First George W. Bush picks UN-basher John Bolton to be ambassador to the United Nations. Then he nominates Karen Hughes, a champion spinner who has little foreign policy experience, to be under secretary of state in charge of enhancing the United States’ image abroad. Next, Bush taps Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to run the World Bank.
The Wolfowitz nomination is a win for the Pentagon but a loss for the world. Wolfowitz’s achievements as a warmonger may say little about his views on international development, but his record on Iraq is one of miscalculation and exaggeration. And the poor of the world deserve a World Bank president with better judgment.
A leading neocon, Wolfowitz was a chief cheerleader for the war in Iraq–even before 9/11. In the first months of the Bush administration, Wolfowitz advocated toppling Saddam Hussein by sending in US troops to seize Iraq’s oil fields and establish a foothold. Then, according to Wolfowitz, the rest of the country would rise up against Hussein. As Bob Woodward reported, then-Secreatry of State Colin Powell called this idea “lunacy.”
Right after the horrific attacks of September 11, Wolfowitz again called for attacking Iraq. He argued that Iraq would be a much easier target than Afghanistan. So much for his strategic sense. And before the invasion of Iraq he was a key pitchman for the phony case that Saddam Hussein presented a direct WMD threat to the United States. For example, on December 2, 2002, he said, “[Bush’s] determination to use force if necessary is because of the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.” At a subsequent speech at the Council on Foreign Relations, Wolfowitz claimed the WMD case for war was “very convincing.” (After the invasion, WMD hunters David Kay and Charles Duelfer concluded there had been no WMDs. And a Senate intelligence committee report noted that the prewar intelligence had been flawed–that is, not all that convincing.)
Shortly after the start of the war, Wolfowitz declared there had been “no oversell” of the WMD threat. No “oversell”? He said there were WMDs; there were no WMDs. Isn’t that, by definition, overselling? Wolfowitz did tell Vanity Fair that the WMD argument had been quite convenient: “For bureaucratic reasons. we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on.” It just happened to be the only reason deployed by Bush and Wolfowitz that made the immediate safety of the country the paramount issue. But with the WMDs clearly missing in action, Wolfowitz tried to pivot. Appearing before Congress, he explained that intelligence is “an art not a science” and that the absence of WMDs did not mean “that anybody misled anybody.” Yet before the war he had depicted the intelligence not as art” but as hard-and-fast and “very convincing” material.