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Failing Upward
by david   June 27, 2005
john bolton

In 2001, John Bolton (the Undersecretary of State for Arms Control) was a leading voice in the United States' refusal to continue to support the UN Biological Weapons Convention (originally established in 1972), which stated that member countries were not allowed to develop chemical and biological weapons, and proposed that countries suspected of developing such weapons could be subject to surprise inspections of suspected sites. The United States claims that it discontinued such weapons programs in the late 1960s -- even so, under Bolton's guidance, the U.S. refused to support enforcement of this convention. Shortly after, in 2002, Bolton accused Cuba of violating the very same convention, and made great noise over how to go about forcing Cuba to comply (reportedly, several high-level CIA analysts who contradicted his view on Cuba's violation and believed that, while Cuba might have the capacity to develop such weapons, it was not actually doing so, were fired or re-assigned). Then, in 2002, he orchestrated the ouster of the head of the international Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (Jose Bustani), despite Bustani's wide support in that organization, at the UN, and even within the United States (then Secretary of State Colin Powell was among Bustani's vocal supporters). A UN tribunal, investigating Bustani's removal, called Bolton's actions an "unacceptable violation" of proper international conduct.

In 2003, Bolton was removed from the multi-party talks with North Korea about their reported nuclear weapons program because of inflammatory statements he made which "endangered the talks."

Also in 2003, Bolton was reportedly among those who urged President Bush to include as part of his State of the Union Address that Iraq had sought "yellowcake" uranium from Niger, despite the fact that available intelligence at the time stated it was not true (the documents upon which the claim was based were forgeries).

During that same period (2001 - 2003) Bolton had to be removed from multinational talks with Libya and Iran, after British officials complained his lack of diplomacy was damaging the proceedings.

In 1994, at a conference on international peace and diplomacy, John Bolton stated, "There is no such thing as the United Nations. There is only the international community, which can only be led by the only remaining superpower, which is the United States."

Despite all this (and much more than we have room to list here), on March 7, 2005, President Bush nominated John Bolton to be the United States of America's Ambassador to the United Nations.

Since that nomination, co-workers, subordinates, intelligence officials, and senators have testified or publicly stated that John Bolton was a tyrant who put politics and power above truth and diplomacy, and who, instead of doing his job, spent his time bullying, firing, and re-assigning those under him who contradicted his opinions. Even former Secretary of State Colin Powell, his boss from 2001 to the beginning of 2004, refused to endorse his nomination. Former State Department Intelligence Chief Carl Ford Jr. said, "...he abuses his power and authority with little people," and confirmed that Bolton had forced him to fire or re-assign several intelligence analysts who disagreed with him. During his confirmation hearings, many have come to suspect that Bolton used the NSA to spy on Powell and other State Department figures who disagreed with him (the White House refuses to release the documents upon which this claim is based). And, in the face of all these allegations, proven and unproven, and all of Bolton's irrefutable history, George Bush, his administration, and a large majority of Republican Senators and Representatives continue support Bolton's promotion to our nation's most important diplomatic post.

By all reports, from his co-workers and outside observers, Bolton has been terrible at his job. His harsh, volatile temperament has derailed or nearly-derailed important diplomatic talks. He has been instrumental in unraveling important international weapons non-proliferation treaties. His insistence on putting ideology above evidence has led to scandal, the firing of hard-working analysts, and an unwinnable war in Iraq. He has little or no support from the international community. He has no support from his former boss (Powell). He is consistently called "undiplomatic," even by those who support his diplomatic appointment to the UN (Senator Richard Lugar, for example, has stated that Bolton is a poor diplomat, but that it was important to support the President's choice).

If you or I, whose day to day activities, I believe I can say with confidence, have nowhere near the worldwide impact of those of the jobs John Bolton has held over the past five years or so, performed this badly at our jobs, we would be fired. Our bosses would reprimand us, put us on notice, and ultimately boot us out the door. John Bolton, instead, is up for a promotion to the highest diplomatic post the U.S. has to offer, short of Secretary of State. The only thing standing between him and the job are the majority of the Senate Democrats, and a handful of responsible Republican Senators.

And they may not be enough. Many speculate that, when Congress recesses for the July 4 holiday, President Bush will make a special "recess appointment," and elevate Bolton to UN Ambassador without congressional approval. If he does, Bolton would remain UN Ambassador until at least 2007. We must hope Bush does not pursue this tactic (which he has used in the past to appoint controversial federal judges), and we should contact our representatives in the Senate, especially those Republicans brave enough to stand up to President Bush, and let them know that, when our highest government officials perform this badly at their jobs, they should be fired, not "failed upward."

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