John Bolton is a bad penny. He keeps coming back. As I’ve written before, there are plenty of reasons why he’s a horrible pick to be US ambassador to the United Nations. Even if you believe the UN needs reform, you don’t send a pyromaniac to fix a house of sticks. Beyond his UN-bashing, Bolton has not just been extreme in his foreign policy views, he has been wrong and reckless: accusing Cuba of developing biological weapons and Syria of posing a serious WMD threat without proof. (The CIA felt obliged to block him from testifying before Congress on Syria and WMDs.) He also has had his brushes with scandal, receiving money from a political slush fund in Taiwan and advocating for Taiwan in congressional testimony (when he was not in government) without revealing he was paid by a Taiwanese entity to write policy papers for it. (He might have even broken the law by failing to register as a foreign agent.) Recently 59 former US ambassadors signed a letter opposing Bolton’s nomination as ambassador to the UN; forty-six of these ambassadors served in Republican administrations. (For a full text of the letter, click here.) Now, an alert reader has uncovered more information critical of Bolton. It just happens to be something I wrote with Jefferson Morley for The Nation sixteen years ago–a column which had totally escaped my aging mind.
Readers over the age of 40 might recall that in the late 1980s, there was a fierce fight pitting the Reagan and Bush I administrations against a few gutsy Democrats in Congress–Senator John Kerry among them–who were trying to investigate allegations that supporters of the Reagan-backed contra rebels in Central America were involved in drugrunning. Rather than cooperate in the search for truth, Reagan and Bush I officials withheld documents from the Democrats. They also badmouthed the investigations and did all they could to marginalize these inquiries as nothing but partisan-driven efforts of conspiracy-minded wingnuts. And, to a degree, the GOP obstructionists succeeded. The Iran-contra committees stayed away from the matter. The report produced by Kerry’s subcommittee–which concluded there was evidence that supporters of the CIA-assisted contras were drug smugglers–received little media attention. Yet years later, the CIA’s own inspector general released two reports that acknowledged the CIA had knowingly worked with contra supporters suspected of drugrunning. Kerry and the others had been right. But the sly spinners of the Reagan-Bush administrations had succeeded in preventing the contra drug connection from becoming a full-blown scandal.
And who was one of the Reagan/Bush officials who strove to thwart Kerry and other pursuers of this politically inconvenient truth? By now you have guessed it: John Bolton. Read on: