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Shark Warning: Paul Wolfowitz Takes a Swim

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

August 5, 2015

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

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.”


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.