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Iraq War Accountability: Paul Wolfowitz Also Needs to Resign!

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Allow me to be one of the first, in this post-election period, to call for Paul Wolfowitz's resignation as the President of the World Bank. I trust that I won't be the last.

Via the ballot box, the American people have sent a clear message about the Iraq War. Government officials would do well to heed this collective call for a stern repudiation of current policy, and key players surely need to be held accountable for such a bungled and deadly fiasco. Accountability in the U.S. system can take several forms: electoral (whereby scoundrels are thrown out of office); criminal (whereby lawmakers learn that they cannot also be lawbreakers); and civil (whereby ordinary citizens pursue legal remedies through other courts). Or you can be fired--and Donald Rumsfeld has finally taken a fall. But the clamor surrounding Rumsfeld's scapegoating shifts too much culpability away from not only Bush, but also from former Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz.

The problem with Paul Wolfowitz is that he will probably escape all of those standard means of formal redress and rebuke. The main architect of the Iraq War has become sheltered from all subsequent responsibility for that debacle. We've seen this bad movie before: Robert Strange McNamara, Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam build-up, moved on in 1968 to become President of the World Bank. His bastard child and protégé, Paul Wolfowitz, simply followed his mentor's lead from the Vietnam era.

It isn't right. It isn't just. Paul Wolfowitz got us into this mess (albeit with help). And yet he continues to be whisked around Washington, D.C. in a shiny limousine. Remember that he was the one who first designed the theory of preemption. He was the leading neo-con chickenhawk urging us into Iraq at every turn. He was the person who publicly testified that General Shinseki's estimate that hundreds of thousands of troops would be needed to pacify a post-invasion Iraq was "wildly off the mark." He was the person who assured us that the Iraqis "are going to welcome us as liberators." He was the person who said that "it is just wrong" to assume that the U.S. taxpayers would be footing the bill for the Iraq War.

About a year ago he was asked, "How do you account for the intelligence failures regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?" His reply: "I don't have to." Other neo-cons such as Richard Pearle and Francis Fukuyama have backpedaled, revised and revisited, dodged, darted and danced around their earlier support for the war. But Wolfowitz remains stubborn and unrepentant.

George Bush was the Decider. Dick Cheney was the Deceiver. Donald Rumsfeld was the Discharger. Paul Wolfowitz was the Deviser. The main architect and advocate of the Iraq War--who was once called the intellectual "High Priest" of the neo-cons--shouldn't get off scot-free. Shouldn't he somehow face a day of reckoning, too?

The main reason he is President of the World Bank today owes to his belligerence as Deputy Secretary of Defense, that is, to his premeditated plotting to get us into Iraq, a run-up that was many years in the making. Thereafter, it's not as if he has learned a few life's lessons and turned over a new leaf during his tenure thus far at the Bank. Instead, it seems as if he's staying the course with the same old blend of self-righteousness and obtuseness. By all reports, he's become an isolated and alienating figure at the Bank. When he does show his face in public, he trumps his mission to rout out corruption at the Bank--yet all the while he remains silent about Halliburton's and other contractors' corruptions that he sanctioned and supervised while we were first getting stuck in Iraq.

What's the opposite of having a green thumb? What's the opposite of having the Midas touch? What's the opposite of being Mr. Clutch? Everything Wolfowitz touches turns into a disaster. Just because he's found a soft landing at the World Bank, why should he escape accountability for his earlier actions and misjudgments?

The Bushites and the neo-cons want to be judged solely by their original good intentions and high-minded freedom-loving ideals. Wolfowitz frequently repairs to the language of his "idealism" in foreign policy and now, in economic development. The problem with that position was best articulated in 1918 by German sociologist Max Weber, in his address "Politics as a Vocation." People who work in politics, both elected politicians and civil servants and administrators, cannot simply follow an "ethic of absolute ends," contended Weber, but such persons must also take responsibility for the worldly consequences of their actions, even if those consequences were unintended and unforeseen. Said Weber:

...it is immensely moving when a mature man--no matter whether old or young in years--is aware of a responsibility for the consequences of his conduct and really feels such responsibility with heart and soul. He then acts by following an ethic of responsibility and somewhere he reaches the point where he says: 'Here I stand; I can do no other.' That is something genuinely human and moving. And every one of us who is not spiritually dead must realize the possibility of finding himself at some time in that position. In so far as this is true, an ethic of ultimate ends and an ethic of responsibility are not absolute contrasts but rather supplements, which only in unison constitute a genuine man--a man who can have the 'calling for politics.'

Many of the neo-cons take pride in their manliness, and a sense of manliness apparently animated many of their original aspirations to invade Iraq. According to Max Weber's older sense of political manliness, however, it would now seem to behoove Wolfowitz and others to take full responsibility for the dire consequences of their once-exalted visions. If not manliness, then simple honor and plain-old decency--especially an ongoing obligation to the departed in that war--would seem to recommend that Mr. Wolfowitz voluntarily tender his resignation at the World Bank.