After hearing President Bush’s nomination of US Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz for the position of the new head of the World Bank I emailed an old editor friend immediately: “We should get back on this PNAC story,” I said: “Imagine what could happen if he gets in. These boys are turning up everywhere these days.”
But before any answer came back UK Defence Secretary Jack Straw had already given full backing to the idea. Prime Minister Tony Blair was “comfortable” with the Iraq war architect taking over. Despite initial concern, the European Union followed suit, the prime minister of Luxembourg referring to Wolfowitz as the “incoming president of the World Bank”.
Opposition came from all angles, including the bank’s own staff, who feared the poverty grant policy being converted to loans. UK International Secretary Hilary Benn and World Bank board member was said to be furious at Blair for keeping her in the dark. World Development Movement, the British aid group, called the nomination “truly terrifying”.
Paul Wolfowitz is well known for his aggressive stance on the 2003 Iraq invasion, as Reagan’s US assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs from 1982 to 1986 and ambassador to Indonesia in 1986-89, the time of the illegal occupation of East Timor. Wolfowitz did little to intervene in the invasion that resulted in 200,000 deaths. He has also been criticised for siding with the Indonesian dictator, Suharto, who seized power in 1965-66 and brutally murdered of hundreds of thousands people.
What seems to have been overlooked in all this is Wolfowitz’s role in the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), a rightwing political think-tank promoting “American global leadership”, the foundation of the neo-conservative movement.
The base policy of PNAC was set out in the 1997 defence document Rebuilding America’s Defences (RAD). The origins of this 90-page document go back to the outgoing 1992 defence department of George Bush senior – namely Dick Cheney, the current vice president, Paul Wolfowitz and Lewis Libby, Cheney’s chief of staff.
Back then it was called the Defence Policy Guidance. It was revised in 1998 and released three weeks before the incoming 2000 president took charge of the White House.
The RAD document called for increased military personnel, equipment and funding, massive repositioning of military personnel globally and increased rotational deployments, expansion of nuclear capabilities and the ability to test, a missile defence system, and maintaining and restoring “a favourable order in vital regions of the world”.
According to an earlier chapter in the document a favourable order is one that “benefits and promotes American principles and interests”.
RAD listed several countries as dangerous regimes, North Korea, Libya, Syria, Iran and Iraq. This list comes as no surprise now, since the initiation of the war on terror. The Iraq mention was particularly interesting as the document stated Saddam Hussein should be removed at all costs, even if he no longer posed a threat.
All this was going to cost a lot of money, but RAD had that down too. A return to trickledown economics, something those familiar with the Reagan Revolution and the Heritage Foundation’s Mandate For Leadership document probably expected.
When the PNAC story broke in 2001 many political correspondents declared it was inconceivable to think a political think tank could influence the current government to that degree. But as a little digging discovered a large portion of the signatures on the PNAC Statement of Principles and RAD documents had already been appointed to highly influential positions in the US government.
The well-known names were Defence Secretary Ronald Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Florida governor, and brother to the president, Jeb Bush, and ex-vice president Dan Quayle.
Other lesser known faces were PNAC chairman William Kristol, Dan Quayle’s Chief of Staff and editor of The Weekly Standard, John Bolton, Bush’s Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security and the 2005 nomination for US ambassador to the United Nations. He replaces John Poindexter, the Iran Contra lead player, pardoned by Bill Clinton, who now resides as US ambassador to Iraq.
The list goes on, a role-call of republican political heads, oil company aids, and political and military minds from the top US universities. Elliott Abrams, former Iran contra criminal and current National Security Council director for democracy, human rights and international operations, Bush senior’s drug tsar William Bennett, multimillionaire Steven Forbes, the president of Forbes Inc and Editor-in-Chief of Forbes magazine, ex-director of the CIA James Woolsey, disgraced Pentagon member Richard Perle and special envoy to Afghanistan and one time aid to Unocal oil Zalmay Khalilzad. He is the man you usually see hovering behind democratically elected Afghan president Hamid Karzai, another ex-Unocal employee.
After 9/11 one page among all others in the RAD document had conspiracy theorists screaming and raving all over the world. The now infamous page 51 stated: “Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a big one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbour.”
The World Trade Centre and Pentagon attacks certainly did that. And to this very day there is still speculation hanging over what the US administration did and did not know.
So, back to Wolfowitz. What could happen if he does indeed become the head of the World Bank?
As the bank’s staff already expressed, grant systems could be converted to loan programs, which would do nothing but increase third world debt. Aid programs to nations such as Iran could be halted, affecting the lives and welfare of millions of people globally.
Wolfowitz has already stated he understands that he no longer works for the US, then added: “The US views are important views, but one of several.”
Maybe so, but one question that should be asked is whether he intends to run the World Bank on a neo-conservative stance – a PNAC stance of “American global leadership”, putting US interests first.