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John Bolton is Back! Be Alarmed.


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John Bolton speaks at the Feb. 22 Conservative Political Action Conference gathering at the National Harbor, MD. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump named John R. Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. during the George W. Bush/Dick Cheney administration, as his third national security adviser, replacing Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster and constructing a hawkish, confrontational national security team just as this country faces tough decisions on North Korea and Iran. (Last week the president replaced Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, a former Army officer and Tea Party congressman who has favored regime change in Pyongyang and talked about ripping up the Iran nuclear deal.)

We recommend reading two Washington Report articles from our archives for a closer look at John Bolton:

You Don’t Have to be Jewish to Be a Neo-con: John Bolton
October 2003, pp. 18-20
By Richard H. Curtiss

Here are some excerpts:

Bolton has maintained friendly relations with “the Armageddonists” and other extreme right-wing Republicans. Although personally a Lutheran, Bolton seems to fit right in with hard-line Bible Belt Christians, setting him light years apart from Secretary of State [Colin] Powell in his convictions.

In a January 2001 speech at the American Enterprise Institute, Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina called Bolton “the kind of man with whom I would want to stand at Armageddon, if it should be my lot to be on hand for what is forecast to be the final battle between good and evil in this world.” It’s not clear where Bolton stands on Armageddon, but it is clear he has the greatest sympathy with the Christian Right’s worldview. If, however, he shares their eagerness for the end of the world and has no compunction about what will happen to the rest of the world’s population after the “Rapture,” his foreign policy decisions should be of considerable concern. As the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs’ U.N. correspondent Ian Williams wrote, “…it would be very dangerous to ignore Bolton’s statements. These are harbingers of endless wars.”….

Bolton seems very dogmatic in his prejudices. He has campaigned tirelessly, for example, against the International Criminal Court and all other causes having to do with the United Nations and multilateralism. Four years ago, Bolton called it “a big mistake for us to grant any validity to international law even when it may seem in our short-term interest to do so.” Joseph Cirincione of the mainstream Carnegie Foundation describes Bolton as “an ideologue’s ideologue.”…

According to Salon Online’s Nicholas Thompson, “His competence has ultimately allowed Bolton to do much harm, scuttling the international agreements and treaties that make up much of the legal basis for international order and security…Bolton and his administration allies have burned most of the international goodwill that the United States built up before and after Sept. 11.”…

Bolton is one of the signers of the Jan. 26, 1998 “Project for the New American Century” letter sent to President Bill Clinton advocating the removal of Saddam Hussain. According to John Isaacs of the Council for a Livable World, “There is an axis of undersecretaries like Bolton who out of office were doing bad things, and now they’re in office and are doing even worse things.”

(L-r) Former U.S. Ambassador to U.N. John Bolton, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs Dore Gold, policy director at the Israel Policy Forum Michael Koplow and Dr. Eugene Kontorovich, professor of law at Northwestern University attend the National Oversight and Government Reform Committee on moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem on Capitol Hill on November 8, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
Vote Postponed After Acrimonious Bolton Confirmation Hearing
May/June 2005, pp. 16-17
By Richard H. Curtiss

Here are some excerpts:

Bolton “has ruffled feathers around the world. Visiting South Korea in September 2003 as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, Bolton gave an inflammatory speech about North Korea in Seoul. In his vitriolic attack, the U.S. diplomat called North Korean leader Kim Jon Il “a tyrannical dictator,” and described life in Pyongyang as “a hellish nightmare.” Kim responded by describing Bolton as “human scum” and “a bloodsucker,” and vowed never to allow Bolton to enter his country. Bolton’s tirade dealt a serious blow to any attempt at reason….

… keeping Bolton under control in the U.N. may be a problem, because insults and invective come quite naturally to him. It’s difficult to imagine Bolton comfortable playing the role of a traditional diplomat.

In an article posted March 7, 2005, on the Web site of the Center for American Progress Brooke Lierman wrote of Bolton: “he is a walking history book of the right-wing movement.” She continued: “Bolton has been effective. In his first one and a half years in office the U.S. pulled out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia, scuttled a protocol to the biological-weapons ban, ousted the head of the organization that oversees the chemical-weapons treaty, watered down an accord on small-arms trafficking and refused to submit the nuclear test-ban treaty for Senate ratification.”

In 1993, Jim Lobe reminded readers, Bolton joined the right-wing Manhattan Institute, and subsequently the neoconservative-dominated American Enterprise Institute (AEI)—home to such hawks as former U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, former Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle, and Vice President Cheney’s spouse, Lynne.

Perle was the lead author of the 1996 position paper “A Clean Break” for then-incoming Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, which proposed getting the U.S. to clean up the region—first Iraq, then Syria, then Iran—on behalf of Israel. According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz of Feb. 18, 2003—a month before the U.S. launched its bombing of Iraq—Bolton said in meetings with Israeli officials “he has no doubt America will attack Iraq, and that it will be necessary to deal with threats from Syria, Iran and North Korea afterwards.”

As Lobe wrote on Aug. 4, 2003, “Bolton is seen as the reliable fifth columnist within the State Department for the right-wing and neoconservative hawks who led the drive to war in Iraq from their perches at the Pentagon and Vice President Dick Cheney’s office.”….

Now that he has been nominated to be U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Bolton’s disdain for the world body is yet another embarrassment. “If the U.N. building in New York lost its top 10 stories [where all high-ranking officials have their offices] it wouldn’t make a bit of difference,” he has famously remarked. Bolton has argued that the United States has no legal obligation to pay its U.N. dues, and that it would be a good thing if they weren’t paid.

Other memorable Bolton quotes include: “There is no such thing as the United Nations”; “If I were redoing the Security Council, I’d have one permanent member: the United States”; and “It is a big mistake for us to grant any validity to international law.” According to the would-be ambassador, the United Nations is “a great, rusting hulk of a bureaucratic superstructure…dealing with issues from the ridiculous to the sublime.”

Gabriel Espinosa Gonzales, a research associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, summed up some of the reasons Congress should think twice before approving John Bolton’s nomination as Washington’s U.N. ambassador: “John Bolton has demonstrated a disturbingly constant tendency to disregard facts, as well as a self-righteous attitude toward achieving selfish and even dangerous foreign policy goals.”

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