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April 17, 2007
No spectacle so ridiculous
Chris Hitchens comes to the defense of Wolfowitz and Riza:
We know no spectacle so ridiculous," wrote Macaulay about the vilification of Lord Byron, "as the British public in one of its periodical fits of morality." Change the word "ridiculous" to "contemptible," and the words "British public" to "American press," and you have some sense of the eagerness for prurience, the readiness for slander, and the utter want of fact-checking that have characterized Paul Wolfowitz and Shaha Riza as if they were not only the equivalent of Byron seducing his half-sister, but as if they were financing their shameless lasciviousness out of the public purse and the begging bowls of the wretched of the earth.
I ought probably to say at once that I know both Wolfowitz and Riza slightly, and have known the latter for a number of years. Anyone in Washington who cares about democracy in the Muslim world is familiar with her work, at various institutions, in supporting civil-society activists in the Palestinian territories, in Iran, in the Gulf, and elsewhere. The relationship between the two of them is none of my damn business (or yours), but it has always been very discreet, even at times when Wolfowitz, regularly caricatured as a slave of the Israeli lobby, might perhaps have benefited from a strategic leak about his Arab and Muslim companion.[snip]
She must indeed be happy to be dragged through the press as if she were some Levantine concubine or nontyping "secretary," feathering a love-nest with ill-gotten gains. But that's nothing to what Riza would have got if she had insisted on sticking to her original job, as was her right. The same is true of Wolfowitz: damned whatever course of action he takes. I read over the weekend that a certain bank "staffer" accused him of cutting off aid to Uzbekistan after that country had canceled the presence of United States bases on its soil. The innuendo was clear: The sinister neocon uses the World Bank to punish any dissent from imperialism. Well, the American breach with President Islam Karimov's kleptocratic and megalomaniac regime came after a few massacres of civilian protesters and the exposure of institutional torture. Do you believe that Wolfowitz would have got better press if he had insisted on keeping up the aid payments after all that?