to reverse a long-standing family planning policy at the World Bank. Juan Jose Daboub, an Iraq war ally appointed by Wolfowitz, “instructed a team of Bank specialists to delete all references to family planning from the proposed Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) for Madagascar,” even though the country’s government has specifically asked for help in that area. Additionally, a draft of the pending Health, Nutrition, and Population Strategy (HNP), obtained from Daboub’s office, mentions family planning just once (p. 120). In contrast, the previous HNP (1997) identified a “lack of access to family planning services as a primary health challenge.” The Bank’s executive directors rejected Daboub’s revisionist draft, stating they had “major concerns” that “the original document makes virtually no reference to sexual and reproductive health” and promotes abstinence to tackle “fertility rates” in developing nations.
GLOBAL WARMING DENIAL: Bush’s top scientists came under fire from Congress last month for repeatedly editing government documents to play down links between emissions and global warming. Wolfowitz’s appointees at the World Bank have continued these revisionist tactics of global warming denial, as Bank scientists recently disclosed that Daboub eliminated references to climate change in the Clean Energy Investment Framework, “a key strategy paper presented to the bank’s shareholder governments at its annual meeting in Singapore last September.” Daboub “tried to remove some references to climate change completely and, in other cases, replace them with the phrases ‘climate risk’ and ‘climate variability,’ which convey greater uncertainty over the human impact on climate.“ Robert Watson, the Bank’s chief scientist, said, “My inference was that the words ‘climate change’ to him implied human-induced climate change and [Daboub] still thought it was a theory and was not proved yet.”
MOUNTING EVIDENCE AGAINST WOLFOWITZ: Calls for Wolfowitz to resign his position from the World Bank have ranged from the European Parliament, World Bank executives, and aid organizations like OxFam, who all believe he should no longer function as Bank President in the wake of the current scandal. Wolfowitz has attempted to deflect blame towards the Bank, accusing the board of treating him “shabbily and unfairly.” Furthermore, today, he is expected to argue that “the institution’s ethics committee knew of his involvement in securing a promotion and pay raise for his girlfriend,” implying that the committee knew of and approved the arrangement. But recently uncovered documents indicate that Wolfowitz attempted to “cover his tracks” over Riza’s salary. “It now emerges that in a letter written in response to a ‘brief conversation’ and dated 13 July 2006, the bank’s vice-president, Xavier Coll, told Mr. Wolfowitz that it was ‘virtually impossible’ to shut off access to individual salary details,” suggesting that Wolfowitz knew of the improper nature of the salary arrangement and attempted to hide it from scrutiny.
NATIONAL SECURITY — ANOTHER EPISODE OF THE 9/11 BLAME GAME: In his new book, At the Center of the Storm, former CIA director George Tenet argues that “there had been no ‘serious debate’ within the Bush administration about whether Iraq posed an imminent threat or on how a long American military presence in Iraq might play out; and that his early efforts to warn [Secretary of State Condoleezza’ Rice and others of Al Qaeda’s threats were treated too lightly.” In an interview broadcast last night on 60 Minutes, he said “that he was trashed by Bush officials seeking to shield the president from the fallout of the march to war in Iraq.” Throughout the book, Tenet depicts Bush as “having been steamrollered by more ideological members of his administration.” He characterizes Rice as “insecure and naive,” and “Rice’s deputy at the time, Stephen Hadley, is portrayed as a mirror of his boss, but with an extra gloss of arrogance.” Rice argued yesterday that some of Tenet’s new statements didn’t seem to “track with what Mr. Tenet had told the bipartisan Sept. 11 commission in testimony.” A group of former CIA and other intelligence officials are also contesting Tenet’s account writing that Tenet lacks “an adequate appreciation of the enormous amount of death and carnage [he has] facilitated” and urging Tenet to “donate at least half of the royalties” from his new book to veterans and their families.
IRAQ — RICE USES MISLEADING CLAIMS TO RESPOND TO TENET’S CRITICISMS: In appearances yesterday on three Sunday morning news shows, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attempted to push back against the criticisms of former CIA director George Tenet’s recent memoir. On CBS’s Face The Nation, host Bob Schieffer asked Rice about Tenet’s claim that two months prior to 9/11, he had delivered a message to Rice saying, “We need to consider immediate action inside Afghanistan now. We need to move to the offensive.” A perplexed and stunned Rice said, “The idea of launching preemptive strikes into Afghanistan in July of 2001, this is a new fact.” She then added, “I don’t know what we were supposed to preemptively strike in Afghanistan. Perhaps somebody can ask that.” On ABC’s This Week, Rice backed away from previous administration claims that Saddam Hussein had posed an “imminent threat” to the United States, saying only that “certainly Iraq posed a threat.” Pressed by host George Stephanopoulos about whether the threat was imminent, Rice redefined the term, which is defined in the dictionary as “likely to occur at any moment; impending.” “George, the question of imminence isn’t whether or not someone will strike tomorrow, it’s whether you believe you’re in a stronger position today to deal with the threat or whether you’re going to be in a stronger position tomorrow,” said Rice. On CNN’s Late Edition, responding to Tenet’s claim that there was “never a serious debate” in the administration about the imminence of the Iraq threat, Rice falsely claimed that U.N. weapons inspectors thought Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. “We all thought that the intelligence case was strong,” said Rice. “The U.N. weapons inspectors [thought] Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.” She concluded, “So there’s no blame here of anyone.” Rice is contradicted by the facts, as on multiple occasions the weapons inspectors publicly lambasted consistently false and misleading U.S. intelligence leading up to the war. In Jan. 2003, chief weapons inspector Hans Blix said that his inspection teams had not found any “smoking guns” after visiting 125 Iraqi sites.
“Five U.S. troops were killed in separate attacks in the capital this weekend, including three in a single roadside bombing, the military said Monday, pushing the death toll past 100 in the deadliest month so far this year.”
“President Bush will not sign any war spending bill that penalizes Iraq’s government” for failing to meet the benchmarks that his own administration has set, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday, “a fresh warning to Congress about challenging him.”
A department of Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki’s office is “playing a leading role in the arrest and removal of senior Iraqi army and national police officers, some of whom had apparently worked too aggressively to combat violent Shiite militias.”
A U.S.-led raid Sunday on a suspected insurgent cell in Afghanistan left as many as six Afghans dead, including a woman and a teenage girl, and sparked protests by hundreds of angry Afghans chanting, “Death to Bush!” One resident said, “We are not the enemy. We are not al-Qaeda. Why are they attacking us?”
The New York City Bar, one of the largest lawyers’ organizations in the country, charges that the Bush administration is “trying to evade responsibility for problems at the Guantanamo Bay prison by falsely blaming defense lawyers for the trouble.” The association’s criticism comes as the administration is proposing limiting attorneys’ access to detainees.
House energy committee chairman John Dingell (D-MI) has written the Environmental Protection Agency demanding to know why Bill Roderick, the acting attorney general, “launched a plan back in June to cut 60 of his 360 employees — especially auditors, criminal investigators and the like — via buyouts or resignations.” Around the same time, Roderick received a raise exceeding $15,000.
Women online are increasingly harrassed in “sexually threatening terms — a trend that was first evident in chat rooms in the early 1990s and is now moving to the blogosphere. … A 2006 University of Maryland study on chat rooms found that female participants received 25 times as many sexually explicit and malicious messages as males.”
“Black, Hispanic and white drivers are equally likely to be pulled over by police, but blacks and Hispanics are much more likely to be searched and arrested,” and police were “much more likely to threaten or use force against blacks and Hispanics than against whites in any encounter, whether at a traffic stop or elsewhere,” a federal study shows.
“Tucked inside Frank Rich’s Sunday column in the New York Times is indication that the newspaper will no longer play ball with the annual White House Correspondents Association dinners in Washington, which he calls ‘a crystallization of the press’s failures in the post-9/11 era.’ He writes that the event ‘illustrates how easily a propaganda-driven White House can enlist the Washington news media in its shows.'”
And finally: Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) “turned some heads” last week at a briefing when she wore “dark, oversized shades, even though the classified meeting took place very much indoors.” Clinton’s spokesman said that she didn’t have her regular prescription glasses with her, so she used the sunglasses. “Which is a lot better than the rose-colored glasses the Bush administration puts on whenever they look at their failed policy in Iraq,” he added.