Paul Wolfowitz -- one of the chief architects at the Pentagon of the U.S.
invasion of Iraq -- is a lucky man.
He doesn't have to worry any more about whether his past hawkish Pentagon
policies were right or wrong or worth the human sacrifice.
Wolfowitz has moved on to become president of the World Bank, where his
job is giving multibillion-dollar loans to underdeveloped countries.
In a formal speech at the National Press Club on Dec. 7, Wolfowitz wanted
to speak about global poverty, not Iraq.
But Rick Dunham, White House correspondent for Business Week, who is
president of the Press Club, did not let him off the hook during the
Tradition at a Press Club luncheon calls for members of the audience to
use cards at their tables to write questions for the speaker and send the cards
to the head table where the club president selects which questions to ask the
To avoid embarrassing guest speakers, some past Press Club presidents have
simply ignored any written questions that put the speakers on the spot.
Not so with Dunham, who waded right into the Iraq war controversy, though
the guest would clearly have preferred to talk about poverty in Africa.
How could Wolfowitz account for the American intelligence failures
regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?
"Well, I don't have to, and it's not just because I don't work for the
U.S. government anymore," Wolfowitz replied. "I work for 84 countries,"
referring to the governance of the World Bank.
But even in his old job as deputy secretary of defense -- the No. 2 job
at the Pentagon -- it wasn't his problem, Wolfowitz continued.
"I didn't have to. I was like everyone else, outside the intelligence
community. ...We relied on the intelligence community for those judgments."
"So," he added, "the question is: How do they account for it?"
This has become a familiar refrain in the administration: Blame the CIA
and the Defense Intelligence Agency and anyone else who agreed with President
Bush that Iraq was a threatening demon.
Wolfowitz and the other leading neoconservatives who shaped foreign policy
in the Bush administration had targeted Iraq early on and had set up their own
special intelligence unit in the Pentagon. The unit was closely allied with
Iraqi defectors whose goal was to depose Saddam Hussein so they could have his
A couple of months after the 2003 attack on Iraq, Wolfowitz gave an
amazing interview to Vanity Fair magazine in which he said: "The truth is that
for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy, we
settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on, which was weapons of
mass destruction as a core reason" to attack Iraq.
That was smart and scary.
Wolfowitz also said in the interview that a "huge" result of the war was
that the United States could withdraw its troops from Saudi Arabia, where the
kingdom's rulers were under intense pressure from Islamic radicals to get
American forces out of the country.
Wolfowitz will be long remembered for his ridicule of Army Gen. Eric
Shinseki's estimate that it would take some hundreds of thousands of troops to
pacify and occupy postwar Iraq. Shinseki was "wildly off the mark," Wolfowitz
For his departure from the Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz script, Shinseki was forced
into early retirement as Army chief of staff.
Wolfowitz also predicted that the U.S. troops would be greeted with
"bouquets" of flowers from grateful Iraqis.
Wolfowitz, who escaped service in the Vietnam War with student deferments,
told the Press Club audience quite accurately, referring to the Iraq war: "The
real judgment of this is going to be the historical one."
For now, the Iraq war is no longer on his radar scope. It has become
someone else's problem and he doesn't have to worry any more about the human
cost or the damaged U.S. global image.
Wolfowitz might change jobs, but history won't forget his work as a
leading advocate and architect of this terrible war.
Helen Thomas can be reached at email@example.com.
© 2005 San Francisco Chronicle