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Friday, August 14, 2020
Analysis by Jim Lobe
WASHINGTON, Apr 17 2007 (IPS) - Some of the same neoconservative institutions that are defending World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz against charges that he unethically promoted the career and compensation of his romantic partner were among the most aggressive in attacking former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan for alleged nepotism on behalf of his son.
The editorial writers of the Wall Street Journal, contributors to the National Review, and a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies (FDD), a neoconservative group whose journalist-in-residence, Claudia Rosett, led the campaign against Annan and his son, Kojo, have all rallied behind the beleaguered Bank president, blaming his problems on an entrenched officialdom determined to resist his corruption-fighting reforms.
“The only way this fiasco could get any worse would be for Mr. Wolfowitz to resign in the teeth of so much dishonesty and cravenness,” according to the lead editorial in Monday’s Wall Street Journal, which offered a detailed justification for the former deputy defence secretary under U.S. President George W. Bush.
“We’re glad the Bush administration isn’t falling for this Euro-bureaucracy-media putsch,” it added in what was the second of two consecutive columns on Wolfowitz’s plight.
“Paul Wolfowitz is my friend, and one of the most decent, upright people it has ever been my privilege to know,” wrote FDD senior fellow and anti-terrorism specialist Andrew McCarthy in the National Review Online (NRO).
“If it were up to me, there would be no World Bank. But if we’re going to have one, we should be grateful that Paul Wolfowitz is running it, rooting out corruption and trying to change the culture so that helping the poor, rather than pushing loans out the door, is the criterion by which it is judged,” McCarthy concluded.
That was the first story of more than 30 published over the next two and a half years by the Review and the NRO on Kojo Annan’s business deals and what it considered a case of blatant nepotism and conflict of interest on the UN chief’s part – emblematic in the neoconservatives’ view of the corruption of the world body itself.
The Review-FDD campaign was bolstered by Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, which itself published more than a dozen editorials and columns, including several by Rosett, citing Kojo in connection with alleged UN corruption and the multi-billion-dollar oil-for-food scandal between 2004 and the end of Kofi Annan’s term in office Dec. 31, 2006.
Indeed, when Rosett reported in another neoconservative publication, the New York Sun, in late November 2004, that Cotecna had continued paying Kojo Annan 2,500 dollars a month for four years after he left the company in early 2000 – which Cotecna described as a standard non-compete deal – neo-conservatives stepped up their calls for the UN chief to resign.
“Annan should either resign, if he is honourable, or be removed, if he is not,” wrote the National Review at the time, while the Journal featured an editorial page column entitled “Kofi Annan Must Go” by Republican Senator Norm Coleman who, noting Rosett’s latest revelation, as well as other allegations of corruption in the oil-for-food scandal, declared that “(I)f this widespread corruption had occurred in any legitimate organisation around the world, its CEO would have been ousted long ago, in disgrace.”
In the event, the independent commission headed by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker determined in its final report published in September 2005 that, while Annan should have been more aggressive about looking into his son’s relationship with Cotecna once his ties were disclosed, he had not influenced the awarding of the contract to the company or known how Kojo had traded on his name to further his business interests.
The neoconservative role in vigorously pressing the campaign to discredit Annan for his presumed nepotism and force his resignation stands in sharp contrast to its efforts to protect Wolfowitz from similar charges in connection with his role in personally arranging an exceptional promotion and salary increase for his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, a senior World Bank communications officer when Wolfowitz took over in June 2005, as part of a package by which she was seconded to the State Department.
According to the New York Times on Tuesday, Wolfowitz may also have played a role in getting her a short-term consultancy with a major defence contractor, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), in 2003, when he was serving at the Pentagon.
In its two editorials, the Journal has argued at length that Wolfowitz had tried to recuse himself from any decision regarding her career when he was first hired, but that he was subsequently forced to make the secondment arrangements himself after the Bank’s executive board and ethics committee allegedly instructed him to do so.
Consistent with a Fox News investigative report published online and aired over the weekend, the Journal wrote Monday that the ethics committee chairman, Ad Melkert, had effectively approved the secondment package and went on to suggest that Wolfowitz may have fallen into a trap set by the board to manoeuvre him into a conflict of interest.
Documents released Friday by the Bank make “us wonder if some bank officials weren’t trying to ambush Mr. Wolfowitz from the start,” it said, adding that “it’s clear that his enemies – especially Europeans who want the bank presidency to go to one of their own – are now using this to force him out of the bank.”
Michael Rubin, a Middle East specialist at the American Enterprise Institute who worked for Wolfowitz’s former Pentagon boss, Donald Rumsfeld, in the run-up to the war in Iraq, informed NRO readers that the Wall Street Journal editorial was a “must-read”.
The Journal and other supporters also tried to downplay the significance of what Wolfowitz had done. The Journal called it a “mini-flap” involving “ethical minutiae”, while Jonah Goldberg, a regular contributor to the NRO, referred favourably to a Los Angeles Times column by neo-conservative legal scholar Ruth Wedgwood, entitled “The Wolfowitz Non-Story”.
Wolfowitz and Shaha, she argued, are victims of a “mob mentality”, echoing charges by Victor Davis Hanson, yet another neoconservative at NRO, that Wolfowitz is “facing a lynch mob over perhaps a… one-time lapse of judgment in regard to compensation of a companion – nothing, however, ranking with the various scandals surrounding Kofi Annan, whose son profited by United Nations exemptions given through his family ties.”
What the scandal is really about is “payback for Iraq”, according to Hanson, whose views often reflect those of Vice President Dick Cheney, reportedly Wolfowitz’s main supporter within the Bush administration.
Ironically, the same was said by Annan’s supporters during the Kojo scandal. “The reality is that the current calls for Annan’s head are provoked by his opposition to America’s pre-emptive war in Iraq,” noted Ian Williams, the UN correspondent for The Nation weekly in late 2004 after Coleman called for Annan’s resignation.
Indeed, as the neoconservative campaign against the secretary-general gathered steam in the fall of 2004, James Traub, in a Los Angeles Times article entitled “Lynch Mob’s Real Target is the U.N., Not Annan,” wrote: “(W)hat conservatives cannot accept, at bottom, is the premise that an international body, even one over which the United States exercises enormous sway, should be allowed to pass on the legitimacy or legality of American actions.”
(NOTE: The reference to Michael Rubin of American Enterprise Institute has been corrected.)
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