Well, it’s over for Wolfie. Paul Wolfowitz, the neo-conservative architect of the 2003 invasion of Iraq turned World Bank president as been forced to resign over a corruption scandal. It has been a long time coming, and it’s not much of comeuppance, but yet another neo-con has been exposed.
Two years after his friend President George W. Bush gave him the job as head of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and now he has been forced out, lamely conceding that “mistakes were made”. It is a far cry from his appointment, when he pledged to alleviate poverty by eradicating corruption in the “developing” world.
Wolfowitz has been forced out for getting his girlfriend, a World Bank employee, promoted to the State Department where she was paid more than Condi Rice – getting a raise of $60,000. Wolfowitz recognised that it was wrong for him to be romantically involved with a subordinate and so got her a job in the US government, but crucially he did not go through the proper channels.
A wunch of bankers
With a revolt of World Bank employees and overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing, the scandal has revealed the extent to which the neo-conservatives are corrupt, lawless, and morally bankrupt. If are to believe the Wall Street Journal however, we would understand that the whole thing has been concocted by European powers to scupper the Wolf’s reform agenda. This is a fine conspiracy theory, but it is probably not true. Wolfowitz had to go because his wrongdoing was so apparent – no doubt his past involvement in the Iraq war and his use of the World Bank as a blatant tool of US imperialism.
The World Bank’s head is always selected by the US president – Europe has the choice as to who runs the IMF, that was the agreement back in 1947 – and there are rumours that George Bush might appoint outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair. I believe that this could happen. Appointing Blair would signal that the US is willing to listen to Europe, but it would also be a defiant act – Blair has been forced to step down, mid-term, because of the unpopularity of the occupation of Iraq.
Blair would be full of imperialist zeal, but has no background in finance. Not that there’s much complexity to the World Bank’s operations. Here’s how it works: the World Bank gives loans to poor countries on condition that certain policies are implemented. I think we all know how the story goes from here.
Comrade Nick Cohen is apparently a fan of Wolfie, a friend even. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, but you may not know that Cohen and Wolfowitz share ex-leftism in common. Wolfie started out as a socialist. Now, they are both cheerleaders for globalisation at gunpoint (though I’ll admit Cohen has no blood on his hands) which should indicate a greater understanding of imperialism is required on the left.
Some news about Nasty Nick: his mother was so incensed at being called a Stalinist by her son that she gave him a good slapping. And here’s me thinking that “you’re never too old…” was an empty threat used by our mothers and grandmothers – let it be a lesson to us all. They mean it. Respect to Mother Cohen.
Tone it down a bit
Back to Blair: he’s on his final farewell tour, though not with the Ugly Rumours. He’s been to the US to see Bush for one last time and he’s just done Iraq – greeted in Basra by two mortars – so I expect he’ll be popping up in Afghanistan next. And Kosovo? Unlikely, but you never can tell…
What makes his pathetic last parade even more unbearable is that he hasn’t even gone yet. God knows, we’ll have to endure even more goodbyes when he does hand over the keys to 10 Downing Street. Gordon Brown, who will be his successor, has six weeks of waiting before he can take over. The whole process is unusually drawn out, more akin to the succession of a US president than the handover of a UK prime minister. Previous PMs Major and Thatcher were gone within days; Blair seems to want to keep it going as long as possible.
It wouldn’t have been so bad if the Labour Party had an election for its new leader. Brown will not face a ballot: there is no need for him to campaign. He could take over tomorrow if he had the guts, but he won’t boot Blair out prematurely. He’s already forced him to cut short his four year term. The ruthless determination Brown’s team has shown in ensuring that McDonnell’s campaign is in stark contrast to the way they deal with Blair. Perhaps the animosity is such that Brown wants Blair’s farewell charade to act as a counterpoint to his one-man leadership battle.
Already Brown has been unable to vanquish the ghosts of Blair’s premiership. Protests calling for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq will plague Brown’s campaign. Already he has been confronted with an angry protestor; his response was predictable, the war was justified. Sure it was: the war was in the interests of Anglo-American imperialism. Brown’s team are putting it about he’ll be different on Iraq, but the reality is he will follow on from Blair. The trend towards a gradual withdrawal of UK forces – only total when the US has decided to quit – will continue. Other than that: no change.
Now you see the violence inherent in the system
The events of the Wolfowitz affair have shown the corruptions of empire and the fact that the World Bank is essentially a tool of the imperialist powers, with Wolfie’s term an attempt to steer the bank closer to US interests. Far from wanting to end or even alleviate global poverty, the World Bank is designed to hold back the independent development of the poorest countries by tying them to their oppressors. Wolfowitz’s “anti-corruption” campaign was insincere but the rhetoric has been used against him. His protestations of innocence are gone; he’ll go quietly. And to replace him, a fellow war criminal?
Giving Blair the World Bank job would be a gift to the anti-imperialist movement. What better way to illustrate the links between imperialism and global economic policies? If Blair replaces Wolfowitz more light will be shed on the role of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in privatising Iraqi oil.
Sadly, Blair may not get the job for just this reason. He will have to go on the lecture circuit we are told will be lucrative for him and his wife. But with the war massively unpopular in the US he can expect a chilly reception. Politicians will not want to hang out with him, except for George, of course.
Blair could easily get the World Bank job, he is more than qualified. Millions of people will attest to his corruption, willingness to serve the capitalist class, and loyalty to US imperialism. And if he does get the job, it will make that proposed Bank of the South look so much more attractive.
Sixty years on from the creation of the World Bank and the IMF, there is a rival on the horizon. The Banco del Sur, if it gets off the ground, will not be headed by a war criminal – though if Blair really wants to end global poverty…
Seriously, though: more countries will be inclined to switch to a better rate of interest (and with no neo-liberal strings attached) even if an American capitalist is handed the World Bank presidency. The challenge for Venezuela, Ecuador and co. will be to create a credible and democratic alternative to imperialist lending institutions. The “Bank of the South” project isn’t taken seriously because it is being promoted by that dreamer and revolutionary, Hugo Chavez; I have a feeling that the sneering of the bourgeois press will soon prove untimely.