I am not entirely sure what to make of the recent New Yorker profile of Paul Wolfowitz
. I can't help but suspect that it was cleverly engineered by Pentagon PR flaks, designed to answer critics of the main architect of the war in Iraq and perhaps most responsible for its aftermath. And it seems to me the flaks were taking a calculated risk. The New Yorker
has been as sharply ciritical of the administration (in the same issue, "The Editors" voice their collective support of Kerry) as any major magazine. But they must have thought, "If Paul can't make the case for 'G.W. Bush's Grand Adventure', then nobody can."
First, they allow the reporter to follow him to Europe to show that Wolfie, unlike some other people, Remembers Poland.
“Poles understand perhaps better than anyone the consequences of making toothless warnings to brutal tyrants and terrorist regimes,” Wolfowitz said. “And, yes, I do include Saddam Hussein.” He then laid out the case against Saddam, reciting once again the dictator’s numberless crimes against his own people. He spoke of severed hands and videotaped torture sessions. He told of the time, on a trip to Iraq, he’d been shown a “torture tree,” the bark of which had been worn away by ropes used to bind Saddam’s victims, both men and women. He said that field commanders recently told him that workers had come across a new mass grave, and had stopped excavation when they encountered the remains of several dozen women and children, “some still with little dresses and toys.”
Wolfowitz observed that some people—meaning the “realists” in the foreignpolicy community, including Secretary of State Colin Powell—believed that the Cold War balance of power had brought a measure of stability to the Persian Gulf. But, Wolfowitz continued, “Poland had a phrase that correctly characterized that as ‘the stability of the graveyard.’ The so-called stability that Saddam Hussein provided was something even worse.”
Finally, Wolfowitz thanked the Poles for joining in a war that much of Europe had repudiated, and continues to oppose. His message was clear: history, especially Europe’s in the last century, has proved that it is smarter to side with the U.S. than against it. “We will not forget Poland’s commitment,” he promised. “Just as you have stood with us, we will stand with you.”
Never mind we seem to have traded the "stability of the graveyard' for the 'instability of the gravediggers' ball." Better to think of the Holocaust and today's parallels.
Earlier on the day of his speech, Wolfowitz had toured the old city of Warsaw. In ceremonies attended by a Polish military honor guard, he laid wreaths at a memorial commemorating the Warsaw uprising and the monument to the Warsaw ghetto heroes. He laid a wreath, too, at the Umschlagplatz Memorial—the point of departure for some three hundred thousand Warsaw Jews who were transported to the Nazi death camp at Treblinka. Wolfowitz had pillaged the Pentagon library for a copy of “Courier from Warsaw,” the memoir of Jan Nowak, a Catholic who was among the first Warsaw-uprising witnesses to reach the West and testify to the Nazi horrors. In Warsaw, Wolfowitz asked to meet with Nowak, who is ninety. They spoke about the scale of the Holocaust, and about “how terrible it was for the Poles during the sixty-three days of the uprising. Three thousand Poles were killed every day—a World Trade Center every day.
And to those critics who accuse the policy maker with ignorance of Arab and Muslim culture, failing to anticipate the tribalism that fuels, in part, the insurgency in Iraq, we are reminded that Wolforwitz was ambassador to Indonesia. On his way to Poland, he meets with Anwar Ibrahim and Abdurrahman Wahid, Indonesians who were once considered the future of liberal, modern Islam. Even more importantly, in the words of the writer, he became Wolfie of Indonesia while serving as ambassador. He went Native.
Toward the end of the second Reagan Administration, Wolfowitz, who was then Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia, was offered the Ambassadorship to Indonesia. Wolfowitz had spent more than a dozen years in the policy grind of Washington, and he and his wife, Clare, were eager to get away. Clare Wolfowitz had a particular interest in Indonesia—she’d been an exchange student there in high school, spoke the language, and had made Indonesia her academic specialty; she holds a Ph.D. in social anthropology. (The couple are now separated.) People who have spent much time with Wolfowitz eventually notice that Indonesia is the one subject guaranteed to brighten his mood. “I really didn’t expect to fall in love with this place, but I did,” he told me earlier this year. “I mean, I don’t think I made the mistake of forgetting which country I represented, or overlooking their flaws, but there was so much that was just enormously appealing to me.”
Wolfowitz’s appointment to Indonesia was not an immediately obvious match. He was a Jew representing America in the largest Muslim republic in the world, an advocate of democracy in Suharto’s dictatorship. But Wolfowitz’s tenure as Ambassador was a notable success, largely owing to the fact that, in essence, he went native. With tutoring help from his driver, he learned the language, and hurled himself into the culture. He attended academic seminars, climbed volcanoes, and toured the neighborhoods of Jakarta.
There is much, much more. Wolfowitz in London, explaining, with the patience of a venerable scholor tutoring incoming freshmen, the clear connections between Iraq and the attacks on the World Trade Center, both in '93 and '01. We follow him on a moving visit to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, where he gives comfort to the wounded (Message: He cares, but I can't help wondering how many guys actually knew who he was). And once again the atrocities of the Iraqi tyrant are replayed for us.
It's all quite effective in portraying him as a smart, conscientious, and experienced individual; still idealistic and hopeful, though not given to flights of fancy. But it also reminded me of those wise and sober men who brought us the War in Vietnam. Ready to help a grateful nation throw off the manacles of tyranny and to accept the warm, paternal embrace of a Democratic United States.
Then there's this telling passage.
Now, in Würzburg, the headquarters staff was reduced to a skeletal rear detachment. Still, at a luncheon given in Wolfowitz’s honor, the large ballroom was packed, filled with the spouses and family members left behind. Following the custom of their tightly insular culture, the women betrayed no indication of anxiety over their men “down-range,” as they refer to the battlefield of Iraq. They chatted gaily about the food, catered by a favorite local restaurant, and talked about their children. Wolfowitz showed them a video recorded by the First Lady, and they reacted with a standing ovation. Then he took questions. One woman asked whether anything could be done about the long deployments. The Pentagon is working on it, Wolfowitz assured her. Finally, someone asked, How will this war be won? What will victory look like?
Wolfowitz responded that in January Iraq will hold elections. The resulting transitional government will write a permanent constitution. That government will run Iraq for a year, until elections at the end of 2005 produce a permanent, fully independent government. By then, he said, American forces will have trained several Iraqi Army divisions and, equally important, fifty or more battalions of the Iraqi National Guard, the domestic stability force. Reaching down to the table and knocking wood, Wolfowitz mentioned recent progress in regard to the National Guard, noting the Iraqis’ participation in the wresting of Samarra from the insurgents’ control.
The "Pentagon is working on it." Just keep knocking wood.
The very seriousness of Wolfowitz and the "can-do," suffer-no-fools-gladly" additude of Rumsfeld mesmerized many into trusting these wise men, these masters of the universe. Masters of reality. Men who scoffed at lesser mortals who thought rebuilding a nation might take a rather sizable ground force, and be prepared to stay.
But no, they were the confident face of a bat-crazy president who had already decided
to invade Iraq, but needed the right henchmen to carry it out. They, on the other hand, long itching to do just that, thought they'd found their soul-mate. It was kind of like Bush as some Holy Roller preacher with a big idea for a worldwide congregation (based on missionaries who get rich in the process), who, along with his ruthless manager, Dick Cheney, "stumble" on the two con men who were just the guys sharp enough to help them do it.
And we were their patsies.