John Bolton

John Bolton (Source: BBC News)

John Bolton

John Bolton is Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security in the Bush administration. He supported the Nicaraguan contras, supported normalizing ties with Taiwan regardless of its effect on China-U.S. relations, advocates "regime change" rather than negotiation with North Korea, led the effort within the State Department to "unsign" the U.S. from the Rome Statute, sabotaged a 2001 UN bio-weapons conference in Geneva, and publicly accused Cuba of having an offensive biological warfare program -- a charge which was contradicted by intelligence officials and the former head of the U.S. Southern Command.

Highlights from Jim Lobe's North Korea Won't Recognize State Dep't. Ideologue

Profile of John Bolton (from Foreign Policy in Focus)

John R. Bolton, the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security affairs, represents the right wing of the foreign policy establishment. How right? In January 2001, Jesse Helms endorsed Bolton: "John Bolton is the kind of man with whom I would want to stand at Armageddon, if it should be my lot to be on hand for what is forecast to be the final battle between good and evil in this world."

Bolton, a senior vice president for pubic policy research with the American Enterprise Institute, was spotted in the thick of the battle for the White House during the contested presidential election. Press photographers snapped him with other Bush stalwarts counting hanging chads in Palm Beach.

Bolton's other battles, at least in recent years, have centered on Taiwan and the United Nations. In a clear break with Washington's long-standing "one-China" policy, Bolton advocates that Taiwan be recognized as an independent state and be given a seat in the United Nations. In 1994, Bolton opened his testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee by declaring, "I believe that the United States should support the efforts of the Republic of China on Taiwan to become a full member of the United Nations."

John Bolton

"A staunch backer of the Nicaraguan contras, Bolton played a key role in trying to undermine efforts by Sen. John Kerry to investigate drug smuggling and gunrunning by the contras, according to Nation columnist David Corn, and was later put in charge of stonewalling Congressional efforts to obtain Justice Department documents and interview Meese's deputies about their role in the Iran-Contra scandal."

Such views set him apart not only from the Democrats but also from the Bush, Sr. administration. When Senator John Kerry (D-MA) raised the Taiwan issue at Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearings last month, Bolton dissembled, "It's not my function to advocate diplomatic recognition for Taiwan and it would be inappropriate for me to do so."

Yet on the AEI website, Bolton's views remain clearly spelled out. He writes that "diplomatic recognition of Taiwan would be just the kind of demonstration of U.S. leadership that the region needs and that many of its people hope for? The notion that China would actually respond with force is a fantasy, albeit one the Communist leaders welcome and encourage in the West."

And, according to the Washington Post (April 9, 2001), Bolton is motivated by more than his ultra-rightwing ideology. He's also been on the payroll of the Taiwan government. According to the Post, over a period of three years in the 1990s and at the time he promoting diplomatic recognition of Taiwan before various congressional committees, Bolton was paid a total of $30,000 by the government of Taiwan for "research papers on UN membership issues involving Taiwan." Bolton has denied that his testimony was in any way tied to the fee paid by the Taiwanese.

A Yale-educated lawyer, Bolton has held a variety of posts in both the Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations at State, Justice and USAID. Besides his tenure at the pro-business AEI, Bolton was a senior fellow at the equally right-wing Manhattan Institute in 1993.

Bolton's hardline and right-wing credentials were affirmed in 1999 when he signed a statement prepared by the Project for the New American Century criticizing the Clinton administration for its failure to offer unequivocal support of Taiwan. The statement, signed by other neoconservative and right-wing luminaries such as William Kristol, William Buckley, Paul Weyrich, James Woolsey, Paul Wolfowitiz, William Bennett, and Elliott Abrams, called for a "state-to-state" relationship with Taiwan.

Additional evidence of Bolton's extreme, take-no-prisoners worldview is not difficult to find. He is a prolific writer and speaker.

In an article for the right-wing Weekly Standard (10/4/99) entitled "Kofi Annan's UN Power Grab," Bolton excoriates the UN Secretary General for trying to limit warfare and to establish the supremacy of UN forces. In Bolton's words, "If the United States allows that claim to go unchallenged, its discretion in using force to advance its national interests is likely to be inhibited in the future."

On U.S. arrears to the UN, Bolton proclaimed, "[M]any 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... this will simply provide further evidence to may why nothing more should be paid to the UN system." Not surprisingly, Bolton is also a hard-line opponent to U.S. peacekeeping missions, whether under the UN or unilaterally. When George W. Bush denounced the use of the military for so-called "nation building," he was repeating Bolton's criticism of the Clinton administration's efforts in Somalia and elsewhere. Nonetheless, Bolton did favor the bombing of Serbia--which was presumably not nation building, nor was it pursued under UN auspices. On North Korea, Bolton has declared that the U.S. should make "it clear to the North that we are indifferent to whether we ever have 'normal' diplomatic relations with it, and that achieving that goal is entirely in their interests, not ours."

After the Senate voted not to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), Bolton declared categorically, "CTBT is dead." Here he's at odds with much of the American public. Public opinion polls consistently show that more nearly 80% of Americans support a ban on all underground tests.

Bolton's reputation has the advance man for the right wing has continued to grow during his tenure in the George W. administration. Although his office has no purview over human rights or international justice issues, he was the one to sign the letter to Kofi Annan in May 2002 renouncing any role for the U.S. in the International Criminal Court. Bolton has been a staunch advocate of the administration's revival of the "Star Wars" missile defense system, and its rejection of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

A speech by Bolton at the Heritage Foundation, also in early May 2002, signaled that the administration may be targeting Cuba in its war on terrorism. His "Beyond the Axis of Evil" speech claimed, without any evidence, that Cuba was developing biological weapons and sharing its expertise with other U.S. enemies.

Additional resources

North Korea Won't Recognize State Dep't. Ideologue (Inter Press Service, 04 August 2003) North Korea says will hold talks, but not with Bolton Julian Borger: War on terror may extend to Cuba Oppose John Bolton's Nomination as State Department's Arms Control Leader! Onward Christian Soldiers: The March to War Steering our own course: Despite the dominance of the U.S. in world affairs, we must not shrink from our ideals, even if it conflicts with America's Caught Between Iraq And A Hard Place Blair May Be First Buddy, But It's Time He Faced the Facts US weapons secrets exposed (The Guardian, 29 October 2002)

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Last modified: Wed May 12 00:31:58 CDT 2004