This week, President Bush is expected to make John Bolton the US ambassador to the UN, despite Bolton's failure to be confirmed by the Senate. He will become the first person the US has sent to the UN without such a confirmation.
At first it struck me as simply another example of the administration's obstinate bullying--if the Senate won't confirm who we want, we'll install him anyway with a recess appointment.
However, another news story appeared this weekend that made me think about the Bolton appointment in a different light. Michael Smith provides an update in the Sunday Times
(story at bottom of page) on the prewar bombing that began in May 2002 under the guise of no-fly zone patrols. Turns out that in the seven months prior to May, there were 32 "provocations" recorded by allied pilots. The seven months before that: 370.
Obviously the change in tactics to include offensive strikes was not the result of increased Iraqi activity. This should cement in place the fact that the US and UK were engaged in an air war beginning in 2002, prior to obtaining UN resolution 1441, prior to obtaining Congressional approval for the use of force, and without any factual support for their rationale.
It seems almost like Bush is hurrying to ram through his latest agenda item (i.e., Bolton) because his past is rapidly catching up to him. Every time it looks like he might be able to turn people's attention to other things, Iraq rears its head again. Often it's the current news--car bombings, assasinations, sectarian violence--but occasionally something like this wafts in from the past. And the smell is familiar.
The reasons behind how we got into Iraq are directly related to the ongoing difficulty we are having there. The same hubris and plain stupidity that drove the invasion are now preventing the administration from seeing the obvious errors of its ways. Meanwhile, the world looks on. The US has no credibility left with which to win over hearts and minds--whether in Iraq among the people we're supposedly trying to help, or in Europe among the people who usually lend a hand with this nation building business.
I don't expect the president or his acolytes will ever acknowledge their failures with regard to Iraq and the War on Terror (oh, excuse me--make that the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism). But people are beginning to connect the dots. Bush wanted this war from the beginning, and he made it happen despite numerous obstacles, like how to conduct an air campaign without anyone really knowing its full scope. He figured that one out--wrap the offensive strikes in with the no-fly zone patrols.
Each time one of the administration's dirty tricks comes into view, it's another "dot" that connects to others already exposed. How many more dots can the administration expect the public to absorb without naming the image they see emerging?