Mind the revolving door

by Yule Heibel on April 17, 2005

To read the article, you have to register with the Toronto Star, …but if you don’t want to register, yet read it anyway, I include it here. And it is worth reading, “Succeeding in the Bush White House,” by Tim Harper:

Succeeding in the Bush White House

Analysis: Dishing up wonky intelligence, low-balling troop losses and being a `kiss-up, kick-down’ bully are all good ways to get ahead



One will always live in infamy for gravely misjudging the cost of the Iraq war and the reception accorded U.S. troops, publicly underestimating the American death toll and blaming scared journalists for not reporting the war’s good news.

The second sat behind Colin Powell in the U.N. Security Council, nodding solemnly and sagely as Washington provided a dossier of inaccurate, fanciful intelligence to justify the Iraq war.

The third was described last week as a “serial abuser” — a bully who berates and intimidates subordinates and a U.S. unilateralist who once declared that no one would notice if the top 10 floors of the United Nations secretariat disappeared.

In the private sector, Paul Wolfowitz, John Negroponte and John Bolton may have been shown the door for their transgressions.

In George W. Bush’s world, they all received promotions, joining others who have been honoured, lauded and handed plums after dishing up faulty pre-war intelligence or mismanaging the Iraqi occupation.

Wolfowitz, the deputy defence secretary who said Americans would be greeted in Iraq as liberators, takes over as president of the World Bank on June 1.

Negroponte, Bush’s envoy to the U.N. in the run-up to the war, is headed to easy confirmation as the country’s first national intelligence director.

Undersecretary of State Bolton — a caustic purveyor of American muscularity who has emerged as the most controversial of all the president’s men (and women) — looks as if he will be confirmed in days as the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

They join a long line.

Condoleezza Rice, who sounded some of the most apocalyptic pronouncements on Saddam Hussein’s imminent threat to Americans, is the secretary of state.

Alberto Gonzales, complicit in a memo that was interpreted as a green light for prison torture, is now the attorney-general.

Former CIA director George Tenet, who was famously quoted as telling Bush the case for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was a “slam dunk,” was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom, as was Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Iraq whose first moves were blamed for helping fuel an insurgency that has cost more than 1,500 American lives.

Defence chief Donald Rumsfeld was the most senior of Bush’s cabinet secretaries to retain his job in the second term. And the most powerful hawk of them all, Vice-President Dick Cheney, is wielding behind-the-scenes power as never before.

At a series of Senate confirmation hearings since January, Democrats have huffed and puffed, accusing Bush’s nominees of everything from lying to outright incompetence. But each of the president’s choices has so far been confirmed.

The Iraq war may not be a resounding success, but those behind it have found it a fabulous road to career advancement.

It appears the easiest route to success in the Bush White House was to be at the centre of a war that was waged under false pretences, then mismanaged from the day Saddam’s statue was toppled two years ago.

“That’s a fair assessment,” says Allan Lichtman, a political analyst at Washington’s American University. “But it’s not so much that you get promoted for messing up the war … you get promoted if you stay with the program.

“You certainly don’t get rewarded in this administration for being a voice of dissent.”

The U.S. confirmation process is the closest the American system has to a parliamentary Question Period, but like the latter, it is more theatre than substance.

The theatre was never more vivid than during last week’s Senate hearings on Bolton — a tenacious, abrasive, hard-line hawk and prominent proponent of the “weapons of mass destruction will be found” school.

Bolton sat implacably through the playing of a 1994 speech in which he infamously said there “was no United Nations” and no one would notice if the top floors of the U.N. building in New York vanished.

Rather than a U.N., he said, “there is an international community that occasionally can be led by the only real power left in the world — that’s the United States — when it suits our interests and when we can get others to go along.”

California Democrat Barbara Boxer said Bolton had shown nothing but disdain for the institution to which he will now be posted and the ranking Democrat on the committee, Joe Biden of Delaware, added: “I’m surprised that the nominee wants the job that he’s been nominated for, given … the many negative things he had to say about the U.N.”

Bolton’s character has also been called into question.

He has been described as a “kiss-up, kick-down” guy who berated underlings and sought to have them fired because they did not provide the intelligence he wanted on Fidel Castro’s germ warfare capability in 2002.

Carl Ford, a former assistant secretary of state who was caught in the middle of the spat between Bolton and two analysts, said Bolton had “gone ballistic” over his underlings’ refusal to provide what he wanted.

“I left a meeting with the impression that, for the first time, I was being asked to fire an intelligence analyst for what he may have said or done,” said Ford, who has been with the government for 30 years and describes himself as a loyal Republican.

He said Bolton seemed incredulous that someone would challenge him, particularly someone so low in rank.

Conservatives have accused Democrats of character assassination.

“As the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton will speak truth to power,” said Howard Kaloogian, co-chair of the conservative Move America Forward.

“So far, we’ve seen nothing but inexcusable grandstanding from those still bitter that their party lost in the last presidential election, and they keep clamouring for a different foreign policy than was endorsed by the American people.”

Otto Reich, another assistant secretary of state who worked alongside Bolton, defended him in an op-ed piece in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal, saying:

“Bolton deserves to be confirmed, but regardless of the outcome of the hearings, he has provided another valuable service — he has revealed Senate hearings to be the weapon of choice of vicious and anonymous staffers and their narcissist bosses to engage in character assassination and ideological vendettas.”

Wolfowitz was perhaps Bush’s most surprising choice, but he won global approval after initial European reticence.

No one questions Wolfowitz’s intellect — but he, like Bolton, is a proponent of the muscular American approach on the world stage.

“It makes you wonder whether all the administration’s words about mending fences with our allies are just lip service,” said Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. “After deputy secretary Wolfowitz’s repeated and serious miscalculations about the costs and risks America would face in Iraq, I don’t believe he is the right person to lead the World Bank.”

Negroponte has the most impressive resumé and his nomination has been sent to the Senate floor for an expected easy confirmation.

But for more than 20 years, he has been dogged by accusations that he looked the other way as ambassador to Honduras while death squads and human rights violations were rampant in that country.

And he had to admit last week that he was as surprised as anyone that those Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, which represented such a grave threat in his 2003 pronouncements at the U.N., had never been found.

Of course, much of the evidence Negroponte took to his U.N. colleagues had been delivered to the CIA by an Iraqi defector nicknamed “Curveball,” subsequently revealed as a well-known “fabricator” with a drinking problem who was often obviously hung-over in meetings with U.S. intelligence agents.

In the news, Marla Ruzicka, founder of the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) was killed in Iraq by a car bomb.

This time Ruzicka stayed in Baghdad longer than she had planned because she believed she had found the key to establishing that the U.S. military kept records of its civilian victims, despite its official statements otherwise, colleagues said. [More…]


Elaine of Kalilily April 18, 2005 at 1:37 pm

That Toronto Star piece is too good not to spread around. I hope that you don’t mind that I’m stealing it from you (with appropriate linkage, of course).

Yule Heibel April 19, 2005 at 3:13 am

Absolutely not — that’s why I “stole” it in the first place, to make sure that one or two people outside the regular T.O.Star readership would get to read it! The Star manages to get some pithy and to the point articles out there on a regular basis, it’s a great paper. So far, registration is free and just requires an email and a password. I hope they don’t ever go over to pay-per-read, that would be a real shame.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: