I thought we had seen the last of Bush's recess nomination with controversial characters when he appointed Daniel Pipes to U.S. Institute of Peace. I was wrong. Last Monday (August 1), President George W. Bush named John Bolton (Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, since 11 May 2001) as ambassador to the United Nations, using his power to make temporary appointments while Congress is in recess. This action, the first recess appointment of a UN envoy, puts Bolton in the job until a new Congress convenes in January 2007. The tactic is typically used when a president believes a nominee can't get a fair hearing or a vote in the Senate.
Why this mad rush to name another controversial figure, by-passing the usual procedure in the Congress? According to President Bush, the nomination was held up by 'partisan delaying tactics' by a handful of senators. "This post," explains Bush, "is too important to leave vacant any longer, especially during a war." The Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, said Bush 'did the right thing.' According to him, the nomination was 'stymied in the name of politics.'
There is no doubt that the post of US Ambassador to the UN is an important one and needed to be filled soon. But how true are these claims that Democrats were trying to hinder the nomination? From what we have seen and heard the White House refused the request for documents on Bolton. Has the Democratic leadership in the Congress done something that is un-American? I don't think so. As elected representatives, they have every right to question president's choice for an important position.
Bolton is a highly controversial political figure and diplomat who in 1994, Global Structures Convocation hosted by the World Federalist Association (now Citizens for Global Solutions), declared, "There is no such thing as the United Nations. There is an international community that occasionally can be led by the only power in the world and that is the United States when it suits our interest and when we can get others to go along." As a critic of the UN, he added, "The Secretariat building in New York has 38 stories. If it lost ten stories, it wouldn't make a big difference." Four years later, he attacked the international body again, saying, "many Republicans in Congress - and perhaps a majority - not only do not care about losing the General Assembly vote but actually see it as a 'make my day' outcome. Indeed, once the vote is lost, and the adverse consequences predicted by the U.N.'s supporters begin to occur, this will simply provide further evidence to many why nothing more should be paid to the U.N. system."
Such blunt statements show a total lack of diplomacy and instead epitomize a cowboy mentality of arrogance and unilateralism - an image that the Bush Administration has been promoting in the 21st century. Those statements would have been enough to cripple anyone's diplomatic career. But not when Bush is in power. As such the rationale behind his appointment for the top diplomatic position is not hard to find. Bush likes what Bolton says and wants his man to represent him at the UN. Period!
Bolton has been a prominent participant in many neo-conservative lobbying groups such as the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), and the Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf (CPSG). As a member of the PNAC, Bolton was one of the signers of the January 26, 1998 PNAC Letter sent to President Clinton urging him to remove Saddam Hussein from power using US diplomatic, political and military power. The letter also stated "American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council."
In an attack on long-standing treaty law of the U.S., Bolton wrote in a 1997 article in the Wall Street Journal, "Treaties are the 'law' only for the U.S. domestic purposes. In their international operations, treaties are simply 'political' obligations." He also opposed the conventions on land mines, child soldiers, and small arms, and aided and abetted the cover-up on the Iran-Contra scandal.
Bolton has promoted America's current war in Iraq. Like most chicken hawks, however, he himself never participated in a war, not even during the Vietnam era when he could have done so. Writing in his Yale 25th reunion book, Bolton wrote, "I confess I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy. I considered the war in Vietnam already lost."
Bolton also led the Bush administration's opposition to the International Criminal Court, placing heavy pressure on many countries to sign agreements with the US to exempt Americans from any possible prosecution by the Court; around 70 have signed such agreements so far. Bolton was instrumental in derailing a 2001 bio-weapons conference in Geneva convened to endorse a UN proposal to enforce the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. U.S. officials, led by Bolton, argued that the plan would have put U.S. national security at risk by allowing spot inspections of suspected U.S. weapons sites, despite the fact that the US claims not to have carried out any research for offensive purposes since 1969. [The US's failure to support the plan ensured it would be meaningless, and to this day there is no practical enforcement mechanism against the spread of biological weapons.]
In 2002, Bolton orchestrated the removal of Jose Bustani, head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) at a special session of the organization. The UN's highest administrative tribunal later condemned the action as an "unacceptable violation" of principles protecting international civil servants.
Bolton was part of the State Department's delegation to six-party talks on the North Korean nuclear program in 2003 where he described Kim Jong Il as a "tyrannical dictator" of a country where for many, "life is a hellish nightmare." In response, a North Korean spokesman said "such human scum and bloodsucker is not entitled to take part in the talks."
During the Senate Confirmation Hearing, the Democrats argued that Bolton's words at the time were undiplomatic and endangered the talks. They argued that Bolton's record of allegedly politicizing intelligence will harm U.S. credibility with the UN. They alleged that Bolton sought to oust intelligence analysts, stretched intelligence views, was abusive to subordinates and gave the committee misleading testimony. The committee's top Democrat Joe Biden compared sending Bolton to the UN to sending a 'bull into a china shop,' and expressed 'grave concern' about Bolton's 'diplomatic temperament' and his record. Two other Republicans on the Foreign Relations Committee, Senators Lincoln Chafee and Chuck Hagel, also expressed serious concerns about the Bolton nomination.
Bolton was accused of spinning intelligence to support his views and political objectives on a number of occasions. Greg Thielmann, of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), stated to award-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hirsch that, "Bolton seemed troubled because INR was not telling him what he wanted to hear ... I was intercepted at the door of his office and told, 'The Undersecretary doesn't need you to attend this meeting anymore.'" According to former coworkers, Bolton withheld information that ran counter to his goals from Secretary of State Colin Powell on multiple occasions, and from Powell's successor Condoleezza Rice on at least one occasion.
Bolton was alleged by Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman to have played a role in encouraging the inclusion of claims that Iraq attempted to procure yellowcake uranium from Niger in President Bush's 2003 State of the Union Address. These claims were based on documents later found to be forged.
It is this kind of disturbing records that prompted 59 former US diplomats, who had served in both Democratic and Republican administrations, to write a letter urging the Senate to reject Bolton's nomination. The letter to Sen. Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, stated that Bolton 'is the wrong man for this position.' It also chided Bolton for his 'insistence that the UN is valuable only when it directly serves the United States.'
In the wake of the announcement of Bolton's nomination, The New York Times ran an editorial on March 9, which let a collection of Bolton's quotes make their case that Bolton 'is a terrible choice at a critical time.' On April 22 the New York Times and other media reported that Bolton's former boss, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, was personally opposed to the nomination and had been in personal contact with Republican Senators Chafee and Hagel. Asked on April 20 if Sen. Chafee was now less inclined to support the nomination, he replied, "That would be accurate."
So, it seemed that the Bolton nomination hit a roadblock not only from the Democrats but also from the Republicans. On May 26, 2005, the Senate Democrats postponed the vote on John Bolton's UN nomination. The Republican leadership failed to gain enough Republican or Democratic support to pass a cloture motion on the floor debate over Bolton. The Democrats claimed that key documents regarding Bolton and his career at the Department of Defense were being withheld by the Bush administration. On June 20, 2005 the Senate voted again to pass cloture. The vote failed 54-38, six votes short of ending debate. On July 13, President Bush again called for an up-or-down vote, and Democrats insisted they would grant his request if he gave them the information they sought.
On July 28, 2005 it was revealed that a statement made by Bolton on forms submitted to the Senate was false. Bolton indicated that in the prior five years he had not been questioned in any investigation, but in fact he had been interviewed by the State Department Inspector General on July 18, 2003 as part of an investigation into the sources of pre-war claims of weapons of mass destruction evidence in Iraq. After insisting for weeks that Bolton had testified truthfully on the form, the State Department reversed itself, stating that Bolton had simply forgotten about the investigation. Then came the July 29 letter from 36 senators to President Bush urging him not to make a recess appointment of Bolton.
But President Bush named him anyway on August 1 calling him "one of the most talented and valuable diplomats." Bolton is his man to represent and 'reform' the UN!
Bolton also has his other fans. They point out that he follows in a tradition of blunt US ambassadors to the UN, including Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Jeanne Kirkpatrick, who, they argue, left the UN a better organization than it was when they started. President of neo-conservative Center for Security Policy Frank Gaffney Jr. wrote in National Review Online that Bolton would bring the UN just what it needed from the US: a little "tough love." Business Week (March 25) reported that Bolton's nomination might not be such a bad thing, because "he may prefer to try to overhaul rather than keelhaul the UN." Business Week wrote that Bolton "may even help the beleaguered UN Secretary General Kofi Annan keep his current job."
As for the critics, they argue that Bolton would make the world a more dangerous place. They say that with him in the UN, we are one step closer to the Armageddon. Already there are reports that the Pentagon, under instructions from Vice President Cheney, has drawn up a contingency plan, to attack Iran, to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the USA. As in the case of Iraq, the response is not conditional on Iran's ties with terrorism. This is appalling news. There are many nations already that remain suspicious of Bush's global intentions following the failure to find the WMDs in Iraq that were used as a pretext to invade the country. And now to see Bolton as Bush's top diplomat only exacerbates their suspicion.
In the White House announcement ceremony, Bolton said, "It will be a distinct pleasure to be an advocate for America's values and interests in the U.N., and, in the words of the U.N. Charter, to help maintain international peace and security."
Only time would tell which of these goals Bolton would fulfill.
Dr. Habib Siddiqui lives in suburban Philadelphia, PA, and is the author of the book Islamic Wisdom. He can be reached at [email protected]