"We know no spectacle so ridiculous," wrote Macaulay about the vilification of Lord Byron, "as the British public in one of its periodical fits of morality." Change the word "ridiculous" to "contemptible," and the words "British public" to "American press," and you have some sense of the eagerness for prurience, the readiness for slander, and the utter want of fact-checking that have characterized Paul Wolfowitz and Shaha Riza as if they were not only the equivalent of Byron seducing his half-sister, but as if they were financing their shameless lasciviousness out of the public purse and the begging bowls of the wretched of the earth.Hitchens admits knows that he is an acquaintance of Shaha Riza and tells us a bit more than I'd read anywhere else about her.
Anyone in Washington who cares about democracy in the Muslim world is familiar with her work, at various institutions, in supporting civil-society activists in the Palestinian territories, in Iran, in the Gulf, and elsewhere. The relationship between the two of them is none of my damn business (or yours), but it has always been very discreet, even at times when Wolfowitz, regularly caricatured as a slave of the Israeli lobby, might perhaps have benefited from a strategic leak about his Arab and Muslim companion.As is clear from the documentary evidence, Wolfowitz freely informed the Bank of this potential conflict of interest and the Ethics Committee in the Bank was the one which recommended that she receive a bonus in return for being forced to leave a job through no fault of her own.
Recently, reports of Wolfowitz's tenure at the World Bank have tried to imply that he based his decisions on aid on whether the recipient backed our war in Iraq. Hitchens shows how empty such accusations are.
I read over the weekend that a certain bank "staffer" accused him of cutting off aid to Uzbekistan after that country had canceled the presence of United States bases on its soil. The innuendo was clear: The sinister neocon uses the World Bank to punish any dissent from imperialism. Well, the American breach with President Islam Karimov's kleptocratic and megalomaniac regime came after a few massacres of civilian protesters and the exposure of institutional torture. Do you believe that Wolfowitz would have got better press if he had insisted on keeping up the aid payments after all that?This is such a transparent effort of Bank staff to get rid of a new boss whom they disagree with and who is fighting to end their cozy little deals and corruption.