Barracks language edited out, Tommy Franks once referred to the Pentagon’s No. 3, Doug Feith, as “the dumbest guy on the planet.”
It now appears Gen. Franks’ honorific better applies to Feith’s boss, the Pentagon No. 2, Paul Wolfowitz. For a man once hailed as the brightest of the neocons, Wolfie has behaved with a stupidity born of the arrogance of power.
Hailed in 2003 as architect of the Iraq victory, Wolfowitz, by late 2004, was being singled out as the bumbler of postwar planning and the man most responsible for what Gen. William Odom was already calling the greatest strategic blunder in U.S. history.
With the roster of U.S. dead and wounded rising, Wolfie was looking for a place to hide. George Bush, who had heeded his cawing for war on Iraq from the first hours after 9/11, took pity. And more than pity. Bush made him president of the World Bank, the post to which Robert McNamara retreated after seven years at the Pentagon plunging us into a another war, a war we later learned McNamara had come to believe we could not win.
Now, president of the World Bank is not your average sinecure. The job commands a munificent salary, tax free. Nor does it require Senate confirmation, where Wolfowitz might have had to explain his role in deceiving us into war.
Nor is that all. The job consists of flying first-class around the world, dining in palaces, hobnobbing with the Davos crowd, and doling out billions to Third World dictators and despots. For Wolfowitz, it was a heaven-sent chance to rebuild his ravaged reputation. And he blew it.
A few weeks in Eden, and Wolfie went straight for the apple tree. From memos unearthed by the Financial Times, he gave bank officials specific instructions on the care and feeding of his romantic interest, a mid-level Libyan bank bureaucrat by the name of Shaha Riza.
Warned by the bank ethics committee he was to have no role in deciding Shaha’s salary, Wolfie brushed the ethics rules aside.
He ordered Xavier Coll, bank vice president for human resources, to assign Riza to the State Department and raise her salary by some 50 percent, to $193,000 today, tax-free. She would take home more than Condi Rice. Coll was then directed to assure that Riza receive annual pay hikes of 8 percent and be put on a glide path to the highest position of any civil servant at the bank. By 2010, she would be making $245,000, tax-free.
And what has been Wolfowitz’s big cause at the bank? Fighting corruption.
According to the Washington Post, Wolfowitz also had super-agent Robert Bennett negotiate a pay raise to $400,000 for him, equal to that of President Bush, only tax-free. He then brought over two Bush aides from the White House and installed them “in senior positions and rewarded them with open-ended contracts and quarter-million-dollar, tax-free salaries, despite their lack of development experience.”
As this spilled out into the press, Wolfowitz, by week’s end, was barely hanging on to his job. But Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and the West Wing were behind him. In the GOP of Jack Abramoff and Duke Cunningham, this doesn’t qualify as sleaze.
Well, let Wolfie stay on as poster boy of Bush ethics, and let the nation decide whether they wish to continue with this crowd in 2008.
But there is a larger issue than the love of Wolfie for Shaha. That is the systematic looting of our country by parasites who are paid the world’s fattest public salaries, working in Washington, supposedly to alleviate the suffering of the world’s poorest people.
Europe was in ruins in 1945, and there was a need for a World Bank to lend reconstruction money to prostrate nations. But Europe and East Asia are prosperous today, the world is awash in investment capital, and foreign aid is a proven failure.
Why do we continue to subsidize jumbo salaries for foreigners to shovel huge dollops of our tax dollars down the same rat-holes year after year?
This is not 1945. America is no longer the world’s greatest creditor. She is the world’s greatest debtor. In 2006, our current account deficit hit $857 billion. Beijing sits atop a mountain of $1 trillion in reserves. Japan sits on $850 billion. U.S. reserves are pitiful.
Why, when the government is deeper in debt than ever in our history, is this Congress borrowing billions every year to send to the least competent, most corrupt regimes on earth? Why has the World Bank not been shut down, its 10,000 overpaid employees dismissed or the whole thing deeded over to Beijing or Tokyo? Let them play world banker to deadbeat nations. They’ve got the money. We don’t anymore.
Whatever happened to the movement of Goldwater? What happened to the Party of Reagan? Weren’t we once going to put a stop to all this?