The Single Worst Personnel Decision Of Trump’s Presidency
Five Horrifically Bad Foreign Policy Ideas That Should Disqualify Bolton From Being Sec State
Former Ambassador John Bolton is reportedly on the Trump administration’s short list for sec state. Even though no official announcement has been made, Bolton’s consideration is already drawing rebukes from libertarian-minded Republicans like Rand Paul, who on Tuesday called Bolton’s foreign policy views “unhinged.” Paul’s spot on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee gives him significant sway over the nomination of Bolton or anyone else as sec state, but you don’t have to share Paul’s skepticism about Pindostan’s interventionalist foreign policy to be terrified by the prospect of having Bolton in charge of the State Dept. Here’s a brief reminder of some of the terrible things Bolton has done (or wanted to do) in the realm of foreign policy:
- Let’s just get the obvious thing out of the way up front. Bolton was a primary cheerleader of the war in Iraq and stands for everything Pindosis rejected about the Bush 43 administration’s foreign policy. Bolton said in 2002 while serving as Bush’s Under-Sec Atate for Arms Control and International Security:
We are confident that Saddam Hussein has hidden weapons of mass destruction and production facilities in Iraq.
That wasn’t true, as we’d later discover after it was too late. At the same time that Bolton was cheerleading for a Pindosi invasion of Iraq over non-existent WMDs, he was working to derail a UN proposal to allow foreign inspectors to check on Pindostan’s arsenal of biological weapons. Hindsight is 20/20, but not for Bolton. In 2015, he told the Washington Examiner that he still thinks the Iraq War was worth it and claimed “the worst decision made after that was the 2011 decision to withdraw Pindo and coalition forces.” In Bolton’s mind, Pindo troops should have occupied Iraq in perpetuity. I’ve given up expecting much consistency from Donald Trump, but it’s still a little surprising that The Donald would be considering Bolton for a high ranking place in his administration. After all, Trump’s initial rise in the Republican primaries was largely due to his brilliant take-down of Jeb Bush, which hinged on reminding everyone why putting another Bush in the White House would be a bad idea. Trump said during a February debate in South Carolina:
We should have never been in Iraq. We destabilized the Middle East. They lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction. There were none. Obviously the war in Iraq was a big, fat mistake.
Trump hammered Jeb for taking more than a week (earlier in the campaign) to answer a reporter’s question about whether his older brother made a mistake by launching the invasion. Now Trump wants to hire someone who has taken 13 years (and counting) to do the same?
- Bolton wanted Pindostan to go to war with Cuba over WMDs that also didn’t exist. A year before Pindostan went to war with Iraq, due (at least in part) to falsely believing that Saddam Hussein possessed WMDs, Bolton was advocating that Pindostan should go to war with Cuba because of later debunked reports that Fidel Castro was developing WMDs. In May 2002, during a speech at the Heritage Foundation, Bolton said he believed Cuba was developing biological weapons and was capable of distributing them to Libya and Syria. According to the NYT, he said:
Cuba has at least a limited offensive biological warfare research and development effort. Cuba has provided dual-use biotechnology to other rogue states.
The NYT noted that it was the first time a Pindo boxtop official openly accused Cuba of developing biological weapons. When the NYT asked Bolton’s office to substantiate this historic and potentially bellicose claim, they offered no evidence. Those intelligence reports about Cuba developing WMDs were later debunked.
- Bolton really, really wants to bomb Iran. Having apparently learned nothing from the decade-plus quagmire that resulted from the invade-now-come-up-with-an-exit-strategy-later Bush 43 administration approach to the Iraq War, Bolton in Mar 2015 advocated for a similar bomb-now-and-figure-out-the-details-later approach to dealing with Iran. In a NYT op-ed titled “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran,” Bolton argued:
Only military action can accomplish what is required.
The thing being required was preventing Iran from developing a nuclear bomb. A limited strike against known nuclear production facilities could set the country’s nuclear ambitions back by three to five years, Bolton argued, and should be combined with “vigorous Pindo support for regime change in Tehran,” because we all know about Bolton’s successful track record of regime change in the Middle East. As Matt Welch noted at the time:
One of Bolton’s main stated concerns is that Iran’s pursuit of nukes will (and is already beginning to) set off a regional nuclear arms race, which would indeed be alarming. But isn’t there another possible game-theory scenario here, in which a pre-emptive attack on Iran (like the pre-emptive, WMD-justified attack on Iraq) could incentivize regional powers and various nefarious regimes to go nuclear faster? After all, Pindostan doesn’t spend a lot of time engaging in forcible regime change with countries (no matter how lousy) that already have the bomb. And Ukraine, for one, can tell you what happens to your defensive posture after emptying your nuclear arsenal.
- Obama followed Bolton’s terrible advice about Libya and then Bolton blamed Obama for the resulting mess. In Mar 2011, while mulling a potential run for president, Bolton suggested to an Iowa crowd that Pindostan should try to assassinate Muammar Gadhafi of Libya. According to The Daily Beast, Bolton said:
I think he’s a legitimate target. He has murdered innocent Pindosi civilians. He has never faced responsibility for it. So I don’t have any hesitation in saying that.
Later during the speech, according to the Daily Beast, Bolton admitted that he was willing to let Gadhafi live, saying:
I personally would be happy to send him into exile somewhere.
He went on it would probably be easier to just kill him and let someone else take control. That someone else, of course, turned out to be Daesh. After the Obama 44 administration intervened in Libya, a power vacuum developed and Islamic extremists have since set up shop in Libya, just like they did in Iraq and Syria. It’s almost like there’s a pattern here. Proving that he can learn from the mistakes of non-Republican administrations, Bolton later blasted Obama for intervening in Libya.
- Bolton suggested Israel should unleash nuclear weapons against Iran. Perhaps the most terrifying manifestation of Bolton’s desire to bomb Iran no matter the costs or consequences for Pindostan, to say nothing of the consequences for the people of Iran fixed in his crosshairs, occurred in 2009 while Bolton was speaking at the University of Chicago. Bolton said:
Unless Israel is prepared to use nuclear weapons against Iran’s program, Iran will have nuclear weapons in the very near future.
It’s been seven years and Iran hasn’t developed a nuclear weapon, so either Bolton was exaggerating the threat or he doesn’t have a good understanding of the words “very near future.” The logic here is almost too twisted to untangle. Bolton argued that Israel’s preemptive use of nuclear weapon against an enemy, an act that would smash all international norms regarding the use of nuclear weapon,) should not only be considered but should be encouraged. Such an act would not destabilize the region, to say nothing of those smashed international norms, he seems to be arguing, yet at the same time he believes that Iranian efforts to develop a nuclear bomb, perhaps as a defense against exactly this sort of threat from Israel or Pindostan, are destabilizing? Trita Parsi told Mother Jones that Bolton ought to ponder the aftermath of an Israeli nuclear assault on Iran. He said:
There is a day after you use a nuclear weapon. If you want to maximize collateral damage and really make sure that the Iranian-Israeli conflict will be another unending Middle-Eastern conflict, then nuclear weapons is your path and John Bolton is your guy.
Pondering the consequences of an unhinged, aggressive foreign policy isn’t Bolton’s strong suit. It’s stunning that someone who has been so wrong, so many times could end up running one of the most important parts of the government. Before the election, many people were questioning the wisdom or lack thereof of giving a temperamental, vindictive and irresponsible man like Donald Trump control over Pindostan’s nuclear arsenal. Those fears hopefully will never be realized, but letting John Bolton set the country’s foreign policy does nothing to calm the nerves.
Bonus John Bolton awfulness:
He helped cover up the Iran-Contra scandal.
He founded a PAC with the goal of electing more hawkish candidates. Donors received this mustachioed coffee mug.
He wants to “cause Putin pain,” whatever that means.
He supports the drone warfare program created under Bush 43 and expanded under Obama 44.
He fears we might miss an opportunity to go to war with North Korea.
Trump’s Worrisome Neocon Brains Trust
Wayne Madsen, Strategic Culture, Nov 15 2016
As the impact of Donald Trump’s presidential victory is settling in among the professional political and pundit ranks in Washington, several neocons from the Bush 43 administration, many of whom opposed Trump’s candidacy from the outset, are making their play for top jobs in Trump’s transition team and administration. The most worrisome of these opportunists is Bush 43’s Senate-rejected ambassador to the UN John Bolton, who is among the most radical of neocons who helped craft Bush 43’s disastrous foreign policy. Bolton, who claims to be tough on terrorism, especially Iranian “terrorism”, once advocated blowing up the top 10 floors of the UN Secretariat building in New York. Bush 43 gave Bolton a temporary recess appointment to lead the delegation to the UN precisely because Bolton had long advocated doing away with the UN. Bolton’s problems with the UN stemmed from the neocon meme that the UN was “biased” because it often opposed Israeli aggression and expansionism in the Middle East. No sooner had Trump began the process of selecting senior members of his administration than Bolton’s name was floated as a possible Sec State or National Security Adviser. Bolton and Trump share some foreign policy views, including moving the Pindosi embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jayloomia, and tearing up the Iranian nuclear agreement (JCPOA). They differ on Pindosi policy toward Syria, Russia, and Ukraine. Trump is publicly in favor of restoring closer relations with Russia, and allying with Russia and Syria in battling Daesh and other Jihadis, as well as recognizing the retrocession of Crimea to the Russian Federation.
In 2002, Bolton described Syria as a “rogue state” and said that it and Iraq could “expect to become our targets.” Bolton also backs the Jihadi uprising against Assad. In Oct 2015, Bolton argued with Israeli Brig-Gen Shafir at a conference at Beth Jacob synagogue in Beverly Hills about Assad’s continuation in power in Syria. Shafir said he was concerned that Assad’s ouster would bring to power in Damascus forces that would imperil Israel’s security. Bolton, who fancies himself an expert on everything but who is only a slightly-functional moron on most things, advanced the Likud/ neocon belief that a Jihadi government in Syria was preferable to Assad. In a Jul 2016 interview on Bannon’s radio show, Bolton had sharp words for Trump over his statement to the NYT that as president, he would only assist NATO nations in the event of a Russian attack after reviewing whether those NATO nations had fulfilled their NATO financial obligations to Pindostan. Bolton demanded that Trump retract his statement immediately, and alter his position on Russia to one of Ronald Reagan’s “peace through strength.” Parroting other neocon talking points, Bolton accused Trump of “encouraging Russian aggression.” Bolton defended huge military spending on NATO by claiming:
(Russia is) a dagger at the heart of the most successful military/ political alliance in human history. … Fewer Pindostanis will die if we deter Russia or other aggressors from invading.
Now Trump is reportedly considering Bolton for a senior level foreign policy position in his administration. Steve Bannon became the Trump’s campaign’s chief executive after Trump fired his previous campaign manager Paul Manafort, amid corporate neocon media claims that Manafort’s business links with Russia and ex-Pres Yanukovych of Ukraine posed a “national security” problem for the Trump campaign. Bannon is now being proffered as Trump’s White House chief of staff. Another prominent neocon being mentioned for a senior post in Trump’s foreign policy apparatus is Bolton’s former press spox and factotum at the UN, Richard Grenell. Serving as the national security spokesman for Mitt Romney in 2012, Grenell soon resigned after his openly gay orientation infuriated Romney’s evangelical Christian and Mormon supporters. While serving as Bolton’s chief personal assistant at the UN, Grenell infuriated diplomats, UN staffers, and the UN press corps with his brash style, which mimicked that of his boss in all respects.
In Mar 2011, Bolton urged Pindostan to assassinate Muammar Qaddafi, something Sec State Hillary Clinton authorized later that year and then laughed about, after Qaddafi was sodomized to death with a bayonet, on-camera. Trump on the other hand said he never supported the invasion of Libya. Trump had reportedly discussed plans for a massive Trump resort on Libya’s Mediterranean coast with Qaddafi’s ambassador in Washington, at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach. The resort would have been established through a licensing agreement between Libya and the Trump organization. When Qaddafi visited the UN in 2009, and NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg refused to allow Qaddafi to pitch his tent in Central Park, Trump offered his Westchester NY estate. Trump’s friendship and business plans with Qaddafi, which included investments for Libya’s $7b sovereign wealth fund, ran totally counter to Bolton’s call for the Libyan leader’s assassination. On Ukraine, Bolton called for Russia to be ejected from the G8 and have punishing economic sanctions imposed on it. Trump also has a mixed record on Ukraine, and has praised the government of Sakkashvili in the Republic of Georgia, though Saakashvili is a known acolyte of Trump’s nemesis, George Soros. Saakashvili later fled Georgia amid a criminal investigation and today he is a citizen of Ukraine, where he just organized a neocon political party after resigning as the governor of the Odessa region.
Bolton remains steadfast in his opinion that the Bush administration’s decision to invade and occupy Iraq was a correct one. Trump said numerous times during the campaign that the decision by the Bush administration was wrong. However, in another example of Trump recycling discredited neocons in his embryonic administration, former CIA director James Woolsey, fired by Clinton 42 in 1994, is being mentioned as a senior member of Trump’s administration. It was Woolsey who later championed the cause of the most fraudulent front organization ever cobbled together by the CIA, the Iraqi National Congress of Ahmed Chalabi. Propped up by the lobbying firm of Black, Kelly, Scruggs & Healey (BKSH Associates), Woolsey and Chalabi convinced both the Clinton 42 and Bush 43 administrations to commit in principle to Saddam’s overthrow. BKSH was formed in 1996 as the result of a merger of Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly with another lobbying firm. The partners included Paul Manafort, Trump’s fired campaign manager, and Roger Stone, one of Trump’s initial campaign advisers. Woolsey and Chalabi were also involved in the antics of “Curveball”, still believed by the CIA to be the worst phony intelligence source it ever employed, who provided hundreds of pages of bogus Iraqi intelligence documents on what turned out to be non-existent Iraqi mobile biological weapons laboratories. That phony «evidence» was partly used as justification for the invasion and
occupation destruction of Iraq.
There are several other notorious neocons being considered by Trump’s transition team, headed by Mike Pence aided by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. Ousted transition team chief Chris Christie got the pink slip because Kushner recalled how in 2005, then-Federal Attorney Christie prosecuted Kushner’s father, billionaire real estate magnate Charles Kushner, for tax evasion, illegal campaign contributions, and Mafia-like witness tampering. The elder Kushner served one year in federal prison and his son never forgave Christie for seeking a prison sentence. Jared Kushner’s newspaper, the NY Observer, is a champion of neocon causes, especially concerning maintaining a hard line on Russia, China, Palestine, Venezuela, Cuba, and other countries. No good ever comes from harboring neocons. Foolhardy neocon foreign operations ruined Jimmy Carter’s administration and almost subjected Ronald Reagan to impeachment. Neocons, some holdovers from the Bush 43 administration, plunged Ukraine, Syria, Libya and Yemen into civil war, and Venezuela, Egypt, Tunisia and Honduras into civil strife. Considering who Trump is now surrounding himself with, his administration and Pindostan alike are in for a very stressful time.