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Author Christopher Hitchens on World Bank dev -

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Author Christopher Hitchens on World Bank developments

Broadcast: 18/05/2007

Reporter: Virginia Trioli

Virginia Trioli speaks to author Christopher Hitchens on the media treatment of the World Bank
president Paul Wolfowitz.


VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Well now to Miami and Christopher Hitchens, who's on a tour of the United States
to promote his latest book, God is Not Great How Religion Poisons Everything . But the author and
Vanity Fair columnist has paused from his book tour to talk to us tonight about what he sees as a
poison of another kind, in American public life - the treatment by the media of the now fallen
World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz and in particular, Mr Wolfowitz's partner, Shaha Ali Riza.

Christopher Hitchens, welcome back to Lateline .

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: Very nice to be back, thank you.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Christopher Hitchens, it was a long time coming, I guess. Was this inevitable did
Paul Wolfowitz have no choice in the end but to stand down in this way, in your view?

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: No, I think he had the choice to stay on but it would have been impossible to
convince himself, I think, that by doing so he wouldn't have damaged the bank.

But I don't think that the horns of the dilemma were, so to speak, his fault. In either sense...
either horn, if I can put it like that.

VIRGINA TRIOLI: You see Paul Wolfowitz's forced resignation as a great injustice. Can you tell us
why you see it that way?

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: Well, yes. It's an injustice in itself, and as I was saying, it's self
imposed because he realised that he couldn't go on without damaging the bank. But it's an injustice
that's been necessitated by an initial injustice and that's the simplest thing to understand.

His partner, Ms Riza, who had been at the bank for 10 years, she's been there since 1997, was told
when he was appointed, 'you're fired'. Now, in order or in other words, to find all of this
intelligible or fair, you have to be able to say it's completely right that a senior woman at the
World Bank is told she loses her job when her partner is made the president.

I can't see how - in any sense, legal or moral - that is fair, and if I had been her, I would have
sued, as she had the right to do and would have had the right to do under all possible laws
governing discrimination.

She chose not to do that, not to make a fuss, but expected to receive, and was promised, a
promotion and raise as compensation for losing her job. That's all there is to this.

VIRGINA TRIOLI: Well there's also the role...

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: It's an absolute, it's absolutely that's all there is initially to it. Then
all you need to add is the rape of her privacy by interested parties at the bank who leaked her
confidentiality agreement, broke it I mean to say - which is an agreement she only had to sign in
the first place because of the injustice done to her - made her private life a public thing.

She's a very shy and private person as I happen to know. I have known her for a very long time. Had
her referred to in the press as "girlfriend" and "mistress", terms that are almost never used these
days about unmarried people who have some kind of relationship. Usually the neutral word "partner"
is used. In this case, even in newspapers like the New York Times "mistress" and "girlfriend" were
bandied about freely.

I have a feeling that it might not have been the case if she wasn't an Arab woman for example. Then
because this has become so unpleasant, her partner has to resign as well. Well I hope they're all
happy with having done this.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: So there's an element...

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: They have - it is these people who have paralysed the work of the Bank,
wasted an enormous amount of time and money and are now gloating presumably over their victory.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: But the other key mess in the whole thing is on both sides, surely. I mean, he was
put in jeopardy. Paul Wolfowitz was put in jeopardy, surely you could argue, because he was put in
charge of reassigning her somewhere else, giving her another job, and also in charge of that pay
increase, but equally he was foolish by agreeing to take part in that in such a fatally
compromising process.

Doesn't the blame cut both ways?

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: No, I don't really think so because when he arrived, he said to the relevant
officials at the Bank, what I presume some of them must have already known, he said, "If you don't
know this already, you'd better hear it from me. There's someone who works at this institution with
whom I have a personal relationship. What I propose is that I disclose this to you and I sign a
statement recusing myself in advance on any decision that might affect her work or her position."

She wasn't actually in a part of the Bank that reported directly to the President in any way. It
wasn't in any sense an immediate relationship within the terms of the bank itself.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Yes, but the Bank found that unacceptable.

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: Unfortunately. They said, "No, I'm sorry, you have to be in charge of
reassigning her". They won't take his first offer, which was a perfectly decent one. They say, "No,
she's got to go, you have to be involved in it". And then they told him, "I've seen the documents".
The ethics committee say in print, in terms, "We now think this has been settled in a way that is
satisfactory to all parties".

And they agreed in advance that naturally, given she was on the fast track for promotion anyway,
had a very high standing and reputation, had had her career damaged and her integrity questioned,
that she should receive promotion and more pay.

Now they blame him for doing as they advised. It is absolutely monstrous.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Do you argue, Christopher Hitchens, that Paul Wolfowitz has acted with complete
integrity throughout this process?

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: Absolutely I do. I have not read anything that he has done anything in any
underhanded way.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Can I make one suggestion...

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: Unless you're able...

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Can I make one suggestion? In the New Yorker profile in May, his spokesman and
senior adviser said Wolfowitz had nothing to do with Ms Riza's transfer and compensation, it was
all handled by a board of directors. That was utterly untrue and came from the Wolfowitz camp, so
he was trying to cover it up even then.

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: In the first place, I don't see where that's untrue. It was at the direct
stipulation of the ethics committee of the bank's board that the transfer and related arrangements
were made.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: It's a true quote.

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: It wasn't his idea. If it had been up to him, she would have kept, as she
should have done, her original job. That's the original problem, the original sin, is that a woman
is told, 'you're being fired without cause because of an appointment given to someone with whom we
know you have a relationship'.

In what world, let me appeal to you, is that fair?

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: The larger problem, I guess he was grappling with at the World Bank, was this
atmosphere of almost complete hostility towards him when he first took the job. The employees'
association and people within it did not want Wolfowitz at the job for various reasons his close
association with the White House, with the President and as one of the chief architects of the war.
Is that Jermaine in this case?

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: That is the only thing that is Jermaine. That's all there is to this. The
rest is a campaign of defamation against a woman who did not start any wars in Iraq and has fought
get a friendship with the White House. We're talking politics. A lot of people at the bank don't
like the preponderance of the American shareholding that more or less guarantees that the President
of the United States can appoint the president. They haven't liked this for some time. Obviously,
people who think like that, tend to be European and Asian, are, I would say, pretty likely to take
the anti war view on Iraq so Mr Wolfowitz's position on that might be called an additional

I wrote a book about the United Nations a few years ago and pointed out the World Bank and IMF is
supposed to be the credit arm of the United Nations. That's how they started. Got moved to
Washington during the Cold War, became more like than American dominated World Bank credit
institution. All kinds of arguments one might want to have about how that could and should be
reconfigured. As a matter of fact, since we're talk about it, I can't think of anyone who would
have been more open minded on these points than Paul Wolfowitz, or more interested in discussing
them or more of an internationalist. I'm afraid that chance has been missed in this appalling
sexist vendetta.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Given he walked into a climate of hostility. Anyone as politically savvy as
Wolfowitz, you would expect them to handle the better. When you come into a climate of hostility,
don't you have to be like Caesar's wife, you have to be above reproach.

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: That's right. On day one he says, "There's something you need to know. I
propose to recuse myself of anything".

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: You insist on not taking part in the review. No matter if they want you to, you
say, "I won't oversee her assignment or pay increase".

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: I don't think that that would have been prudent, given their insistence he
did take part. Here's the thing. You must have noticed it you have noticed it he's being indicted
for following the advice of the people who now blame him for doing so and she has been treated in
the most miserable, discriminatory way. Now, where is the justice in this?

I'll give you another example about you also mentioned the politics of the bank. It has been
whispered against him that he threatened to cut off aid to Uzbekistan.


CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: Mr Kareem's horrible dictatorship, which also around that time have been
having a quarrel with the US about its human rights policy and had, in effect, lost its position of
the host of the United States base for the Afghan war. People said, "There you are, it's Wolfowitz
punishing Kareem for not toeing the line". It had nothing to do with that. It had it do with the
human rights policy.

Imagine what would have been said if Wolfowitz had gone on giving aid to Uzbekistan while it was
mowing down civilian demonstrators. You know what would have been said. But no, he's attacked for
not doing it. Under no circumstances was he not going to be subject to an extraordinary campaign of
defamation that did not exempt an innocent woman, a very serious professional, well known in
Washington for more than a decade as one of the most important people in trying to rebuild and
reconstruct the Middle East and now her life, private and public, has been ruined in an attempt to
get to her companion.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: You know Paul Wolfowitz quite well. I understand you have had him to your home a
number of times. What are his qualities that appeal to you?

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: I know both of them well. I have known her longer than him. I suppose the
thing that would surprise most people one Wolfowitz is what a bleeding heart he is.

He's had to read all the time, for many years now, that he's a member of a Jewish, heartless,
neocon, cabal of hardline interventionists. As a matter of fact, I came to know him because he was
in favour of an intervention to save the Muslim population of Bosnia from extermination by
Christian fascists in the 1990s, a subject in which the State interests of Israel were not
involved, can I just say. I knew that previously he'd been instrumental in persuading the Regan
administration to dump the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines, even if it meant losing the
American basis there, very important change in the early '80s.

I was impressed by his view the risks of democracy and democratisation are very great. They're
nothing compared to the risks of dictatorship. He's been retatively consistent on that, more than
most in Washington.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Christopher Hitchens, how does this affect his standing and employment prospects?

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: I simply don't know about his employment prospects. As to his standing, I
think he's conducted himself with great dignity but I wish he had not conceded to this rabble and
to this defamation and slander.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: You think he could have toughed it out?

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: I think anyone of his conscience would have had to come to the conclusion at
some point that the self fulfilling prophecy that as long as you stay you're damaging the bank or
the whole institution's been disrupt was to some extent true. Remember who made that prophecy come

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: On Iraq, given Mr Wolfowitz's key role as an architect of the war, how do you
assess the current stand off of Congress and the President over the situation there and the
continuing surge?

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: Well...the President and the Congress in fact are now both talking about
timetables for withdrawal. It's only a matter of now when rather than if. There's much less
difference in some ways than there appears to be, which means that those who hope to, shall I say
inherit Iraq the other side in this war, in other words more or less only have to set their

I hope again that the people who want this will be happy with what they get.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: So the President is making a mistake by engaging in this discussion about a

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: Well, I think he is, yes.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Because it just brings about the inevitable result of the civil war escalating and
the country descending further into disaster?

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: It simply means that those who wish to reduce Iraq to the level of Somalia or
Afghanistan in the name of God, the Al Qaeda forces and the other parties of God who are in the
process of destroying Iraqi civil society have only to wait it out now. The anti war side appears
to have won the argument in the media and in the Congress and elsewhere. And from what I
understand, this would be true for a lot of public opinion in Australia as well. I hope that they
will be delighted by the Iraq they'll get.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: On other matters, in your home country Gordon Brown prepares to take over the
leadership of the country. How can he distinguish himself, in your view, of the man who goes before
him and leaves a very mixed legacy?

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: Well, the way people keep saying he's going to do this is by being more
sceptical about what is sometimes called the special relationship between the UK and the United
States and maybe he will find a way of making that plain. That might indeed mean an earlier
timetable or a faster one for the withdrawal of British forces from Iraq.

Interestingly, though, and I think unexpectedly from most people's point of view, while the British
are undergoing that, if you like, rethink, both France and Germany for the first time in a very
long time have elected heads of Government who are fairly solidly Atlantisists. In the rest of
Europe, you might say paradoxically or ironically, the tendancy is another way.

There are people who say, "If the British don't want to be America's best friend, we do". If
there's a vacancy they'll fill it. What's funny about that is it was David Cameron's idea first.
This is really something I didn't expect to live to see, a race between Labour and the Tory Party
with the Tories in the lead to take distance from Washington. That's really extraordinary. We saw
David Cameron last September 11, he chose that day to make a press conference saying America
shouldn't count on us anymore. Brown is still catching up with the right wing on this.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Could Gordon Brown surprise us all by not stepping back so quickly from that
special relationship?

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: Yes, he could. Yes, he certainly could. I don't know how surprised we'll be.
I can tell you, the atmosphere of anti Americanism in Britain is so toxic now, so widespread, so
deep going, that there probably are political rewards to be had from exploiting it. Brown has to
know that and has to know on most projections currently Cameron would beat him. I know it is early
days to say that. He might not want to hand this demagogic advantage to this new little smooth
talking Tory.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Christopher Hitchens, thanks for taking time from your book tour.

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: It's a pleasure, thanks for asking me.