Every now and then, the disconnect between the real world and the political world — something we are all subconsciously aware of — becomes unusually explicit.

Witness Paul Wolfowitz, embattled president of the World Bank, popularly known as “Wolfowitz of Arabia” in his former capacity of American deputy secretary of defence.

Wolfowitz was forced to make a grovelling public apology at the weekend following revelations that he had arranged a secondment with a large pay increase for his girlfriend. But it seems unlikely that it will save his job.

Visiting Washington yesterday, Peter Costello pointedly failed to back Wolfowitz, and outside of the US he has been getting little support. Saturday’s editorial in Le Monde says bluntly that “Wolfowitz’s credibility … is now too damaged for him to remain.”

Wolfowitz’s offence was not exactly trivial, but surely it pales into insignificance beside his conduct in his previous job, in which he was one of the key proponents of the American invasion of Iraq.

Do an illicit favor for your partner, and you get called to account. But help start an illegal and disastrous war that kills thousands of people — well, that’s just business as usual. No-one demands an apology for that.

In the real world, foul-ups on the scale of the Iraq war actually matter. In reality-based occupations, people with that sort of record are held responsible. They certainly don’t get promoted. But Wolfowitz is not alone; we’re still waiting vainly for an apology from any of the key warmakers, including our own John Howard.

Somehow, the world of politics and the media have got their priorities very twisted.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey