Even Wolfowitz’s Departure Stirs Controversy

The latest in the Staff Association’s reasoned statements makes it clear that this controvery is far from over.  Speaking on the BBC tonight, SA Chair Alison Cave reiterated that Paul Wolfowitz has disgraced himself and the institution, and it is now time for the Board to make it clear he is finished, and long before June 30 when he hands in his badge, takes his $400,000 termination payment and steals away (no pun intended) with his integrity intact (according to him)

The internal bulletin boards are incendiary Thursday evening, with attacks on the Board for having colluded with Wolfowitz’s lawyer to give him a sweetheart “mistakes on both sides” deal.  The nicest thing anyone could come up with the defend the exchange of pleasantries was describing an ‘amicable’ divorce, which of course is the more amicable the more money changes hands.

The water element in the Bank’s atrium may well be filled with hot oil tomorrow when the Board arrives to discuss “interim arrangements”, and at least one very high level meeting took place Thursday evening after the announcement to figure out how to deal with what he might get up to.  (Timing of the joint announcement, just after the in-house store closed, allows the Bank’s provisioners to lay in lots of champagne for tomorrow, though.)

It’s hard to imagine how Paul Wolfowitz could usefully spend the next six weeks.  After all, he’s not welcome in Germany for the G7 finance ministers’ conference later this week, or the Africa conference next week, or the G8 Summit under Chancellor Merkel’s leadership.  There might be a Wolfowitz-free premium at the IDA Deputies meeting in Maputo late in June, but it’s unlikely he’d keynote at that event given the $30 billion that must come back in the hat being passed around to IDA donors.  There might be a few dodgey dictatorships that would receive him, though one wonders why: He’ll be gone soon.  And much of his self-described achievements was from the work-in-progress Jim Wolfensohn left and what little he added now badly needs to be tweaked. 

If he is not put on administrative leave, Paul Wolfowitz remains a huge distraction.  His neocon allies, like SAIS’s Ruth Wedgwood (“the friendly face of secret military tribunals”, as the BBC failed to point out during her ludicrous interview this evening) and cynical, tired bloggers like Clarice Feldman, “the American Thinker” (sic), get more airtime as this spectacle continues and the press runs short of anyone to give his side of the story.  John Bolton’s interview with BBC on Wednesday was widely ridiculed and, well, if you have to get John Bolton to speak for you, things are pretty bad. 

Paul Wolfowitz has few other supporters to peddle his “I was vindicated” fantasy.  Much of his severance will go to pay Bob Bennett, who can return to chasing celibrity ambulances as long as there are journalists around, this confirming that he generally represents only the guilty who are used to making a deal to be let off.

As president of the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz would have significant power.  In addition to continuing to interfere in senior staff appointments, his office might be used to harass his opponents, or those thought to be.  Already, it is being reported that INT has gotten into laying its own allegations, for example, against UK Executive Director Tom Scholar in this morning’s Wall Street Journal.  (Apologies for no link–it’s such scurrilous and irrelevant yellow journalism, by one of the Journal’s specialist mudslingers, one hopes they will take it down soon.)  Of course, reports of allegations can only emanate from one place, INT, so Suzanne Rich Folsom had better tell her own cronies to follow INT’s own procedures.  Nothing to stop INT from investigating her, after all. 

Since Wolfowitz should have no effective say in anything important, it’s hard to imagine why his remaining counsellor should continue to occupy half a small office with one of Shaha’s friends, prohibited, at last, from speaking to staff.

And it would be troubling if investigations that need to take place into (Robin Cleveland’s) forged email (“page 77”), or Shaha’s vacation in Iraq for SAIC, or whether a harassment victim in Brazil was told not to complain because it would not be worth her while, or why Anwar Ibrahim was hired as a Bank consultant around the time he asked for Shaha to join his ghost foundation, or how INT picks consultants and hires staff, were blocked or put on a back burner.  And now that her boyfriend is gone, should Shaha continue to be paid nearly $200,000 tax-free to sit up in a cubicle at the Stimson Center and pretend to be promoting democracy in the Middle East?  She should come back to the Bank on July 1 and look for a job among those managers and colleagues about whom her views are, at last, clear.

The Board has better things to do than watch Paul Wolfowitz’s every move in the next six weeks, and suffer the shenanagans of his cronies.  Wolfowitz and the cronies should all be on administrative leave until their departure dates.  Period.

That way, we get back to work and move on with the Bank’s mission.  This includes a serious discussion of how the governance of the Bank can be fixed, the qualities the next World Bank president must have and how he or she will be identified and selected, and how some of Paul Wolfowitz’s dubious policy reform achievements can be amended so they will work. 

The dream of a world free of poverty can be met only with a World Bank free of Paul Wolfowitz.  And June 30 is too late.

Just do it.