The Pathology of John Bolton

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by Joe Lauria, Consortium News:

I knew John Bolton and interacted with him on a nearly daily basis with my colleagues in the press corps at United Nations headquarters in New York when Bolton was the United States ambassador there from August 2005 to December 2006.

Most diplomats, officials, and journalists were shocked that Bolton (evading confirmation with a recess appointment) had actually become the U.S. representative, given his long, public disdain for the UN. But that turned out to be the point. It’s been the strategy of Republican administrations to appoint the fiercest critic to head an agency or institution in order to weaken it, perhaps even fatally.

Bolton’s most infamous quote about the UN followed him into the building. In 1994 he had said: “The Secretariat building in New York has 38 stories. If it lost ten stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.”

But a more telling comment in that same 1994 conference was when he said that no matter what the UN decides the U.S. will do whatever it wants:

Bolton sees such frank admissions as signs of strength, not alarm.

He is a humorless man, who at the UN at least, seemed to always think he was the smartest person in the room. He once gave a lecture in 2006 at the U.S. mission to UN correspondents, replete with a chalk board, on how nuclear enrichment worked. His aim, of course, was to convince us that Iran was close to a bomb, even though a 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate being prepared at the time said Tehranhad abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003.

I thought I’d challenge him one day at the press stakeout outside the Security Council chamber, where Bolton often stopped to lecture journalists on what they should write. “If the United States and Britain had not overthrown a democratically elected government in Iran in 1953 would the United States be today faced with a revolutionary government enriching uranium?’ I asked him.

“That’s an interesting question,” he told me, “but for another time and another place.” It was a time and a place, of course, that never came.

More Than an Ideology

Bolton possesses an abiding self-righteousness rooted in what seems a sincere belief in the myth of American greatness, mixed with deep personal failings hidden from public view.

He seemed perpetually angry and it wasn’t clear whether it was over some personal or diplomatic feud. He seems to take personally nations standing up to America, binding his sense of personal power with that of the United States.

It is more than an ideology. It’s fanaticism. Bolton believes America is exceptional and indispensible and superior to all other nations and isn’t afraid to say so. He’d have been better off perhaps in the McKinley administration, before the days of PR-sugarcoating of imperial aggression. He’s not your typical passive-aggressive government official. He’s aggressive-aggressive.

And now Bolton is ordering 120,000 troops to get ready and an aircraft carrier to steam towards Iran.

Bolton’s all too willing to make his bullying personal on behalf of the state. He implicitly threatened the children of José Bustani, who Vice President Dick Cheney wanted out of his job as head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons because Bustani had gotten Iraq to agree to join the chemical weapons protocol, thereby making it harder for the U.S. to invade Iraq.

After Bolton’s failed 2005 confirmation hearings, Tony Blinken, the then staff director of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told The New Yorker‘s Dexter Filkins:

“We saw a pattern of Mr. Bolton trying to manipulate intelligence to justify his views. If it had happened once, maybe. But it came up multiple times, and always it was the same underlying issue: he would stake out a position, and then, if the intelligence didn’t support it, he would try to exaggerate the intelligence and marginalize the officials who had produced it.”

Bolton is no fan of democracy if things don’t go his way. He is a vociferous instigator of the so-far failed U.S. coup in Venezuela and of course Bolton organized the “Brooks Brothers riot” that disrupted the recounting of votes in Florida in the disputed 2000 presidential election.

What is alarming about the above video is not so much that he justifies lying, but the example he gives: lying to cover up military plans like the invasion of Normandy. This is a common ruling class tactic in the U.S. to portray disobedient leaders ripe for overthrow as Hitler. Saddam was Hitler, Milosevic was Hitler, Noriega was Hitler and Hillary Clinton called Putin Hitler. It is a false revival of U.S. glory from World War II to paint foreign adventures as moral crusades, rather than naked aggression in pursuit of profits and power.

Bolton is the distillation of the pathology of American power. He is unique only in the purity of this pathology.

Regime Change for Iran 

The U.S. national security adviser has been saying for years he wants the Iranian government overthrown, and now he’s made his move. But this time John Bolton may have flown too high.

He was chosen for his post by a president with limited understanding of international affairs—if real estate is not involved—and one who loves to be sucked up to. Trump is Bolton’s perfect cover.

But hubris may have finally bested Bolton. He had never before maneuvered himself into such a position of power, though he’d left a trail of chaos at lower levels of government. Sitting opposite the Resolutedesk on a daily basis has presented a chance to implement his plans.

At the top of that agenda has been Bolton’s stated aim for years: to bomb and topple the Iranian government.

Thus Bolton was the driving force to get a carrier strike force sent to the Persian Gulf and, according toThe New York Times, on May 14it was he who “ordered” a Pentagon plan to prepare 120,000 U.S. troops for the Gulf. These were to be deployed “if Iran attacked American forces or accelerated its work on nuclear weapons.”

Two months after Bolton was appointed national security adviser, in June 2018, Trump pulled the U.S. out of the six-nation deal that has seen Tehran curtail its nuclear enrichment program in exchange for relaxation of U.S. and international sanctions.

At the time of Bolton’s appointment in April 2018, Tom Countryman, who had been undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, as had Bolton, predicted to The Intercept that if Iran resumed enrichment after the U.S. left the deal, it “would be the kind of excuse that a person like Bolton would look to to create a military provocation or direct attack on Iran.”

In response to ever tightening sanctions, Iran said on May 5 (May 6 in Tehran) that it would indeedrestart partial nuclear enrichment. On the same day, Bolton announced the carrier strike group was headed to the Gulf.

Bolton Faces Resistance

If this were a normally functioning White House, in which imperial moves are normally made, a president would order military action, and not a national security adviser. “I don’t think Trump is smart enough to realize what Bolton and [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo are doing to him,” former U.S. Senator Mike Gravel told RT’s Afshin Rattansi this week. “They have manipulated him. When you get the national security adviser who claims that he ordered an aircraft carrier flotilla to go into the Persian Gulf, we’ve never seen that. In the days of Henry Kissinger, who really brought sway, he never ordered this, and if it was ordered it was done behind closed doors.”

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