Today, John R. Bolton, a warmonger with a mustache as white as his privilege, starts his tenure as President Trump’s national security advisor.
It’s clear why the president has an affinity for John Bolton — he’s a lot like Trump. They both favor bullying tactics and threats of military force over cooperation and diplomacy. They both believe America to be infallible. They both avoided combat duty in Vietnam (Bolton “had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy,” while Trump had a doctor claim he had bone spurs). And they are both unfit for their current roles.
The major difference — what makes Bolton so dangerous — is his knowledge of government process and navigating bureaucratic roadblocks. He knows how to work the system. When we take into account his past record, we can see why the appointment of John Bolton is one of the biggest threats to American national security.
Bolton does what he can to silence dissenting views. While at the State Department, he bullied those who disagreed with him, attempting to re-assign people for fact-checking. He also blocked senior officials from receiving vital intelligence information.
In one incident, Bolton threatened the children of the head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons because he stood in the way of a U.S. invasion of Iraq. In another, Bolton tried to have an analyst reassigned for disputing his claim that Cuba had a biological weapons program. Former officials who worked with Bolton said he often blocked vital information from reaching then-Secretary of State Colin Powell.
This is deeply concerning when you understand the role of a national security advisor. Bolton will coordinate with the director of National Intelligence and the intelligence agencies to synthesize intel develop policy. He will serve as a gatekeeper of intelligence, providing ample opportunity to cherry-pick information and bury intelligence that doesn’t fit his belligerent worldview. It’s this very practice that sunk his confirmation for U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, which brings us to…
A Republican-controlled Senate refused to confirm Bolton as UN Ambassador. Bolton is a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, but he took up that position without Senate-backing. In 2002, George W. Bush pushed Bolton’s nomination through during Senate recess, leaving Bolton to serve for a year while his confirmation floundered.
Senators on both sides of the aisle were surprised that the famously anti-diplomacy, anti-UN Bolton was nominated for the position. Ultimately, it was Bolton’s twisting of intelligence and stories of his abusive behavior toward those with dissenting views that prevented his nomination from going through.
There’s a reason the only way to get Bolton into the White House was in an advisory role, one that does not need Congressional approval. Even in today’s increasingly partisan Congress, it’s unlikely Bolton would have been confirmed for any position.
Bolton’s disdain for international treaties and preference for military force has already made the world more dangerous. His disregard for hard-fought diplomacy and insistence that the American way is the only way diminishes U.S.’s leadership and integrity, puts U.S. allies on edge, increases the likelihood of conflict and nuclear use, and puts Americans at unnecessary risk.
- North Korea: Bolton played a key role as under secretary of state for arms control and international security under George W. Bush when the administration decided to abandon the 1994 Agreed Framework. The U.S.-North Korea agreement verifiably froze North Korea’s nuclear program. When U.S. intelligence later found North Korea to be working on a separate path to nuclear weapons, the Bush administration suspended the agreement. Instead of talking to the North Koreans and negotiating a follow-on agreement that would cover the new developments, the Bush administration made it so North Korea was no longer under any obligation to halt its nuclear weapons program. Bolton later wrote that he had been looking to kill the Agreed Framework.
- Russia: During his time as under secretary of state, Bolton also engineered the U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty — a US-Soviet agreement that reduced nuclear brinkmanship. The move was recently cited by Russian President Vladimir Putin as motivation for Russia to pursue advanced nuclear weapons systems, contributing to the new nuclear arms race we’re seeing unfold today.
- Iraq: Like many politicians, Bolton got Iraq wrong. Unlike many, he refuses to back down, insisting Saddam Hussein would have resumed development of weapons of mass destruction at some point. No one is defending the dictatorship of Hussein. The problem lies in overstating and misrepresenting intelligence. Bolton played a key role in deceiving the country and refuses to admit any wrongdoing. Thousands of American troops and almost half a million Iraqis dead and a power vacuum left for ISIS to capitalize because warhawks in the White House had an axe to grind.
- Iran: While not in office during the Iran Nuclear Deal (JCPOA) negotiations, Bolton did write an op-ed declaring diplomacy with Iran would never work and the only way forward was military strikes. If Bolton had his way, the U.S. would be entangled in another war.We’re not out of the woods on Iran. Bolton supports Trump’s misguided plan to kill the deal, ignoring its success in blocking Iran’s pathways to acquiring a nuclear weapon. The move would leave Iran with the ability to restart its nuclear weapons program outside of the watchful eye of international inspectors, spurring a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and increasing the risk of conflict.
Bolton has called for removing regimes through military force in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya and North Korea.
The bottom line: The addition of John Bolton to Team Trump is a marked shift toward belligerence as a mainstay of the White House strategy, increasing the likelihood of war and nuclear use.
While we are unable to officially block Bolton’s appointment, we can stop Trump from completing his War Cabinet. CIA Director Mike Pompeo — who also attempted to cherry-pick intelligence, also hates the Iran Nuclear Deal and also has a history of anti-diplomacy rhetoric — has been nominated to replace Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. If he is confirmed there will be almost no one left at the top level of the U.S. government who understands how vital diplomacy is to national security.
We can block Pompeo’s nomination by drawing a line in the sand and making it clear that a vote for Pompeo is a vote for Bolton and will only strengthen his influence. Call your Senators and tell them to keep America out of any more wars and oppose Mike Pompeo’s nomination for Secretary of State.