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April 06, 2007

Paul Wolfowitz Yearns For Democracy

The New Yorker ran a 12,000 word profile of Paul Wolfowitz this week. It begins and ends with discussions of Wolfowitz's history with Turkey, and in between spends 2,000 words describing it and a recent Wolfowitz visit there for the World Bank. Among other things, we learn that during this visit Wolfowitz was ferried around on a Turkish military helicopter, and is old friends with the prominent Turkish General Cevik Bir.

Given this, you might assume that somewhere in those 12,000 words the New Yorker could have found time to mention a famous May, 2003 interview with Wolfowitz and CNN Turk. As you read this, keep in mind (1) the U.S. had just invaded Iraq, but the Turkish parliament had voted not to allow the U.S. to use its territory; (2) Wolfowitz's longtime friendship with Turkish military figures; and (3) the Turkish military has overthrown the civilian government four times since 1960, most recently in 1997:

WOLFOWITZ: From a U.S.-Turkish point of view there is good news and bad news. The good news is that a majority of the parliament did vote to support us in the things that we asked for. The bad news is that because of the procedural issues that wasn't a big enough majority to get it done and that many of the institutions in Turkey that we think of as the traditional strong support is the alliance were not as forceful in leading in that direction.

CNN TURK: Which traditional alliance are you talking about?

WOLFOWITZ: Well I think you know which ones I mean but I think particularly the military. I think for whatever reason they did not play the strong leadership role on that issue that we would have expected...

I think it's perfectly appropriate, especially in your system, for the military to say it was in Turkey's interest to support the United States in that effort.

CNN TURK: Didn't they say that?

WOLFOWITZ: I don't know. My impression is they didn't say it with the kind of strength that would have made a difference.

Coincidentally enough, a few weeks later the head of the Turkish military was threatening to overthrow the government again.

None of this made it into the New Yorker article. But I suppose that's for the best, since that space was needed for this kind of passage about Wolfowitz's deep commitment to democracy:

Wolfowitz refused to talk about Iraq specifically, but he told me that he still believes in the vision of a moderate, democratic Middle East. "I think, in the longer view of things, there is a very powerful pull in the direction of participatory government," he said. "People discover that it's the path to prosperity. And, yes, there are some violent forces that don't want to see it happen..."

Posted at April 6, 2007 10:01 PM | TrackBack

twelve thousand words and not even hint at how easily he can be propelled. i know about how far i trust him, but i'll have to throw him myself to make an accurate comparison.

Posted by: hibiscus at April 7, 2007 12:17 AM

Paul Wolfowitz as Santa Claus is a bit much. Paul Wolfowitz the bleeding heart, more like a bleeding ulcer if you ask me. In the CNN TURK interview I notice that Saint Paul does not wish to look at the past or even to consider it and when you consider Iraq I have little doubt that for once Saint Paul is not lying about not wanting to consider it.

It is interesting that national publications occasionally get this urge to deify people like Wolfowitz. I mean golly as long as he meant well, well then, that is different and all is forgiven.

Also this canard about democracy being the cure-all for everything under the sun is getting a bit tired or maybe I am just tired of hearing it spouted especially by people who have done everything in their power to ensure we no longer have one in our own country. Has anyone ever really come up with some kind of empirical proof that democracy will end war as an institution? Democracies never wage war? Please. Although I can clearly see that military takeovers have everything to do with the very definition of democracy.

Personally I am all for democracy, I just wish we still had one.

Posted by: rob payne at April 7, 2007 04:05 AM

I don't know what the big deal is. Wolfowitz says he wants democracy in the middle east. Since he isn't human, the onus is on CNN, et al to translate.

What he's really saying (in human)is he wants the middle eastern governments to be run by powerful autocratic families that don't give a damn about their people and will let US oil companies run the show in exchange for great personal wealth and the right to visit George Bush Junior in Crawford once in a while and hold hands while their people(s) are oppressed, or at the very least deluded.

Of course, maybe CNN, et al don't actually translate because they aren't required to by the FCC. Or maybe because they aren't human either.

Or maybe it's all just a feverish dream. As mothers are said to tell their children in Iraq, "go to bed and be quiet or democracy will get you."

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at April 7, 2007 09:52 AM

Ah, Wolfowitz ad portas!!! ( Translated---The Wolves are at the door)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at April 7, 2007 12:40 PM

I skimmed the article. It mentions that Wolfowitz was ambassador to Indonesia in 1986-1989, but says nothing about his stance on East Timor. Joseph Nevins in his book on East Timor says Wolfowitz told Madelaine Albright in Feb 1999 that independence for East Timor was unrealistic and that it was only the Indonesian army that prevented violence from breaking out. Wolfowitz also praised Suharto's strong leadership in the area of human rights in testimony to Congress on May 7, 1997. Ah, Suharto, with the blood of 500,000-1 million Indonesians and 200,000 Timorese on his hands. Obviously someone you'd pick to run your local Amnesty International chapter, should he be available.

It would be, of course, a logical impossibility for a "liberal" publication like the New Yorker to present facts that would interfere with the writer's thesis that Wolfowitz is a complicated guy, basically in favor of human rights, but capable of tragic misjudgments. It wouldn't result in a "balanced" piece. Balanced pieces are ones that show American officials as well-meaning.

The odd thing about Wolfowitz is that he probably is a complicated guy with occasional decent impulses--he really did say something sympathetic about the Palestinians in front of a hostile crowd. So by all means tell that story (the New Yorker alluded to it). But don't leave out the rest.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at April 7, 2007 01:40 PM

Jonathan, the New Yorker now publishes letters. I really think your post, slightly reworked, would make an excellent letter in response to the Wolfowitz profile by John Cassidy.

Posted by: Nell at April 7, 2007 03:02 PM

Just noticed (and I think this is a new feature) that the article has a link to submit "questions" to Cassidy. Another option.

Posted by: Nell at April 7, 2007 03:08 PM

Good point, Donald. Oddly enough, Wolfowitz is one of the most thoughtful, decent representatives of the neocon bunch (which admittedly doesn't say much).

But who cares?

America's jails today are crowded with complex people who may have done very bad things but are also capable of true compassion. I don't believe much in the concept of evil. But I do believe in justice.
And I see that California jails are filled with petty criminals locked up for life for shoplifting or selling pot 3 times too many. And Mr Wolfowitz, a man with the blood of thousands on his hands, was administered the cruel and unusual punishment of... running the World Bank.

When I know Wolfowitz is rotting on his bunk bed in a dank jail cell in The Hague, I'll be receptive to stories about his true heart and his complex mind. As long as he runs the World Bank, my disgust and contempt for the man is absolute.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at April 7, 2007 03:16 PM

One may well ask how many have been Renditioned and kiddnapped at the direction or even hands of Mr. Wolfowitz?

Posted by: Mike Meyer at April 7, 2007 10:02 PM

Bernard--my point was good, but yours was better. Only powerful people get to be "complicated".

And Nell's suggestion was good. I can't recall if the New Yorker has ever published any really good letters demonstrating the fatuousness of some of what they publish. But it's worth a try.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at April 8, 2007 08:53 AM

wolfowitz? sounds more like Luca Brasi.

looks like they learned more than their fair share from watching the Godfather movies.

Posted by: almostinfamous at April 8, 2007 11:16 AM

The New Yorker did publish an earlier profile of Wolfowitz in 2004, and I noticed that Cassidy was really not concentrating on Wolfowitz as undersec defense - and, in Cassidy's defense, he has caused a huge stink about Wolfy's nepotistic dealings with the State department, which no other reporter had revealed. I think that article is causing Wolfowitz grief.

Posted by: roger at April 8, 2007 06:20 PM