Barracks language edited out, Tommy Franks once referred to the Pentagon's No. 3, Doug Feith, as "the dumbest guy on the planet."
It now appears Gen. Franks' honorific better applies to Feith's boss, the Pentagon No. 2, Paul Wolfowitz. For a man once hailed as the brightest of the neocons, Wolfie has behaved with a stupidity born of the arrogance of power.
Hailed in 2003 as architect of the Iraq victory, Wolfowitz, by late 2004, was being singled out as the bumbler of postwar planning and the man most responsible for what Gen. William Odom was already calling the greatest strategic blunder in U.S. history.
With the roster of U.S. dead and wounded rising, Wolfie was looking for a place to hide. George Bush, who had heeded his cawing for war on Iraq from the first hours after 9-11, took pity. And more than pity. Bush made him president of the World Bank, the post to which Robert McNamara retreated after seven years at the Pentagon plunging us into a another war, a war we later learned McNamara had come to believe we could not win.
Now, president of the World Bank is not your average sinecure. The job commands a munificent salary, tax free. Nor does it require Senate confirmation, where Wolfowitz might have had to explain his role in deceiving us into war.
Nor is that all. The job consists of flying first-class around the world, dining in palaces, hobnobbing with the Davos crowd, and doling out billions to Third World dictators and despots. For Wolfowitz, it was a heaven-sent chance to rebuild his ravaged reputation. And he blew it.
A few weeks in Eden, and Wolfie went straight for the apple tree. From memos unearthed by the Financial Times, he gave bank officials specific instructions on the care and feeding of his romantic interest, a mid-level Libyan bank bureaucrat by the name of Shaha Riza.
Warned by the bank ethics committee he was to have no role in deciding Shaha's salary, Wolfie brushed the ethics rules aside.
He ordered Xavier Coll, bank vice president for human resources, to assign Riza to the State Department and raise her salary by some 50 percent, to $193,000 today, tax-free. She would take home more than Condi Rice. Coll was then directed to assure that Riza receive annual pay hikes of 8 percent and be put on a glide path to the highest position of any civil servant at the bank. By 2010, she would be making $245,000, tax-free.
And what has been Wolfowitz's big cause at the bank? Fighting corruption.