John Bolton is the wrong man for the job of US ambassador to the United Nations. His status as an avowed UN-hater, standing alone, disqualifies him. But there are other, stronger reasons to reject his appointment to that important post.
Bolton’s performance in his current position as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security has made the American people less safe. Bolton has been charged, since 2001, with halting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. But on Bolton’s watch, the proliferation problem has gotten worse, not better.
Fewer weapons-grade nuclear materials were secured in the two years after September 11, 2001, than in the preceding two years.
North Korea, which had two nuclear weapons, now has eight. Bolton’s scathing insults of President Kim Jong Ill provoked a dangerous reaction from the North Koreans, who called Bolton “human scum” and a “bloodsucker” who was “not entitled to take part in the [six-nation] talks.. “We have decided,” they declared, “not to consider him as an official of the US administration any longer nor to deal with him.”
On Bolton’s watch, Iran has increased its nuclear program. Alarmingly, Bolton often blocked former Secretary of State Colin Powell from receiving “information vital to US strategies on Iran,” according to today’s Washington Post.
Bolton successfully pushed to cut funding for the Nunn-Lugar program to halt the proliferation of nuclear materials, and failed to conclude a Plutonium Disposition Agreement with Russia to eliminate 70 tons of weapons-grade plutonium.
Bolton has widely been considered responsible for the defeat of the Protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention that would have created an inspection system to protect us against these deadly weapons. This is documented by Nicole Deller and John Burroughs from the Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy.
In short, Bolton’s resume shows that he has earned a failing grade in arms control.
But the most important reason to reject Bolton’s appointment to the UN post is the brutal way he conducts business. His modus operandi poses a real danger to the future security of the United States. Over and over again, Bolton has bullied his inferiors and even a non-governmental employee to get his way. And his way has led repeatedly to the proliferation of false intelligence that could endanger our national security.
Had Bolton not been reined in by the CIA, his exaggerated claims that Cuba had a biological weapons program, and that Syria had chemical and biological weapons programs, could have proved disastrous for the US.
And it was Bolton who pressed for the inclusion of the lie about Iraq seeking to buy uranium from Niger in Bush’s State of the Union address, a lie that helped build the case for the unnecessary war with Iraq that has killed 1556 American troops.
Bolton retaliated against at least three intelligence officers who disagreed with him about national intelligence policy. The judgments of the analysts ultimately proved correct; Bolton was wrong on all three occasions.
Former Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Research Carl W. Ford, a conservative Republican and enthusiastic supporter of Bush and Cheney, testified Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Ford, who called Bolton a “kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy” who “abuses his authority with little people,” characterized Bolton as a “serial abuser.”
Most significantly, Ford told the Senators that Bolton’s treatment of intelligence analyst Christian Westermann, who rightfully disagreed with Bolton about whether Cuba had a biological weapons program, had a chilling effect on intelligence analysis in the State Department. In the present historical period, the use of false intelligence could have catastrophic consequences.
The second official incident involved Fulton Armstrong, a former national intelligence officer for Latin America. After Bolton tried, unsuccessfully, to pressure him to tailor his conclusion about Cuba’s biological weapons program, Bolton sought to have Armstrong removed from his post. John McLaughlin, the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he intervened to prevent Bolton’s unorthodox request. John Gannon, the former chairman of the National Intelligence Council, said he thought Bolton’s behavior had been “inexcusable.”
The third documented abuse of a government official by Bolton occurred in 2003, when Rexon Ryu, a State Department nonproliferation analyst, allegedly failed to produce a document for Bolton’s chief of staff. Bolton charged Ryu with insubordination and concealing information. A former senior State Department official described Ryu as having such a “sharp mind, good analytical skills, and unimpeachable integrity,” that former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage later hired him as a special assistant. Ryu is currently on temporary assignment to the staff of Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.
Another example of Bolton’s inappropriate, and indeed, outrageous, behavior was documented in a letter Melody Townsel sent to the Senator Foreign Relations Committee. Townsel, stationed in Kyrgyzstan on a US AID project, became the object of Bolton’s wrath in 1994. After she complained about the incompetence, poor contract performance, and inadequate funding of the project by a contractor who happened to be represented by John Bolton, Townsel met Bolton. She wrote that Bolton “proceeded to chase me through the halls of a Russian hotel throwing things at me, shoving threatening letters under my door, and generally behaving like a madman.” Townsel also claimed Bolton falsely charged that she was headed for federal prison for misuse of funds, and threatened that other key employees or contractors would also find themselves the target of federal investigations if they refused to cooperate with him. Townsel maintained that Bolton’s behavior “wasn’t just unforgivable, it was pathological.”
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is still considering whether to send Bolton’s name to the Senate floor for confirmation. Republican Senator Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island, who has expressed doubts about Bolton’s suitability, will likely cast the pivotal vote. After Ford testified before the committee last week, Chafee described the Westermann affair as an isolated incident. Now that additional episodes of Bolton’s dangerous bullying have emerged, Chafee might be persuaded to vote against Bolton.
The New York Times editorialized Wednesday, “Trying to tailor intelligence is enough to disqualify Mr. Bolton from this job. With America’s credibility as low as it is, the last thing the nation needs is a United Nations envoy who tried to force intelligence into an ideological construct.”
If John Bolton is confirmed as US ambassador to the United Nations, our national security will be seriously compromised in these already perilous times.