Wolfowitz’s War

by ANDREW COCKBURN

As defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, was driven from public life thanks to the catastrophe of Iraq, and for the moment at least lurks in obscurity. Wolfowitz, his deputy until 2005, contributed in almost equal measure to the debacle, yet managed to slide from the Pentagon into the presidency of a leading international institution with every chance to redeem himself. Blame for torture at Abu Ghraib and Guant·namo, bungling over troop levels, chaos in Iraq’s reconstruction, and the general meltdown in Pentagon management has all too often been laid at Rumsfeld’s door alone. However, Wolfowitz was an energetic enabler of these outrages and many other notorious initiatives.

To cite just one example: among the most infamous documentary testaments to Rumsfeld’s place in the hierarchy of torture is the First Special Interrogation Plan for use at Guant·namo that received his approval in December 2002. It cleared the way for prolonged sleep deprivation, 20-hour interrogations, and sexual and religious humiliation, along with other favoured techniques. But as the document signed by Rumsfeld notes, the plan had earlier been reviewed and approved by "the deputy", ie Wolfowitz.

There are indications that Wolfowitz was even more hands on when it came to Abu Ghraib. At the May 2006 court martial of Sergeant Santos Cardona, who was one of the low-ranking personnel called to atone for the collective sins of the military establishment, testimony from one of the interrogators alleged that Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were in direct contact with the prison and received "nightly briefings" on the intelligence being extracted under torture.

Just as Rumsfeld will forever be uniquely associated with the torture policy, the hapless former US viceroy in Iraq, Paul Bremer, is credited with the disastrous decision to disband the Iraqi army. Yet numerous sources in Baghdad and the Pentagon at the time were insistent the disbandment decree had been drafted with Wolfowitz’s assent, probably as a means of removing a potential pool of support for a rival to the neoconservatives’ favourite Iraqi, Ahmed Chalabi.

Earlier Wolfowitz had manoeuvred to have himself appointed as viceroy in Iraq. That effort failed. But a newly revealed inquiry by the Pentagon’s inspector general found that, in a foretaste of things to come, he did his best to secure a high-level position in the administration of the conquered country for Riza. Seemingly, he was in awe of her expertise on Iraqi matters. Participants in high level meetings to discuss intelligence on Iraq told me they were startled to hear the deputy secretary of defence invoke his girlfriend: "Shaha says …" Other Pentagon officials were less impressed by her knowledge of the country, not to mention the enormous salary she demanded for her services, and successfully blocked the appointment. Instead, a huge Pentagon contractor, Saic, was directed to hire Riza for a temporary Iraq mission.

Before we conclude that Wolfowitz was the original author of the policies that destroyed Iraq, we should note that his entire career, at least up through his Pentagon service, has been in the service and at the direction of others. His early work in Washington promoting the dubious merits of an anti-ballistic missile programme, for example, was sponsored by Paul Nitze, a powerful insider who devoted a lifetime of intrigue to boosting east-west tensions and US defence spending. Nitze served as godfather to the neoconservative movement in the 70s, correctly calculating that a fusion of the pro-Israel lobby with the military-industrial lobby would create an alliance of unstoppable power. Among the early and most potent recruits was an old friend of Wolfowitz’s, Richard Perle, known and feared in Washington as "the Prince of Darkness" for his ruthless bureaucratic skills and commanding position in the neoconservative forces.

The relationship flourished into Wolfowitz’s sojourn in the Pentagon. Officials who worked closely with him remarked to me on the amount of time Perle, then a close associate of Conrad Black, spent closeted with the deputy secretary. They remained in constant touch, as Wolfowitz’s phone logs attest. Other regular recipients of Wolfowitz calls included Lewis "Scooter" Libby, then chief of staff to Vice-President Cheney and now a convicted felon, and Robin Cleveland. Cleveland was in charge of national security programmes at the White House office of management and budget. From that powerful position, according to a former close colleague of Wolfowitz’s, she "was one of the most important people in the group that gave us the Iraq war".

Late last year Perle and other leading neoconservatives lashed out publicly at Rumsfeld, deriding his mismanagement of the Iraqi enterprise they had worked so hard to set in train. "Interesting they are not going after the puppet," the former colleague emailed me in reference to Wolfowitz’s absence from his old friends’ denunciations.

Given recent sordid revelations, his role in shredding the reputation of the World Bank and the morale of its employees may be harder to obscure.

ANDREW COCKBURN is the author of Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall and Catastrophic Legacy.

 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Suzanne Gordon
How Vets May Suffer From McCain’s Latest Captivity
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
Uri Avnery
The Molten Three: Israel’s Aborted Strike on Iran
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal
Bill Yousman
The Fire This Time: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me”
Scott Parkin
Katrina Plus Ten: Climate Justice in Action
Michael Welton
The Conversable World: Finding a Compass in Post-9/11 Times
Brian Cloughley
Don’t be Black in America
Kent Paterson
In Search of the Great New Mexico Chile Pepper in a Post-NAFTA Era
Binoy Kampmark
Live Death on Air: The Killings at WDBJ
Gui Rochat
The Guise of American Democracy
Emma Scully
Vultures Over Puerto Rico: the Financial Implications of Dependency
Chuck Churchill
Is “White Skin Privilege” the Key to Understanding Racism?
Kathleen Wallace
The Id(iots) Emerge
Andrew Stewart
Zionist Hip-Hop: a Critical Look at Matisyahu
Gregg Shotwell
The Fate of the UAW: Study, Aim, Fire
Halyna Mokrushyna
Decentralization Reform in Ukraine
Norman Pollack
World Capitalism, a Basket Case: A Layman’s View
Sarah Lazare
Listening to Iraq
John Laforge
NSP/Xcel Energy Falsified Welding Test Documents on Rad Waste Casks
Wendell G Bradley
Drilling for Wattenberg Oil is Not Profitable
Joy First
Wisconsin Walk for Peace and Justice: Nine Arrested at Volk Field
Mel Gurtov
China’s Insecurity
Mateo Pimentel
An Operator’s Guide to Trump’s Racism
Yves Engler
Harper Conservatives and Abuse of Power
Michael Dickinson
Police Guns of Brixton: Another Unarmed Black Shot by London Cops
Ron Jacobs
Daydream Sunset: a Playlist
Charles R. Larson
The Beginning of the Poppy Wars: Amitav Ghosh’s “Flood of Fire”
David Yearsley
A Rising Star Over a Dark Forest
August 27, 2015
Sam Husseini
Foreign Policy, Sanders-Style: Backing Saudi Intervention
Brad Evans – Henry A. Giroux
Self-Plagiarism and the Politics of Character Assassination: the Case of Zygmunt Bauman