Copyright The Guardian – Published 10 March 05
In the heat of the battle over the Florida vote after the 2000 US
presidential election, a burly, mustachioed man burst into the room where
the ballots for Miami-Dade County were being tabulated, like John Wayne
barging into a saloon for a shoot-out. “I’m with the Bush-Cheney team, and
I’m here to stop the count,” drawled John Bolton. And those ballots from
Miami-Dade were not counted.
Now that same John Bolton has been named by President Bush as the US
ambassador to the UN. “If I were redoing the security council today, I’d
have one permanent member because that’s the real reflection of the
distribution of power in the world,” Bolton once said. Lately, as
undersecretary of state for arms control, he has wrecked all the
nonproliferation diplomacy within his reach. Over the past two decades he
has been the person most dedicated to trying to discredit the UN. George
Orwell’s clock of 1984 is striking 13.
The euphoria that Bush’s European trip marked a conversion on the road to
Brussels is fading. For it was Bush himself who decided to reward Bolton
with a position where he could continue his crusade as a “convinced
Americanist” against the “globalists,” especially those at the UN and the
Bolton made a play to become deputy secretary of state after the 2004
election, but was blocked by Condoleezza Rice, who understood that his love
of bureaucratic infighting would have undermined her authority. Dick Cheney
privately promised Bolton that if all else failed he would give him a job
on his vice presidential staff, but that proved unnecessary when Bush
nominated him to the UN post. Rice announced his appointment, symbolically
demonstrating that he reports to her. But Bolton has deep support within
the White House, and Rice is very much a work-in-progress. With Bolton’s
appointment, the empire strikes back.
Bolton is an extraordinary combination of political operator and ideologue.
He began his career as a cog in the machine of Senator Jesse Helms of North
Carolina, helping his political action committees evade legal restrictions
and federal fines. Helms, the most powerful reactionary in the Senate,
sponsored Bolton’s rise to Reagan’s justice department. “John Bolton,”
Helms said, “is the kind of man with whom I would want to stand at
Armageddon, or what the Bible describes as the final battle between good
Bolton is often called a neoconservative, but he is more their ally,
implementer and agent. His roots are in Helms’s Dixiecrat Republicanism,
not the neocons’ airy Trotskyism or Straussianism.
Bolton is a specimen of the “primitives”, as Truman’s secretary of state
Dean Acheson called the unilateralists and McCarthyites of the early cold
war. Through his political integration into the neocon apparatus, Bolton
might be properly classified a neoprimitive.
At the state department, Bolton was Colin Powell’s enemy within. In his
first year, he forced the US withdrawal from the anti-ballistic missile
treaty, destroyed a protocol on enforcing the biological weapons
convention, and ousted the head of the Organisation for the Prohibition of
Chemical Weapons. He scuttled the nuclear test ban treaty and the UN
conference on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. And he was
behind the renunciation of the US signature on the 1998 Rome statute
creating the international criminal court. He described sending his letter
notifying the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, as “the happiest moment of
my government service”.
Bolton’s meddling in diplomacy on nonproliferation with North Korea and
Iran guaranteed that the allies had no unified position and encouraged the
Koreans and Iranians to play the nuclear card. Bolton’s response to these
crises has been to lead the charge to remove the UN head of the
International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei. In late November,
Bolton denounced the Blair government and the Europeans negotiating with
the Iranians as “soft” for attempting “diplomatic means”.
Bolton might be granted the integrity of his primitivism, a true believer
who imagines Fortress America besieged by the UN and Europeans –
“Americanists find themselves surrounded by small armies of globalists,
each tightly clutching a favourite new treaty or multilateralist proposal”.
But Bolton’s coarse ideology is advanced by sophisticated campaigns of
disinformation – and not only on Iraq and North Korea. His leaks of
falsehoods that Syria and Cuba had developed weapons of mass destruction
sparked internal revolts by intelligence professionals and the foreign
Like his allies the neoconservatives, for Bolton the ends justify the
means. But unlike them he has no use for romantic rhetoric about the “march
of freedom” and “democracy”, as he demonstrated so effectively in Florida.
And now he has the job he sought above all from the beginning.
Sidney Blumenthal is former senior adviser to President Clinton and
author of The Clinton Wars
Sidney Blumenthal – The Guardian
Copyright The Guardian – Published 10 March 05