If you were sitting in the Oval Office and George W. Bush asked, “Hey, tell me, who could we appoint to the UN ambassador job that would most piss off the UN and the rest of the world,” your job would be quite easy. You would simply say, “That’s a no-brainer, Mr. President, John Bolton.” And on Monday Bush took this no-brain advice and nominated Bolton to the post, which requires Senate confirmation.
Bolton is the rightwing’s leading declaimer of the United Nations. He once said, “If the UN Secretariat building in New York lost ten stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.” And when the Bush administration failed to persuade the UN to back its war in Iraq, Bolton observed that was “further evidence to many why nothing should be paid to the UN system.”
Bolton has expressed much more vitriol for the UN than those two (representative) remarks, for he has been a UN-basher for years. Sure, the UN has many flaws and deserves reform. But what message does it convey to the UN and the world to send to the UN a fellow who has essentially called for total defunding of the institution? And this move comes right after Bush went to Europe to mend fences and after he has started working closely with France in an admirable effort to push Syria out of Lebanon. The Bolton appointment is unfathomable–except if viewed as a payback to the neocons. This band of Bush-backers were considered the losers when Bolton, formerly an undersecretary at the State Department, was not appointed to the number-two slot at Foggy Bottom when Condoleezza Rice took over the State Department. But this is some consolation prize. Imagine Jerry Falwell being placed in charge of marriage in Massachusetts.
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Bolton’s extremism does not stop at the UN’s front door. A year and a half ago, I described Bolton, who’s widely considered the leading hard-ass of the neocon clan, this way:
Bolton is a hawk’s hawk in the Bush administration. He is the agent conservateurin Colin Powell’s State Department. He has led the administration’s effort against the International Criminal Court. Last year, he single-handedly tried to revise U.S. nuclear policy by asserting that Washington no longer felt bound to state that it would not use nuclear weapons against nations that do not possess nuclear weapons. (A State Department spokesman quickly claimed that Bolton had not said what he had indeed said.) Bolton also claimed that Cuba was developing biological weapons–a charge that was not substantiated by any evidence and that was challenged by experts. In July, he was about to allege in congressional testimony that Syria posed a weapons-of-mass-destruction threat before the CIA and other agencies, which considered his threat assessment to be exaggerated, objected to his statement. When England, France and Germany recently tried to develop a carrot-and-stick approach in negotiating an end to Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program, Bolton huffed, “I don’t do carrots.”
And there are questions about his integrity. Three years ago, Bolton was caught up in a little-covered scandal involving a pro-Taiwan slush fund. Writing about this, I noted,
Some scandals find traction in Washington, others fizzle. The Taiwangate affair–which involves a $100 million secret Taiwan government slush fund that financed intelligence, propaganda, and influence activities within the United States and elsewhere–seems to be in the latter category at the moment. The beneficiaries of the lack of attention include three prominent Bush appointees at the State Department who, before joining the Bush administration, received money from this account. And one of these officials, John Bolton, the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, submitted pro-Taiwan testimony to Congress in the 1990s without revealing he was a paid consultant to Taiwan. His work for Taiwan, it turns out, was financed by this slush fund.
Bolton escaped damage in this scandal that got away, even though he arguably had acted as a foreign agent without having registered as one–a potential violation of US law. When the scandal broke in 2002–with Bolton then a senior official in the Bush State Department–the State Department refused to acknowledge Bolton’s involvement in the scandal. And Republicans on the Hill called for no investigations. (Click here and here for previous columns on Bolton and the slush fund affair. )
On December 2, after John Danforth resigned as Bush’s UN ambassador, I wrote on my blog:
So who is Bush going to name as a replacement? Paul Wolfowitz? John Bolton? (If you don’t know who Bolton is, you’re lucky. He’s the neocon’s sleeper-hawk/madman at the State Department.) How about Bill Safire? Or one of the many conservatives who have recently called for Kofi Annan’s resignation? Or…Alan Keyes?
I was trying to make a joke. But I suppose Bolton–who has ducked scandal and has escaped punishment for his misleading and false hawkish statements–is the one laughing now.
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