Here's Downing Street Memo reporter Michael Smith, explaining that while the Bush Administration was fixing facts and intelligence around policy, it was also breaking Iraq's air defense infrastructure:
Put simply, U.S. aircraft patrolling the southern no-fly zone were dropping a lot more bombs...But these initial "spikes of activity" didn't have the desired effect. The Iraqis didn't retaliate...So at the end of August, the allies dramatically intensified the bombing into what was effectively the initial air war...Bush and Blair began their war not in March 2003, as everyone believed, but at the end of August 2002, six weeks before Congress approved military action against Iraq...The way in which the intelligence was "fixed" to justify war is old news. The real news is the shady April 2002 deal to go to war, the cynical use of the U.N. to provide an excuse, and the secret, illegal air war without the backing of Congress.
Nice try, Mr. Smith! But those bombing runs started during Clinton's reign. And while the scope of the targets expanded during the Bush era, as blogger Ron Brynaert reiterates in a comprehensive look at the pre-war's escalation, what was the tipping point between standard operational procedure and secret, illegal air war? Indeed, to an eye more sympathetic to President Bush, 2002's dramatic increase in monthly bombing runs was yet another example of his extraordinary efforts to prevent war rather than prepare for it, a kind of weapons inspection from on high. But while these inspections were partially informative -- we learned, for example, that whatever WMDs Iraq possessed, they were useless when it came to shooting down planes! -- they didn't tell us everything. And thus we eventually had to switch from the bombs of peaceful negotiation to the bombs of war: With some people, diplomacy just doesn't seem to work no matter how hard you try. — GREG BEATO
The Real News in the DSM [LA Times]
Spikes of Activity in the DSM [Why Are We Back in Iraq?]