It is precisely the appointment of men like John Bolton, selected for the
job of ambassador to the United Nations, who are willing to exaggerate and
even make up evidence against supposed enemies of the United States and who
intimidate subordinates at will, that defines the Bush administration.
Bolton, whose nomination to the United Nations has taken serious hits and
continues to be full of surprises, is as angry and dismissive as anyone
gets when it comes to delivering aggressive U.S. foreign policies. There is
no accommodation or modus vivendi in his political philosophy. His
truculence is legendary, a fact that the president emphasizes as a positive
trait, for someone charged with the dubious mission of "reforming" the
By any standards of statesmanship, the appointment itself lacks diplomacy.
Clearly, it was intended to pick a fight. It was meant to say to the United
Nations: You are in need of radical reform and a more complacent structure
to suit our purposes, and this is what you will get - starting now. And
here is a harsh-mouthed enforcer you are sure not to like. Never mind that
he has insulted you and wants you basically to diminish as a legitimate
This is apparently our government's approach to the post that will
represent the American people to the collective leadership of the world's
nations. It has the ring of immature toughness, of the kid in the
playground who constantly shoves and assaults, yelling and getting his way
as people over time learn to circle around and away from him, and many
friendships that might have flowed through him now avoid and isolate him.
Strong and fair is one thing. But nobody for long likes a bully, which is
force without intellect and without wisdom. Yet bully all too often appears
the tone of America to the world these days.
Pick a fight, and of course you get a fight. With Bolton there is already a
scramble, with the Senate committee extending debate and Democrats seeking
even more information and dissecting the nominee. Bolton, however, is
likely to be nominated, as he is not likely to withdraw even in the face of
stinging public rebuke. He is probably to go on to the United Nations. Once
there, watch for a time of quiet and then for aggressive moves from the
ambassador who once said publicly, "If [the U.N. Secretariat building] lost
10 stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference."
A bit more on Bolton:
In 2002, Bolton moved to oust a top Central Intelligence Agency analyst who
challenged his public claim that Cuba had a "terrorist" bioweapons program.
On Cuba, where we have covered the Taino communities and follow this case,
Bolton issued blatantly unsubstantiated accusations likely meant to steal
headlines away from a visit to the socialist island by former President
While there is more than enough legitimate criticism to level at Cuba, the
best and most effective approach is to communicate accurate criticism.
Bolton's against-the-grain request to transfer the intelligence analyst
with whom he disagreed on his Cuba assessment, however, disturbed the
principle of objective information gathering and analysis. Pure
intelligence information should flow from their sources to the decision
makers free from policy interference, invented or leveraged to serve
political ends. On Cuba manufacturing weapons of mass destruction, Bolton
now looks the international fool.
As weeks drag into months for the Bolton confirmation, the Democrats seek
more and more information while the administration resists the requests.
Nevertheless, the testimony on Bolton's aggressive, boorish behavior
continues to mount.
Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired Army colonel who was former Secretary of
State Colin Powell's chief of staff from 2002 to early 2005, testified that
Bolton's temperament and ill treatment of subordinates caused major tension
and resentment at the highest levels of the State Department. His attack
style of "diplomacy" was questioned most strongly during Bolton's campaign
to discredit Mohamed ElBaradei's reappointment as the head of the U.N.'s
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Wilkerson opined that Powell thought Bolton "an extremely poor leader" and
"not an effective diplomat." And this came from Powell, whose performance
before the United Nations - citing faulty fact after faulty fact on Iraq's
weapons programs - ranks as one of the greatest debacles and most
embarrassing episodes in the history of American diplomacy.
When, as undersecretary of state, Bolton caused "problems" by speaking out
on delicate issues such as North Korea and the IAEA, he had to be muzzled
by his then-superior, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage.
Armitage in the summer of 2003 was forced to postpone a congressional
appearance by Bolton on Syria, as Bolton's testimony had explosive
opposition from American intelligence agencies. Bolton is reportedly the
only official so directly muzzled by the Department of State.
One subcontracted leader of a U.S. Agency for International Development
(USAID) project in Kyrgyzstan reported being accosted by Bolton in 1994 for
disagreeing with Bolton's perspective. Melody Townsel testified in a letter
to the committee: "Within hours of sending a letter to USAID officials
outlining my concerns [over poor practices by a contractor], I met John
Bolton, whom the prime contractor hired as legal counsel to represent them
to USAID. And, so, within hours of dispatching that letter, my hell began.
"... Mr. 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. For nearly two weeks, while I awaited
fresh direction from my company and from USAID, John Bolton hounded me in
such an appalling way that I eventually retreated to my hotel room and
stayed there. Mr. Bolton, of course, then routinely visited me there to
pound on the door and shout threats."
Former chairman of the National Intelligence Council Robert L. Hutchings,
on the dispute involving Syria, noted a tendency by Bolton to take
"isolated facts and [make] much more of them to build a case than I thought
the intelligence warranted. It was a sort of cherry-picking of little
factoids and little isolated bits that were drawn out to present the
One Republican - perhaps more - is balking at the mess the Bolton
nomination has created in the Senate. George V. Voinovich of Ohio is
particularly aghast at Bolton's record and lack of qualifications for the
job. He is not alone, but whether his challenge is strong enough to derail
a Bush nomination in a Republican Senate remains unlikely.
We oppose the nomination of Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United
Nations. We have great respect and hope for the process that the United
Nations provides humankind. Flawed as it is, the United Nations still
represents one of the great deeds by the human family. Its overwhelming
mission to seek peace among nations and its human rights charter, in
themselves (not to mention its substantial health, environment and
development programs), make the United Nations an extraordinary
The nomination of a Bolton to strong-arm the United Nations is nothing
short of sending a provocative message to the international community. This
is an assault widely directed at institutions or programs that tend to even
out or equalize power relations by giving peoples of the world a place to
voice their concerns on a variety of issues.
As the American South looked and acted disagreeably during the Civil Rights
movement, spouting racial hatred as political and religious philosophy, so
the United States, now in the grasp of a xenophobic mentality, appears
disagreeably out of place in the rational relations of the world's nations.
The attitude that appoints an untrustworthy and disagreeable American to
represent the United States in global diplomacy is ugly.