Wolfie's Exit Plan

Wolfie-suharto-225.jpgPaul Wolfowitz's rapidly nearing exit from the World Bank may lack grace, but at least it will be as peaceful as the dethroning of his pal Suharto nearly 10 years ago.

In other words, Wolfowitz will leave just before people grab him by the seat of his pants and bum-rush him out the door.

Wolfowitz's long-time dance with Suharto and the ruthless Indonesian military is instructive. But first let's look at how Wolfie is planning to leave before he's thrown out.

Wolfowitz's lawyer, Robert Bennett, has figured out a clever ploy: Have Wolfie strongly attack the charges against him that involve gal pal Shaha Ali Riza, but strongly hint that if the allegations are dropped, Wolfie may quit.

(Umpteenth tiresome reminder: I broke the story back in September 2005 that Wolfie was shipping Riza to the State Department to work with Dick Cheney's daughter Liz.)

As Richard Adams of the Guardian (U.K.) writes this morning:

Mr Wolfowitz said he was the victim of a smear campaign, and blamed "orchestrated leaks of false, misleading, incomplete and personal information" for creating the controversy that has led to a chorus of calls for his resignation.

"The goal of this smear campaign, I believe, is to create a self-fulfilling prophecy that I am an ineffective leader and must step down for that reason alone," he told the [World Bank] committee.

Yet he also hinted that if he was cleared of the charges, he would then consider his position — a theme his lawyer has also recently suggested.

"I will not resign in the face of a plainly bogus charge of conflict of interest," he said.

"Only when the cloud of these unfair and untrue charges is removed, will it be truly possible to determine objectively whether I can be an effective leader of the World Bank."

Okay, that's Wolfie's exit plan — if the World Bank and other countries stop attacking him and drop their investigations, he'll finally leave. But why bring up Suharto? Back in May 1997, Wolfowitz, the former ambassador to Indonesia, told a House subcommittee about Suharto's "strong and remarkable" leadership. In May 1998, massive protests by Indonesians forced Suharto and his "New Order" government to step down. Oops.

In case you've forgotten, Suharto was the all-time biggest kleptocrat of all the world's dictators, according to the aggressive watchdog Transparency International.

Wolfie's wrongheaded support of Suharto — laid out well by Joseph Nevins in an Indonesia Alert piece from 2005 — showed how clueless the World Bank president was about international politics back then, just as he was clueless as the Pentagon's war architect about Iraq. And just as he screwed up his sweet gig at the World Bank with his ham-handed tactics on behalf of his girlfriend.

Go right to the source by reading Wolfie's 1997 testimony about Indonesia, and you'll see the seeds of the wrongheaded decisions that plunged us into Iraq.

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