US government couldn’t care less what the rest of the world thinks, chosing Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, a key architect of the Iraq war, as the U.S. nominee to head the World Bank.
By tradition, the Europeans name the head of the International Monetary Fund, and the Americans pick the boss of the World Bank. This arrangement worked well for some time, but five years ago America blocked the Europeans’ choice to run the IMF, Caio Koch-Weser, and the job eventually went to Horst Köhler (who has since become Germany’s president).
Will the Europeans now try to block the controversial Mr Wolfowitz? Reuters news agency reported on Wednesday March 16th, the day the nomination was announced, that Mr Wolfowitz’s name had already been unofficially floated among members of the Bank’s board, and rejected. The reaction to his nomination in Europe ranged from mildly positive to hostile. As Germany’s development minister, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, put it: “Enthusiasm in old Europe is rather limited.? But there may be little the Europeans can do to stop Mr Wolfowitz taking the Bank’s reins, as America is its biggest shareholder and the second-biggest, Japan, has backed Mr Bush’s man.
As such, on Thursday, the Chair of the Development Committee of the European Parliament, Louisa Morgantini, has written on behalf of her Committee calling on European governments “to open up the process to accept other candidates“.
Mr Wolfowitz, who is currently America’s deputy secretary of defence, has had several stints in US government, including in the administration of George Bush senior. At a press conference on Wednesday, the president described his nominee as “a compassionate, decent man“? and a “skilled diplomat”?.
John Cavanagh, director of the liberal Institute for Policy Studies here, compiled a sarcastic list of Mr. Wolfowitz’s qualifications, first among them that he would follow in the footsteps of Mr. McNamara, “who also helped kill tens of thousands of people in a poor country most Americans couldn’t find on a map before getting the job.”
Well, this “skilled diplomat” was among prominent members of the administration who engaged in a campaign two years ago to assure Americans that the financial costs of invading Iraq would be slight. These assurances were delivered against expert advice.
“There’s a lot of money to pay for this that doesn’t have to be US taxpayer money, and it starts with the assets of the Iraqi people,” Mr Wolfowitz told a House of Representatives hearing on March 27 2003.
“On a rough recollection, the oil revenues of that country could bring between $50bn and $100bn over the course of the next two or three years,” he said. “We’re dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.”
In the two years since the invasion, Iraq’s oil revenues have totalled $25bn, despite soaring world prices. The cost of the war and reconstruction has exceeded $200bn so far.
If approved by the bank’s board, Wolfowitz would assume command of an institution that lends about $20 billion a year to developing nations and often plays an enormously influential role in shaping their policies because of the conditions it sets for aid.
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A definite great read..Tony Brown