Thursday, May 17, 2007

Words Don't Kill (II)

For the past six years the American media has seemed determined not to define George W. Bush or his Administration as outside the mainstream. They have essentially accepted the President's image of himself as a thoughtful and responsible leader. Bizarrely, that has led them to ignore, literally, several major stories that have been broken in allied lands, such as Britain and Israel. Today I have discovered the the embattled Paul Wolfowitz is receiving the same benefit of clergy.

Perhaps the most important such story has been in the news this week--the conversation in 2004, I believe, between President Bush and Tony Blair in which the President proposed bombing the central office of Al-Jazeera in Dubai. That came to light when two British officials leaked the account of the conversation. The American media refused to pick up the story at all, but in the past two weeks the two men have been sentenced to prison for violating Britain's Official Secrets Act. That amounts to indisputable confirmation of the story, since one can't be sentenced for leaking something that didn't exist in the first place.

A second less serious but equally revealing story broke this year in Israel, thanks to a journalist who had been very close to Ariel Sharon. He wrote that our President had once remarked to the Israeli Prime Minister that when the United States caught Osama Bin Laden, "I'll screw him in the ass." The real scandal here, of course, isn't the President's Texas swagger: it's the appalling, unbelievable failure, nearly six years after the fact, to have caught the man who killed 3000 Americans and who by all accounts has been living in a country that is supposed to be an American ally. But surely these presidential musings might have merited the attention of the New York Times or Washington Post? Evidently their editors did not think so.

Now today, everyone knows that Paul Wolfowitz is under attack. My wife and I had a good laugh this morning over the New York Times story, which described the White House's new proposal to have the bank clear Wolfowitz of wrongdoing so that he could resign honorably. When I mentioned this to my wife yesterday, she asked, "Haven't these guys ever watched Survivor?"--a reference to Dreamz's double-cross of Yao Man, which I had told her about (she doesn't watch the show, but I never miss it.) Sure enough, the Times today reports that the Europeans want someone to put the promise to resign in writing before they go through with such a deal. Nicholas Kristof also has a good article on the subject (which mentions, by the way, that the White House barred him from a recent conference on malaria because they don't like the things he writes.) But nowhere in any major American newspaper will one find the following story, gleaned from the World Bank's official report, which I just read in the British Guardian. (The Guardian and another British paper, the Independent, have broken a lot of important stories that the US press won't touch in the last few years. I quote:

"....angry comments attributed to Mr Wolfowitz came from damning testimony by Xavier Coll, head of human resources at the bank, who provided investigators with his notes of a meeting with Mr Wolfowitz last year. The notes directly contradict Mr Wolfowitz's assertions that the details of Ms Riza's treatment were properly shared with senior bank officials.

"In March last year, when a mention of Ms Riza's secondment outside the bank to avoid rules about partners was first published in the magazine US News & World Report, an angry Mr Wolfowitz accused Mr Coll of leaking the information.

"According to Mr Coll's notes: 'At the end of the conversation Mr Wolfowitz became increasingly agitated and said that he was 'tired of people ... attacking him' and 'you should get your friends to stop it'. Mr Wolfowitz said, 'If they fuck me or Shaha, I have enough on them to fuck them too'," naming several senior bank staff he felt were vulnerable."

Mr. Wolfowitz apparently fancies himself tougher than Vice President Cheney, who is content to tell political opponents to fuck themselves. But isn't the American public entitled to know from its own media that this is the kind of man that the White House is staking American honor on defending? The answer, in my opinion, is yes.


Vigilante said...

Thanks for this lead. I have been looking for this quote from Xavier Coll.

Urbanpink said...

Excellent reporting, thank you (and Vigilante)!