Last Wednesday, the Bush administration made the announcement that it would nominate current Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz to the head of the World Bank. This news, which instantly generated controversy both at home and abroad, comes at the heels of the news that President Bush was tapping John Bolton, a vocal opponent of the United Nations, as our next ambassador to the international organization.

Jess Cox

While the nomination of such controversial and potentially antagonistic figures might raise eyebrows under normal conditions, the polarizing reign of Bush the Lesser has been anything but normal. During the past five years, Bush has elevated a bizarre and contemptible smattering of part-time criminals, full-time hacks and high-profile failures to some of the nation’s most prominent public service positions.

First, there’s new Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who in his old capacity as former White House counsel, was the architect of administration policy concerning the treatment of enemy captives. Problem: The Geneva Conventions protect prisoners of war. Gonzales’s answer? Just don’t call them prisoners of war! Just like that, Bush sidestepped Geneva, and Gonzales’s apparent respect and admiration for the spirit, if not the letter of the law, earned him the spot as the nation’s top cop.

And if successful rule bending can get you a job in law enforcement, colossal failure shouldn’t disqualify you from award either. Take former Coalition Provisional Authority head L. Paul Bremer and former CIA Director George Tenet. In charge of post-war Iraq, Bremer blundered through his tenure, leaving the nation likely worse, but certainly no better, than he had found it upon his arrival. Tenet’s term at the CIA included the two worst intelligence blunders in recent memory: the Sept.. 11 attacks and the “disappearance” of the Iraqi weapons stockpiles. Last December, in light of these tremendous and awe-inspiring screw ups, Bush awarded Bremer and Tenet the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Moving on from the ass-backwards to the absurd, we have Bernard Kerik — the thug/criminal/adulterer who, last December, Bush tapped to head the Department of Homeland Security. As it happens, Kerik was unable to secure even his own home — little over a week after his nomination, Kerik resigned, citing his employment of an illegal immigrant at his residence.

All of this paints a pretty confusing picture. Good at bending the law? Be the nation’s top cop. Fail colossally? Here’s a medal. Don’t know what’s going on in your own home? Help design and administer the security apparatus responsible for millions of homes.

In light of all that, I still can’t get over the audacity it took to tap the most recent of the Bush nominees, Wolfowitz and Bolton, to their respective positions. Already savaged at nearly every opportunity by the anti-Globalization crowd, the image of World Bank as an instrument of western imperialism will hardly be bettered by the appointment of Wolfowitz — one of the most controversial and antagonistic members of the Bush administration. Joseph Stiglitz, the former chief economist of the World Bank, had this to say concerning the appointment: “The World Bank will once again become a hate figure. This could bring street protests and violence across the developing world.”

Then there’s Bolton — the heir apparent as ambassador to the United Nations. Now one would think that to be appointed to this post, nigh, to even be considered for this post, a candidate should have at least a basic respect for the principles and practices of the United Nations. Yet even on his good days, Bolton has hardly been able to contain his distaste for the organization to which he may shortly become our duly appointed representative. So flabbergasted by this pick was The New York Times editorial staff, that they incredulously quipped, “(Bolton’s nomination) leaves us wondering what Mr. Bush’s next nomination will be … Martha Stewart to run the Securities and Exchange Commission?”

Requiring a zealous, reckless antagonism bordering on executive negligence, these two nominations are the diplomatic and political equivalent of purposely tossing gasoline on a burning fire. How else can you explain it? Even if both nominations do survive the controversy, does anyone honestly believe that either will be effective in his new position? With that in mind, and with much of the world at odds with the Bush and Neocon agenda, Wolfowitz and Bolton seem just handpicked to provoke.

The administration has written this theory off, defending its choices as products of a desire to offer a different point of view to the organizations in question. I cannot help but entertain, however, the appalling and frightening thought that both nominations to these important and respected positions were intended primarily to make a statement — to piss people off.

To all those who believe in the value of diplomacy and respect the phenomenon of comeuppance, this is a very scary thought indeed.


Adams can be reached at dnadams@umich.edu



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