When Republicans rejected John Bolton | New York Times News Service | gulfnews.com

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Sunday March 25, 2018 - 11:18:04 in Maqaallo by nur yare
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    When Republicans rejected John Bolton | New York Times News Service | gulfnews.com

    He was feared for twisting intelligence to back his bellicosity and for trying to remove anyone who objected

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He was feared for twisting intelligence to back his bellicosity and for trying to remove anyone who objected

John R. Bolton, chosen by United States President Donald Trump to be his new National Security Adviser, does not need the Senate’s endorsement to succeed H.R. McMaster in the job. But in 2005, the extraordinary refusal to confirm his nomination to be the then president George W. Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations by a Republican-controlled committee is worth revisiting for what it revealed about Bolton and what it may portend for America’s national security.

One moment singularly derailed his nomination. Testifying before the usually staid Senate Foreign Relations Committee in April 2005, Carl W. Ford Jr — the former assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research — called Bolton a "kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy” and a "serial abuser” of people beneath him in the chain of command. Ford — a self-described conservative Republican and Bush supporter — made vivid an emerging portrait of Bolton as a bully who repeatedly sought retribution against career intelligence analysts with the temerity to contradict him.

 

 

Back then, I served as the Democratic staff director of the Foreign Relations Committee. Under the leadership of its Republican chairman, Richard Lugar of Indiana, and its ranking member, Joe Biden of Delaware, a Democrat, the committee was an oasis of comity in an increasingly rabid Washington. Even my Republican colleagues were surprised at Bolton’s nomination. After all, this was a man who had famously declared: "There’s no such thing as the United Nations,” adding that if the United Nations building in New York "lost 10 stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference”.

Bolton, president Bush’s undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, had a general disdain for diplomacy that rankled several Republican members of the committee, including George Voinovich of Ohio and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island. Lugar had quietly counselled the administration not to nominate him.

That disdain, in and of itself, did not sink his nomination. Rather, it was the testimony we heard and evidence we uncovered that Bolton had a habit of twisting intelligence to back his bellicosity and sought to remove anyone who objected.

As undersecretary of state, Bolton insisted that Cuba was attempting to build a biological weapons programme. The national intelligence officer for Latin America and the State Department’s top biological weapons expert disagreed. In a fit of rage, Bolton tried to have both reassigned.

Bolton also was accused of attempting to inflate the dangers of Syria’s biological and nuclear weapons programmes, by trying to sneak exaggerated assertions into speeches and congressional testimony before being called on it by intelligence officials. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage reportedly issued an extraordinary decree that required Bolton to clear all of his public utterances with Armitage himself.

Then in 2002, during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, Bolton helped orchestrate the removal of the head of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (which would win the Nobel Peace Prize more than decade later). His crime? Trying to send chemical weapons inspectors to Iraq. (Bolton said he was fired for "incompetence”.) Those inspectors might have debunked claims that Saddam Hussain retained a stockpile of chemical weapons and was pursuing a nuclear arsenal — the justification for the following year’s invasion.

Bolton also accused a State Department subordinate of not sharing with him a cable about weapons inspections in Iraq. The same official had managed to delete some of the more extreme claims about Iraq’s weapons programmes from Colin Powell’s infamous presentation to the UN. Bolton ordered him removed from his duties, which State Department officials reportedly saw as another instance of Bolton trying to marginalise dissent.

Bolton made it something of a habit to request the identity of American officials whose names had been blacked out of sensitive intelligence intercepts. Some members of the Foreign Relations Committee were concerned that he was seeking information to use against those who disagreed with him — the very kind of improper "unmasking” that President Trump has falsely accused some members of the Barack Obama administration of pursuing.

Other witnesses came forward to allege abusive behaviour by Bolton during his time as a lawyer in the private sector — screaming, threatening, throwing documents and, in the words of one woman, "genuinely behaving like a madman”.

All of this ultimately proved too much for senator Voinovich. In a remarkable speech to his colleagues on the committee, a visibly pained Voinovich explained his decision to vote against Bolton, effectively killing the nomination. We’ve heard, he said, that Bolton is "an ideologue and fosters an atmosphere of intimidation. He does not tolerate disagreement. He does not tolerate dissent”. "This is not,” he continued, "the behaviour that should be endorsed as the face of the United States to the world.” President Bush used a recess appointment to make Bolton the ambassador without Senate approval.

We are about to find out whether this sort of behaviour is any more appropriate for a president’s national security adviser, arguably the most powerful, sensitive and demanding job in the administration short of the president’s — and one that requires an honest broker, willing to present the president with ideas and analyses he does not agree with.

As my old Magic 8 Ball fortunetelling toy used to say: "All signs point to no.” Time has not mellowed Bolton, who has been a Fox News commentator and senior fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. He continues to denounce diplomacy and advocate military action when it comes to Iran and North Korea. Though he has advocated tough policies on Russia, he has also reportedly suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s effort to undermine the 2016 election was a false-flag operation orchestrated by the Obama administration. Bolton denied saying that and asserted that the Obama administration had "consistently” tried to "politicise intelligence”.

A president is entitled to advisers of his choosing, who reflect his worldview. Now, with Bolton and Mike Pompeo at the State Department, Trump is about to get just that. And so is America.




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