Thursday, April 12, 2007

Paul Wolfowitz, Love-Smitten Hawk.

Did Bush Administration hawk Paul Wolfowitz push for the invasion of Iraq at the urging of his lover?

That's the buzz in some circles today.

First, the backdrop.

Mention Wolfowitz and most people remember him as one of the architects of the Iraq war. He advocated - strongly - for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein immediately after the September 11th attacks.

The former Deputy Defense Secretary left the Pentagon two years ago to become head of the World Bank. His leadership there is now under question.

Wolfowitz began his WB tenure vowing to crack down on corruption by governments and officials in developing countries where the bank operates.

Now, he's being investigated for corruption over a big pay raise for a woman with whom he's been romantically connected for years - Shaha Riza.

A former World Bank colleague, Shaha Riza is a British Muslim. (Wolfowitz is Jewish, and possibly still married to Clare Selgin - though separated since 2001, it's not clear whether they're formally divorced.)

Six months after Wolfowitz was appointed to the World Bank, Riza was moved to the State Department to avoid conflict of interest. She remained on the WB payroll, however, and received a significant pay raise. The BBC reports the bank's staff association says the pay raises and promotions "were 'grossly out of line' with the Bank's staff rules."

That's the focus of the controversy, but Britain's Daily Mail has some pretty shocking news about Riza's effect on Wolfie.

Was this love interest part of the reason for his thirst for Saddam's blood?

The report says influential staffers at the World Bank claim Riza played a "key role in pushing the 61-year-old Pentagon official into the Iraq War. And the row comes amid claims that Wolfowitz's wife Clare once warned George Bush of the threat to national security any infidelity by her husband could cause.

"A British citizen - at 51, eight years younger than Wolfowitz's wife - Ms Riza grew up in Saudi Arabia and was passionately committed to democratising the Middle East when she allegedly began to date Wolfowitz."

What? Wolfowitz may have pushed for the war in Iraq because he was in love?

Frightening if true.

Here's the whole Daily Mail article.

In March 2005, the Washington Post's Richard Leiby wrote about neighborhood gossip about the Wolfowitz-Riza romance.

If you watched Farenheit 911, you may still have a sickening image of Wolfie spitting on his comb before running it through his hair. Or you may remember his visit to a Turkish mosque in January, when he took of his shoes and revealed holes in both socks.

I suppose if he was the man who could fulfil Riza's hopes, she could, and would, overlook those quirks.

(Still, ewwwwwwwwwwwwww..........)