Is Trump’s Pick for Special Envoy on Arms Control the New John Bolton?

It’s hard to tell without the mustache, but Marshall Billingslea looks suspiciously like war hawk John Bolton.  Even without the voluminous ‘stache, we know a hawk when we see one — and this hawk doesn’t belong in a role meant to preserve important arms control treaties.

1) Architects of War
Call us pessimists, but we’re not fans of the endless war blueprint whipped up by people like Bolton and Billingslea under the Bush administration after 9/11. Both men worked on the global effort to thwart terrorism (and funnel cash into the Iron Triangle). It’s hard to say what the full extent of their work has been, since the Bush administration rejected Congressional interference during Bolton’s appointment, and the Trump Administration stalled efforts by Senate committees to get paperwork on Billingslea.

2) Enhanced What Now?
“Enhanced Interrogation” has been the polite way of saying torture for decades now, and both Bolton and Billingslea committed war crimes when they advocated for and encouraged their use. In 2018, the Trump administration nominated Billinsglea for of all positions Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights at the Department of State, despite outrage from groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The post had been open for three years, and it was probably better off that way.

3) Maximum Pressure, Minimum Results
We know John Bolton was happy to wage war on pretty much anyone, especially in the Middle East, and the Trump administration’s campaign of maximum pressure on Iran has been one of their trademarks. Billinsglea is happy to pledge his support; after the firing of Bolton he even issued a statement, saying “Our course remains constant and unchanged to degrade Iranian finances.” Those sanctions are still in place, and have been incredibly harmful on the Iranian response to COVID-19.

4) Imperial Ambitions
Just like Bolton, Billingslea is gunning for regime change in a number of countries in the global South, including Venezuela. Despite Trump’s claims Bolton was “holding him back” on Venezuela, Bolton was intent on ousting President Maduro. Billingslea has been an opponent of Maduro for years, adding a particularly racist spin to his warning against Venezualen attempt to defy sanctions crushing Venzuelan citizens, saying Maduro “should stick with handing out rabbits and eating empanadas, because going into in cryptocurrencies is not his strong suit.”

5) Treaty Terminators
It’s no secret Bolton has been behind the collapse of treaties going back to 2002, when he was a key part of Bush’s withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. He didn’t stop there though; we can thank Bolton for the demise of the Iran Deal, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and for whispering in Trump’s ear on New START. Billingslea isn’t very promising when it comes to renewing New START, the main focus of his new appointment. Billingslea has said including China is crucial to renegotiating New START, a demand that means nothing but the death of the last remaining U.S.-Russia nuclear treaty.

And finally, a note of apology to hawks. Truly, it’s an insult to the birds, when the best word for both men in question isn’t hawk, it’s criminal.  What’s clear is that Trump’s appointment to a position meant to protect New START is a barely concealed effort to put another treaty murderer like John Bolton in the position to end New START once and for all. As Beyond the Bomb’s executive director Cecili Thompson Williams said, “Bolton is an ideological extremist who believes in war over diplomacy, and he had no place in the White House. “ Neither does Billingslea.