Cultural Revolutions

Wolfowitz in Love

Two years ago, upon learning of President Bush’s nomination for president of the World Bank, I expressed relief (Cultural Revolutions, May 2005) that, “at his new post, [Paul] Wolfowitz will not be able to do nearly as much damage as he has done at the Pentagon.”  The damage, however, has continued.  For the past three months, Wolfowitz has been at the center of a corruption scandal that has brought discord and discredit to the World Bank—the kind of scandal more commonly associated with places such as Lagos or Asunción than with Washington, D.C.

When Wolfowitz’s appointment was announced, it became known that he was having an affair with a World Bank employee, Sha-ha Ali Riza.  Described by her colleagues as “an Arab feminist,” Mrs. Riza—a divorcée—was the World Bank’s “gender coordinator” for the Middle East and North Africa.  She tried to be discreet about the affair, but her neighbors in Washington—unhappy about the late-night presence of Wolfowitz’s security detail on their quiet street—did not cooperate.

Even before Wolfowitz’s appointment was confirmed in June 2005, senior executives at the World Bank were commenting that, “unless Riza gives up her job, this situation will present an impossible conflict of interest.”  The bank’s staff association complained...

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