Richter Scale

Shark Warning: Paul Wolfowitz Takes a Swim

Imagine if the Iraq War architect did not have an American passport – but a Serbian one.

Paul Wolfowitz. Credit: Joseph Sohm


  • Imagine if the Iraq War architect did not have an American passport – but a Serbian one.
  • Without a US passport, Wolfowitz would be sitting in a dock in The Hague, indicted for war crimes.
  • The mighty US has embraced a culture of impunity. No one is held responsible for anything.
  • Pres. Obama reinforced the culture of impunity, stating a preference to look forward not backward.
  • Paul Wolfowitz is now looking forward to playing a senior role in a future Jeb Bush presidency.

One of my regular joys is to go swimming in the indoor public swimming pool near our house. The 50-meter pool, with large windows to let in plenty of light, is a great tool to stay fit. Plenty of ages, from toddlers to octogenarians, as well as richly diverse ethnicities, take the city up on the opportunity.

Just yesterday, I went for my customary Sunday afternoon swim. At the check-in, I realized all of a sudden that there was a veritable shark in the line right in front of me.

This being the U.S. capital, one does bump from time to time into what used to be very mighty officials who are now regular citizens. But seldom does one bump into a veritable shark. For the person in front of me was none other than Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Defense Secretary in the George W. Bush Administration.

Much to answer for

He is the very man who is often credited single-handedly with having fabricated the entire case for the disastrous U.S. invasion of Iraq and steered the government into war action.

If nothing else, then, this man has the blood of thousands of Americans soldiers on his hands (and many more who are very badly wounded). These men and women died (or got maimed) in vain.

Their sacrifice was the result of an invasion case spuriously constructed by a high official who had never served in the armed forces, but went to the Pentagon with his mind made up on beating the war drums. So much for civilian oversight!

And here he was standing in front of me at the pool. What about my reaction at that moment? It is an integral part of American civility that one lets such retired officials go about their private activities.

Still, the thought that struck me on this otherwise very leisurely Sunday afternoon was this: Imagine that Wolfowitz did not have an American passport – but, say, the Serbian one instead.

Would he be able to frequent any public swimming pool anywhere in the world? I assume not. Rather, I think he would sit in the dock in The Hague – indicted for what would definitely be considered war crimes — if he did not have the shield of his American passport.

Par for the course

Sadly, the really sobering insight is this: Wolfowitz isn’t so much the real problem – as a mere symptom. Here is why:

The United States, mighty as it is, has regaled itself in a real culture of impunity. It comes, quite literally, with the territory that all too often no one is held responsible for anything.

And this disastrous culture of impunity extends far beyond the matters of making – or creating – wars, or the presumed “causes” therefor.

Specifically, consider these other cases:

1. The U.S. Supreme Court makes George W. Bush president — rather than allowing legal votes to be counted – and the American people let it slide.

2. The political establishment ignores warnings about 9/11. Not only does no one take responsibility but key evidence – especially about the Saudi royals’ role – is still held under wraps. That’s not befitting a real democracy.

3. In Iraq, beyond the absence of WMDs (=the official cause for war), there were horrible mistakes during the occupation, as well as the stealing of billions in reconstruction contracts.

4. Remember Katrina? Here again, no one was held accountable.

5. The subprime crisis? Don’t ask. There are no guilty parties.

6. And the new bubble on Wall Street? Again, don’t ask. That’s just what happens when no one actually goes to jail.

Barack Obama has only reinforced this culture of impunity. Upon taking office, he stated immediately that he’s going to “look forward,” not “backward.”

For the public at large, such an attitude induces collective amnesia. As for the perpetrators themselves, this stance incentivizes them to recommit their past mistakes, once the next opportunity arises.

Little wonder, then, that the United States has never ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. American society’s continual failure to hold its own leaders accountable, out of politeness or indifference, would force the ICC to initiate prosecutions of U.S. officials. That is precisely what the Court’s most conspiracy-theory-prone opponents claim to fear.

Revolving door

Meanwhile, as regards Paul Wolfowitz specifically , he is already looking forward to playing a very senior role in a future Jeb Bush Administration.

It’s certainly important to be fit for when the time comes to steer the march into Tehran. Doubtless Iran will be another destroyed country that Mr. Wolfowitz will promise will “finance its own reconstruction.”

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About Stephan Richter

Stephan Richter, from Berlin, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Globalist. [Berlin/Germany]

Responses to “Shark Warning: Paul Wolfowitz Takes a Swim”

Archived Comments.

  1. On August 5, 2015 at 2:51 am Jean-Pierre Lehmann responded with... #

    Brilliant! Russia was kicked out of G8 for invading Ukraine, while US continues in G8 and elsewhere without any sanctions having invaded Iraq illegally and caused dreadful carnage.

  2. On August 5, 2015 at 5:42 am morning news responded with... #

    Please read the following article in the Telegraph, August 5, 2015 in light of your recommendation raised in point 2:
    Isis storms Saddam-era chemical weapons complex in Iraq
    then think back to the crimes committed by Saddam (Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons during the Iran – Iraq War (1980 to 1988) and against the Kurds in Halabja in 1988.).Based on previous actions, as well as the facts in the Telegraph article, you cannot dispute the decision to search for WMD…

  3. On August 5, 2015 at 8:39 am Guy Pfeffermann responded with... #

    Impunity characterizes much of the US, and all of Russia and China, not to mention most of the developing world.

  4. On August 5, 2015 at 9:51 am WINTHROP allen responded with... #

    “WMD” was a concept invented to expand the scope of intervention.

  5. On August 5, 2015 at 9:53 am WINTHROP allen responded with... #

    Yes, and it derives from the”Divine Right of Kings”

  6. On August 5, 2015 at 9:58 am Guy Pfeffermann responded with... #

    Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi

  7. On August 5, 2015 at 10:36 am Brady Waddington responded with... #

    Right on Stephan! Thank you.

  8. On August 5, 2015 at 6:49 pm bhumphreyTG responded with... #

    No one disputes that Iraq had and used chemical weapons in the 1980s. However, Iraq’s WMDs were defunct and abandoned by 1991 — over a decade before the U.S. invasion. Even the ones ISIS has gotten their hands on are only sort of useable in IEDs, rather than in their intended means, because they rusted through or were otherwise destroyed by the regime’s attempts to hide them during the Gulf War. More importantly, there is no particular evidence that Saddam Hussein had any imminent intention in 2002 or 2003 of using chemical weapons again (even if he rebuilt his program somehow). So why the rush to invade? Still doesn’t hold water all these years later.

  9. On August 6, 2015 at 6:53 am 20eric responded with... #

    Well, if Paul Wolfowitz was the brain behind the Iraq war, George W. Bush didn’t have the mental capacity to grasp what Wolfowitz’s real motive was!

  10. On August 7, 2015 at 12:51 pm ubott responded with... #

    And who supported Saddam in his war against Iran??? Lest you forgot, WE did.

  11. On August 8, 2015 at 1:29 pm lex responded with... #

    And Obama is taking us even more backwards. He is a disaster. His only cop out is that his successor will have to deal with what Obama has wrought. A mess.