By Andrew Young
Monday, April 30, 2007
"Daddy King" -- the Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. -- was always reminding us that "hate is too great a burden to bear." Even after a childhood of racist oppression and the cruel assassination of both his son Martin by white men and his wife by a deranged black man as she sat at the organ of Ebenezer Baptist Church playing the Lord's Prayer, he daily affirmed that we must never stoop to hate.
Yet I came closer to hating Paul Wolfowitz than I ever came to hating Bull Connor, the Ku Klux Klan or the killers of Martin Luther King Jr.
You see, I saw Wolfowitz as the neocon policy wonk who led us into a war in Iraq but who had never even been in a street fight himself. My personal fantasy was to catch him alone and give him a good thrashing.
It seems our European friends are now indulging my fantasy. But I've come to realize how wrong that impulse is and how right Archbishop Desmond Tutu is when he says there's "no future without forgiveness."
I've also come to believe that the impatience of Wolfowitz and others with Saddam Hussein's violence grew from a more massive destruction than the world could ignore -- Hussein's murder of more than a million Shiites, Kurds, Kuwaitis and Iranians, even without possessing atomic weapons. I was in Kuwait after the Iraqi invasion of 1990. I saw the horror and bloodshed of their occupation, and I knew Hussein had to be restrained. I may disagree with the means that were used, but not with the problem.
At the World Bank, however, an aggressive impatience with the evils of disease and poverty is exactly what is needed.
I first spent time with Paul Wolfowitz in Anacostia in 2005, when I participated in a program of the Operation Hope financial literacy initiative. In reading the program notes, I discovered that his PhD from the University of Chicago concerned the politics and economics of water resources management and that George Shultz had been his mentor at the State Department. When he was Treasury secretary, Shultz took me on my first trip to Africa as a congressional delegate to a World Bank gathering in Nairobi. Shultz also opened the diplomatic dialogue with the African National Congress at a time when much of Europe and America wrote off Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki as hopeless communist terrorists.
I therefore decided to work with Paul Wolfowitz as a brother, and I have not been disappointed. We were together in Nigeria in 2006 for a Leon H. Sullivan Summit. I saw his effectiveness and warmth at work in a setting of 12 heads of state and 2,000 delegates from 22 countries.
His commitment and aggressiveness in promoting African development, as well as his abhorrence of needless bureaucratic "CYA" behavior, have been welcomed by those who love Africa and the developing world as well as by those willing to admit the complicity of the haves in the crisis of the have-nots.
It is my sincere hope that our European friends and allies can make the distinction between the U.S. Defense Department and the World Bank. While we still abhor the mismanagement and hubris of the Iraq invasion, we can share an aggressive impatience with poverty, disease, illiteracy and bureaucratic nitpicking and get on with our efforts to prevent the future wars and environmental crises.
France, Norway and the Netherlands have always been at the forefront of this struggle. I'm hopeful they will see the greater good of working together at the World Bank on these present evils and allow history, the World Court or the United Nations to judge Wolfowitz on his role in our previous conflicts.
We must get beyond the current crisis at the World Bank, a careful examination of which will show that Wolfowitz was operating in what he felt was the best interest of the institution and with the guidance of its ethics committee.
This crisis also should not redound to the detriment of Wolfowitz's companion, Shaha Riza, a British Muslim woman who is an admired World Bank professional and a champion of human rights in the Muslim world.
I am a Protestant Christian minister, a product of America's excessive Puritanism. I've always looked to Europe for sophistication, temperance and the tolerance the world needs to survive. It is my appeal that we offer Paul Wolfowitz the same chance to learn from the misjudgments of the past and move on together to construct a more just, prosperous and nonviolent world.
Andrew Young has served as executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, as mayor of Atlanta and as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. He is co-chairman of Good Works International, a consulting firm offering advice in emerging markets in the Caribbean and Africa.