Unlike most neoconservatives, UN Ambassador-designate John Bolton didn’t start out his political career on the center-left either as a liberal, social democrat, or socialist. When Irving Kirstol, regarded by many as the “godfather of neoconservatism” described a neoconservative as a “liberal who has been mugged by reality,” he wasn’t describing John R. Bolton.
In the 1950s through the 1970s, the political forerunners who established neoconservatism as the defining trend within American conservatism went through a left-right transformation. In that political morphing, the neoconservatives have redefined U.S. politics from the Reagan administration through the current Bush administration.
Bolton shares much with the closely knit neoconservative political camp: their read-meat anticommunism, their obsession with China and their support of right-wing Zionism in Israel, and their glorification of US power as the main force for good and against evil in our world. Bolton has also forged close links with neoconservatives while a scholar at the Manhattan Institute and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Although sharing most of the neoconservative ideology, Bolton is not himself a true-blue neocon.
Not only his political origins separate him from other middle-aged neoconservatives. Bolton also stands apart from the neoconservative camp because of his longtime association with moderate conservative James Baker and the close ties he had with Dixiecrat Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC). Unlike most neocons, who stay removed from electoral politics, Bolton has repeatedly immersed himself in the mundane and often dirty politics of ensuring Republican Party electoral victories.
One political label that certainly fits Bolton is that of “hawk” or militarist. Like most other Bush administration officials, Bolton is a militarist who has never gone to war which according to some detractors makes him a “chickenhawk.” In his work in the Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush administrations, Bolton has won a reputation for being the right’s most effective and strident opponent of the United Nations and all forms of global governance and international law not controlled by the U.S. government.
As a teenager Bolton already believed, as Barry Goldwater did, that “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” In 1964 Bolton volunteered in Goldwater’s presidential campaign. From high school, Bolton went to Yale and then on to Yale Law School, where he befriended current Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and other rightists who were among the first members of the conservative Federalist Society.
After joining the Reagan administration in 1981, Bolton quickly gained a reputation as being one of the new breed of “New Right lawyers” who operated at the second tier of the State Department and gained top policy positions in the Justice Department. Bolton gained entry to the Reagan administration through strong support from Senator Helms and from New Right strategist Richard Viguerie and his influential Conservative Digest. During Reagan’s second term, Bolton began working together with a team of Federalist Society lawyers under Attorney General Edwin Meese. With Federalist Society members and activists in top policy positions, the Justice Department for the first time came under the ideological influence of the New Right.1
The chief goal of the Federalist Society has been to roll back the purported hold of the “liberal establishment” on the judiciary and legal profession. Federalist Society members also oppose liberalism in the international arena in the form of international law and multilateral governance. Together with AEI, the Federalist Society sponsors “NGOWatch,” a project that monitors the activities of nongovernmental organizations they consider anti-American.2
From the start of his political career, Bolton has been a Republican Party loyalist. As a private attorney before joining the Reagan administration in 1981, he worked with Senators Jesse Helms (R-NC) and Paul Laxalt (R-NV).3 In the 1980s he participated in Republican Party efforts to beat back the voter registration campaigns organized by labor and black organizations.4
A veteran of Southern electoral campaigns, Bolton appealed to the racism of white voters and reprised his role in the 2000 presidential campaign. Working closely with his former boss James Baker during the Florida recount following the contested 2000 presidential election, Bolton once again proved his allegiance to the party and polished his reputation as someone “who gets things done.”
As part of the Republican Party’s legal team, headed by former Secretary of State Baker, Bolton ‘s boss during the George H.W. Bush administration, Bolton put his hard-ball approach to partisan politics to work. In a complimentary article on Bolton, the Wall Street Journal in July 2002 reported that Bolton ‘s “most memorable moment came after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a halt to the recount, when Mr. Bolton strode into a Tallahassee library, where the count was still going on, and declared: “I’m with the Bush-Cheney team, and I’m here to stop the vote’.”
After thanking Bolton for his services, Vice President-elect Cheney was asked what job Bolton would get in the new administration. “People ask what [job] John should get,” Cheney said, “My answer is, anything he wants.”5
Bolton Gets Things Done
When announcing his nomination as the new UN ambassador, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Bolton a “tough-minded diplomat” who has a “proven track record of multilateralism.” Bolton certainly has a long track record, but not as a multilateralist. Since the 1970s Bolton has aggressively and stridently attacked multilateral institutions and international treaties. At the same time, however, Bolton has been a firm supporter of multilateral entities and coalitions that the U.S. controls such as NATO, the “coalition of the willing” in Iraq, and the anti-rogue Security Proliferation Initiative led by Bolton.
The president and I have asked John to do this work because he knows how to get things done, said Rice. A hard-line unilateralist and an aggressive opponent of multilateralism and international treaties, Bolton has served as the Bush administrations designated treaty breaker. From the early days of the first Bush administration, Bolton mounted a campaign to halt all international constraints on U.S. power and prerogative, fiercely opposing existing and proposed international treaties restricting landmines, child soldiers, biological weapons, nuclear weapons testing, small arms trade, and missile defense.
During the first administration, Bolton earned his reputation as a hawk who dismantled the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, renounced President Clinton’s approval of the International Criminal Court, and blocked the efforts to add a verification clause to the bioweapons convention. Displaying what the Wall Street Journal described as his “combative style,” Bolton told an international conference on bioweapons that the verification proposal was “dead, dead, dead, and I don’t want in coming back from the dead.”
Bolton will face a spirited confirmation battle in the Senate, where four years ago his nomination as the new Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security was approved by a vote of 57-43. All fifty Republicans voted to confirm Bolton, joined by Democratic hawks Ben Nelson, Zell Miller, Joseph Lieberman, Mary Landrieu, Russell Feingold, John Breaux, and Evan Bayh.
In law school and throughout his legal and political career, Bolton has gained a reputation as being abrasive, astute, humorless, and relentless in the pursuit of his political agenda. In his office at the State Department, Bolton displays a mock grenade with the label “To John Bolton World’s Greatest Reaganite.”6
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed in 1997, Bolton articulated his dismissive view of international treaties. “Treaties are law only for U.S. domestic purposes,” he wrote, “In their international operation, treaties are simply political obligations.” In other words, international treaties signed by the United States should not be considered as a body of law that the United States should respect in its international engagement but rather just political considerations that can be ignored at will.
Bolton has since the mid-1990s led the charge of the anti-multilateralists and UN bashers against the International Criminal Court. Writing in the National Interest, a journal cofounded by Irving Kristol, Bolton argued in 1998 that signing the ICC would make the “president, the cabinet officers who comprise the National Security Council, and other senior civilian and military leaders responsible for our defense and foreign policy … the potential targets of the politically unaccountable Prosecutor in Rome.”
In support of this position, he contended that international law had already started infringing on the national sovereignty of other countries such as Chile . He charged that the Spanish judge who brought the case against Chile ‘s notorious dictator Augusto Pinochet, who took power in a military coup against an elected government, was using international law for political purposes. In his view, the charges against Pinochet for authorizing the murder of 3,000 Chileans should not concern foreign governments, the United Nations, or human rights observers. “Chileans made their choice, and have lived with it,” he wrote.
During the 1990s, Bolton spoke out frequently in public and in Congress against the international policies of the Clinton administration. In a June 25, 1995 op-ed in the Washington Times, Bolton lambasted President Clinton for continuing the funding of “programs on international population control and environmental matters rather than fundamental economic reforms in developing countries.” The type of fundamental reforms advocated by Bolton were those of the neoliberal “Washington Consensus” that stipulated that economic liberalization and privatization were the only path to development. In the same op-ed, Bolton assailed Vice President Gore for his “preference for condoms and trees instead of markets.”
In early 2001 Bolton observed: “It is a big mistake for us to grant any validity to international law even when it may seem in our short-term interest to do so because, over the long term, the goal of those who think that international law really means anything are those who want to constrict the United States .”7
In 1998, when he was senior vice president of the American Enterprise Institute, Bolton described the ICC as “a product of fuzzy-minded romanticism [that] is not just naïve, but dangerous.”8 Early in the first year of the Bush administration, Bolton prevailed upon Secretary of State Colin Powell to give him the honor of renouncing the Clinton administration’s signature of the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC). Bolton called the moment he signed the letter abrogating Clinton ‘s approval of the ICC “the happiest moment in my government service.”
In his 2003 speech to the Federalist Society, Bolton explained the administration’s “Article 98” legal strategy to undermine the International Criminal Court. “Each Article 98 agreement,” he said, “meets our key objective ensuring that all U.S. persons, official or private, are covered under the terms of the agreement. This broad scope of the agreement is essential to ensuring that the ICC will not become an impediment to U.S. activities worldwide.”9 Those countries that do not sign this bilateral agreement are restricted from receiving U.S. military assistance, except for counternarcotics aid.
Bolton has long dismissed the legitimacy of the United Nations a multilateral organization that the United States played a key role in creating not as a pet organization but as a international organization dedicated to “collective security.” A longtime activist with the Federalist Society, Bolton has used this right-wing association of lawyers, judges, and legal experts as a forum to lash out against the United Nations. In a 1994 speech at the liberal World Federalist Association, Bolton declared that “there is no such thing as the United Nations.” To underscore his point, Bolton said. “If the UN secretary building in New York lost ten stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.”
Bolton has also made his stand with those who believe the U.S. government should stop its payments to the United Nations. “Many Republicans in Congress and perhaps a majority,” Bolton said before joining the George W. Bush administration, “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 many why nothing should be paid to the UN system.”10
In a 1999 article in the Weekly Standard titled “Kofi Annan’s Power Grab,” Bolton laid out the neoconservative position on U.S. military supremacy with respect to what the neocons regarded as the outdated UN Charter. Bolton took issue with Annan’s description of the United Nations as “the sole source of legitimacy on the use of force.” According to Bolton, “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.” In mounting the challenge to Annan and the United Nations, Bolton also criticized President Clinton for “his implicit endorsement of the Annan doctrine” during his speech opening the General Assembly session that year.
In Bolton’s view, Annan had put his own legitimacy at risk by expressing his concerns about the NATO bombing campaign over the former Yugoslavia. When visiting the war zone, Annan said: “Unless the Security Council is restored to its preeminent position as the sole source of legitimacy on the use of force, we are on a dangerous path to anarchy.” Subsequently, in the secretary general’s annual report to the UN membership, Annan wrote that “enforcement actions without Security Council authorization threaten the very core of the international security system. … Only the [UN] Charter provides a universally legal basis for the use of force.” Bolton wrote that these were “sweeping indeed, breathtaking assertions,” although from a post-Iraq invasion perspective Annan’s statements could be described as prophetic.
According to Bolton, “The implicit premise of the Annan doctrine that force is unimportant while “international law’ is practically everything is widely held in Europe, but is also popular here, particularly in the Clinton administration.” Bolton warned that “if the Annan doctrine is left unanswered, we will soon hear about “emerging new international norms’ that will make it harder and harder for the United States to act independently in its own legitimate national interest. And we will wait in vain for our adversaries to follow those “norms’.”11
After the UN voted not to authorize the administration’s planned invasion of Iraq, Bolton said the decision was “further evidence to many why nothing should be paid to the UN system.” In the run up to the war, he ordered an intelligence probe of UN arms inspector Hans Blix, who headed the UNMOVIC inspection mission in Iraq, and Mohamed El Baradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Not pleased with El Baradei’s lack of a strong stance against Iran, Bolton led a unsuccessful campaign to remove him from his post at the conclusion of his second term.12
Bolton described his theory about the legitimacy of U.S. military actions in his 2003 speech to the Federalist Society. According to Bolton, if the U.S. follows its own constitutional procedures then there is no question about the legitimacy of any resulting U.S. actions abroad. In Bolton ‘s view, “There’s a fundamental problem of democratic theory for those who contend, implicitly or otherwise, that the proper operation of America ‘s institutions of representative government are not able to confer legitimacy for the use of force.”
Make no mistake, said Bolton, Not asserting that our constitutional procedures themselves confer legitimacy will result over time in the atrophying of our ability to act independently.
During his career Bolton has never minced words when it comes to his opinions about the United Nations. While his straight-shooting has clarified his opinions on U.S. moral and political supremacy and on what he sees as the dubious legitimacy of the United Nations, Bolton also sees the United Nations as an institution that can be manipulated, exploited, and controlled.
At the same time that Bolton has been bashing the UN, he has been willing to use it to further his political agenda, even taking money personally from the organization that he has labeled as corrupt. When he served as Assistant Secretary of State of International Organization Affairs during the George H.W. Bush administration, Bolton recommended that the United Nations Development Program provide a $2 million grant to the Institute of East-West Dynamics.
The institute was established in 1991 to provide training in free-market principles to the transitional economies of Eastern Europe. Its principals included numerous right-wing UN critics including Burton Pines, then vice-president of the Heritage Foundation and the longtime chief of its UN Assessment Project. The institute’s president was Pedro Sanjuan, a former director of the AEI’s Hemispheric Center and a former UN official during Jeane Kirkpatrick’s tenure as UN ambassador.
Other board members and advisers included an array of figures who were involved in supporting the Nicaraguan contras in their U.S.-backed counterrevolutionary war against the Sandinista government, including Angier Biddle Duke, a member of the NED-funded PRODEMCA and Duncan Sellars, chairman of the International Freedom Fund and former executive director of the Conservative Caucus.
Bolton, who as a member of the Reagan administration had led the insider campaign to withdraw U.S. membership in UNESCO, had no scruples about recommending that UN moneys be used to fund a free-market, anti-communist “development” organization. In November 1991, Bolton congratulated the UNDP for having made an “initial contribution” of $250,000 to the Institute of East-West Dynamics.13
Bolton himself worked for the United Nations from 1997 to 2000 as an assistant to James Baker, who UN Secretary General named as Special Envoy on the Western Sahara. While working for the United Nations during the Clinton administration, Bolton had no qualms about “put[ting] my UN hat on” at the same time he was AEI’s senior vice president.14 The mission to resolve the demands of the Sahrawi people’s claim of the Western Sahara, a territory of Morocco, failed in part because of the Baker-Bolton team’s own lack of support for the UN resolution condemning Morocco ‘s colonization of the Western Sahara.15
Bolton is a militarist who embraces the “peace through strength” philosophy of international affairs. Praising Bolton in a speech he delivered on January 1, 2001 at the American Enterprise Institute, Sen. Jesse Helms, who was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said, “John Bolton is the kind of man with whom I would want to stand at Armageddon.”
Bolton was a leading voice against the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), signed by President Clinton but never ratified because of strong congressional opposition from Republicans. Following the 1999 Senate vote rejecting the treaty, Bolton said that the vote marked “the beginning of a new realism on the issue of weapons of mass destruction and their global proliferation. The Senate vote is an unmistakable signal that America rejects the illusionary protections of unenforceable treaties.”
A report by the National Academy of Sciences, titled Technical Issues Related to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, addressed Bolton’s stated grounds of opposition to the CTBT. The report argues that the stated concerns over verification (primarily) and viability of U.S. nuclear stockpile (secondarily) are not technically a problem. According to the report: “Verification capabilities for the treaty are better than generally supposed. U.S. adversaries could not significantly advance their nuclear weapons capabilities through tests below the threshold of detection, and the United States has the technical capabilities to maintain confidence in the safety and reliability of its existing weapons stockpile without periodic nuclear tests.”
The Committee on Technical Issues Related to Ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which wrote the report, was formed in mid-2000 at the request of Gen. John Shalikashvili, former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and then special adviser to the president and secretary of state for the CTBT. Committee members included former directors of the Los Alamos, Sandia, and Oak Ridge national laboratories; other experts on nuclear-weapon design, testing, and maintenance; a leading expert on seismic verification of nuclear explosions; and a former commander in chief of U.S. forces in the Pacific.
While undersecretary of state, Bolton was responsible for organizing the administration’s Proliferation Security Initiative, as a kind of “coalition of the willing” focused on stopping the transfer of WMDs and precursor material. Announced by President Bush while in Poland in May 2003, the PSI is, according to Bolton , “legitimate and will be extremely effective in its efforts against weapons of mass destruction proliferation.” Bolton described the PSI which specifies that partner nations will cooperate with the United States in intercepting and confiscating suspect shipments going or coming from “rogue” countries as an example of how the United States can “defend its national interests using novel and loose coalitions.”16
In mid-2001 Bolton announced at the UN Conference on Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons that Washington opposed any initiative to regulate trade in small arms or in non-military rifles or any effort that would “abrogate the constitutional right to bear arms.” Accompanying Bolton to the conference were members of the National Rifle Association (NRA). “It is precisely those weapons that Bolton would exclude from the purview of this conference that are actually killing people and endangering communities around the world,” said Tamar Gabelnick, director of the Arms Sales Monitoring Project at the Federation of American Scientists. She charged that the U.S. delegation, led by Arms Control Secretary Bolton, single-handedly destroyed any possibility of consensus around the Small Arms Action Plan.17
The New Europe
Before Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld spoke of the U.S. alliance with the “New Europe” while dissing the “Old Europe,” Bolton already had signaled that the post-WW II transatlantic alliance was being overhauled by Washington. Months before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Bolton warned that “the Europeans can be sure that America’s days as a well-bred doormat for EU political and military protection are coming to an end.”
Bolton has been a player in a strategy by U.S. militarists and neoconservatives to expand NATO and to form new U.S.-led political and military coalitions in Central and Eastern Europe. Leading this initiative have been two neoconservative institutes that are located in the same building in Washington, DC the Project for the New American Century and the American Enterprise Institute.
Before joining the Bush administration, Bolton was a member of the New Atlantic Initiative, a bipartisan initiative sponsored by AEI and funded by two right-wing foundations: Olin Foundation and Lynde & Harry Bradley Foundation. The New Atlantic Initiative was launched in June 1996 following the Congress of Prague, where more than 300 conservative politicians, scholars, and investors discussed “the new agenda for transatlantic relations.”
Headquartered at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in Washington, DC , the New Atlantic Initiative is dedicated to strengthening North Atlantic cooperation, admitting the transitional democracies of the former Soviet bloc into NATO and the European Union, and establishing a free trade area between an enlarged European Union and the NAFTA countries.18 The New Atlantic Initiative is closely associated with the Project on Transitional Democracies, and was also closely linked to the now-defunct U.S. Committee on NATO groups that were both founded by PNAC board members.19
Middle East Restructuring with Israel at the Center
Bolton is an outspoken hawk on U.S. policy in the Middle East, and has since the mid-1990s been closely associated with neoconservative organizations and pressure groups that are close to the right-wing Likud party in Israel including the Project for the New American Century, American Enterprise Institute, Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, and the Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf (CPSG).
Bolton boasts that one of his most important achievements was the central role he played at the State Department in 1991 in leading the successful campaign to repeal the 1975 General Assembly resolution equating Zionism with racism, “thus removing the greatest stain on the UN’s reputation.”
Self-identified as a bipartisan group whose members are prominent in U.S. international policy circles, the Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf was launched by neoconservatives in 1998 as part of their incipient campaign to build support for regime change in Iraq. Underwritten by the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and organized by the neoconservative Center for Security Policy, CPSG called on Washington to adopt a “comprehensive political and military strategy for bringing down Saddam and his regime.” Working closely with Ahmad Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress (INC), CPSG, which was co-chaired by Richard Perle, included most of the charter members of the Project for the New American Century (including Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, Dov Zakeim, and Peter Rodman) and an array of AEI scholars, including Richard Perle, Jeffrey Gedmin, Michael Ledeen, Joshua Muravchik, David Wurmer, and John Bolton.20
Along with other Bush administration officials, Bolton was on the board of advisers of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs before joining the administration. JINSA supports a “peace through strength” policy to support Israel and works to build “strategic ties” between the U.S. military and U.S. military contractors with Israel. Other administration figures associated with this militarist organization that aims to strengthen the military-industrial complexes in both Israel and the United States are Richard Cheney, Douglas Feith, and Paul Wolfowitz.
Two months prior to the Iraq invasion, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton traveled to Jerusalem to meet with former Prime Minister Netanyahu and Prime Minister Sharon to discuss strategies for “preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction.” No mention was made of the widely accepted fact although never mentioned by the United States that Israel is the only nuclear power in the Middle East. Instead, the undersecretary for disarmament affairs focused on the Bush administration’s disarmament targets following the planned invasion of Iraq. Bolton in February 2003 said that once regime change plans in Iraq were completed, “it will be necessary to deal with threats from Syria, Iran, and North Korea afterwards.”21
With respect to Syria, Bolton has been the administration’s attack dog. Without offering any evidence to support his allegations, Bolton in May 2003 said that the Bush administration “knows that Syria has long had a chemical warfare program” including maintaining a “stockpile of the nerve agent sarin and is engaged in research and development of a more toxic and persistent nerve agent.”
What’s more Bolton raised alarmist claims that Syria “is pursuing the development of biological weapons and is able to produce at least small amounts of biological warfare agents.”22 Soon after the Iraq invasion and despite the fact the no WMDs were found in Iraq, Bolton warned Syria, Libya, and Iran that “the cost of their pursuit of weapons of mass destruction is potentially quite high.”
Contras and Cuba
When he worked as an assistant attorney general under Edwin Meese, Bolton thwarted the Kerry Commission’s efforts to obtain documentation, including Bolton ‘s personal notes, about the Iran-Contra affair and alleged Contra drug smuggling. Working with congressional Republicans, Bolton also stonewalled congressional demands to interview deputies of then-Attorney General Edwin Meese regarding their role in the affair.23
Also while at the Justice Department, Bolton refused to provide internal documents to the Senate during the confirmation hearings for the nominations of Rehnquist, Scalia, and Kennedy to the Supreme Court.24
Speaking before an audience at the Heritage Foundation in May 2002, Bolton made the case that Cuba should be included among the axis of evil countries because of its development of biowarfare capacity. Cuba is world renowned for its biomedical industry, but according to Bolton the industry was concealing a WMD project. He charged that Cuba has “at least a limited offensive biological warfare research development effort” and that it has “provided dual-use technology to other rogue states.”
Providing no evidence for his allegations, Bolton said that Cuba was involved in the sales of illicit biowarfare technology at least in part as a way to boost its cash-short economy. Other administration officials, when pressed, declined to support Bolton ‘s charges against Cuba. Bolton ‘s claims that Cuba was developing biological weapons and that Syria possessed WMDs were completely unsubstantiated by leading officials.
Bolton never complied with congressional demands to provide documentation on the Cuban assertion, and the CIA effectively blocked Bolton’s appearance before the Senate regarding his allegations about Syria’s weapons of mass destruction. A congressional investigation of Cuba’s alleged WMD program found no evidence to back Bolton’s assertions.25
Cornering and Confronting the Dragon
One of the long-running divides in the Republican Party is between those who favor constructive engagement with China and those who propagate an alarmist view of China. John Bolton is a leading figure in the confrontationalist ” China lobby,” sometimes called the Blue Team. In the post-WW II period, the China lobby was most closely associated with the old guard right and militantly anticommunist organizations like the American Security Council.
Today, the China lobby finds its home in the neoconservative think tanks and policy institutes, notably the American Enterprise Institute and the Center for Security Policy. With such figures as John Bolton, it has also found a home in the Bush administration. Bolton and other administration figures, such as CIA director Porter Goss and Donald Rumsfeld, are warning that China increasingly represents a military threat not just to other Asian countries but to the United States itself.26
Bolton is not only one of the administration’s leading hawks on China policy, he is also its strongest advocate of Taiwan ‘s independence and of U.S. defense of Taiwan. Bolton has close professional and personal ties in Taipei. According to an investigative report by the Washington Post ( April 9, 2001 ), Bolton was on the payroll of the Taiwan government before joining the Bush administration. Bolton received $30,000 for “research papers on UN membership issues involving Taiwan ” at the same time he was promoting diplomatic recognition of Taiwan before various congressional committees.27
In 1999 Bolton, speaking as an AEI scholar, said 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.” Bolton joined a prominent group of neoconservatives and traditional conservatives who signed a statement jointly sponsored by the Project for the New American Century and the Heritage Foundation that lambasted the Clinton administration for its failure to offer unequivocal support of Taiwan. The statement, whose signatories included William Kristol, Elliott Abrams, Richard Perle, I. Lewis Libby, Edwin Meese, William Buckley, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Paul Weyrich, James Woolsey, and Paul Wolfowitz, called for a state-to-state relationship with Taiwan.28
Before joining the administration, Bolton was a contributing columnist for the Taipei Times. When Taiwan ‘s first lady Wu Shu-chen visited Washington in what was widely regarded as a quasi-official state visit, Bolton , described by the Taipei Times as “an ardent friend of Taiwan ,” held a lengthy personal discussion with President Chen Shui-bian’s wife. At the time of his election, Bolton charged the Clinton administration of a policy of “strategic ambivalence” that left Taiwan vulnerable to Chinese invasion. According to Bolton, the U.S. should defend Taiwan against any possible provocation by China, including in the frontline islands of Kinmen and Matsu.
At the time of Wu Shu-chen’s visit, both Taiwanese and U.S. officials said the visit was not a private one and she would not be meeting with U.S. government officials. The first lady addressed a forum at AEI in which she called for the country’s admission to the United Nations as an independent nation a prospect that China has said it would not tolerate given that it considers Taiwan to be a “renegade” province. Wu Shu-chen was also awarded the Democracy Service Medal by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a neoconservative-led institution that depends almost exclusively on U.S. government funding.29 Presenting the award was Rep. Christopher Cox, a “China Lobby” member who has worked closely with Bolton on China and is a member of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus.
Like many neoconservatives, Bolton charged that the Clinton administration practiced “disdainful diplomacy toward the Republic of China on Taiwan ” while giving preferential treatment to the Palestinian Authority. The neoconservative camp generally regards U.S. policy toward Taiwan as a bellwether for the degree of U.S. commitment to Israel. According to Bolton, writing in January 2000 for AEI: “That the PLO is a more consequential player [than Taiwan ] in the United Nations speaks volumes… [about] the organization’s detachment from reality.”30
In July 2003, during the run-up to the six-nation talks with North Korea, Bolton described President Kim Jong Il as the “tyrannical dictator” of a country where “life is a hellish nightmare.” North Korea responded in kind, saying that “such human scum and bloodsucker is not entitled to take part in the talks…. We have decided not to consider him as an official of the U.S. administration any longer nor to deal with him.” The State Department sent a replacement for Bolton to the talks.31
John Bolton, a Yale-trained lawyer, rejects the legitimacy of international law at least when international conventions, treaties, and norms constrain what he regards as U.S. national interests. Bolton also has a record of questionable legal and ethical dealings at home.
As an associate at the high-powered Covington law firm, Bolton in 1978 worked with Sen. Jesse Helms and the National Congressional Club, the senator’s campaign-financing organization, to help form a new campaign finance organization called Jefferson Marketing. According to the Legal Times, Jefferson Marketing was established “as a vehicle to supply candidates with such services as advertising and direct mail without having to worry about the federal laws preventing PACs, like the Congressional Club, from contributing more than $5,000 per election to any one candidate’s campaign committee.” After its formation, Jefferson Marketing became a holding company for three firms Campaign Management Inc., Computer Operations & Mailing Professionals, and Discount Paper Brokers.
Together with another Covington attorney, Brice Clagett, Bolton later represented the National Congressional Club and Jefferson Marketing which were treated as a single legal entity in various lawsuits filed against it by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) all of which led to a $10,000 fine levied by the FEC against the National Congressional Club in 1986.
In 1987 the National Congressional Club reported a debt of $900,000, with its major creditors being Richard Viguerie, Charles Black, Jr., Covington and Burling, and the DC law office of Baker & Hostetler all of which maintained good relations with the right-wing political action committee as their debts for service offered went unpaid. Jefferson Marketing was the PAC’s largest creditor, with more than $676,000 due from the National Congressional Club. By the end of the decade, FEC documents showed that Helms’ political action committee owed Covington $111,000. But this was not considered a major concern for Covington, according to firm spokesman H. Edward Dunkelberger, Jr.32
A decade later Bolton was again entangled in money laundering schemes to support Republican candidates, but this time it involved money channeled from Hong Kong and Taiwan to the Republican Party by way of a “think tank” linked to the Republican National Committee (RNC). In 1995-96 Bolton served as president of the National Policy Forum (NPF), which, according to a congressional investigation, functioned as an intermediary organization to funnel foreign and corporate money to Republicans.
The NPF had been established in 1993 in anticipation of the 1994 general election. Founded by the RNC’s chairman Haley Barbour a few months after he assumed the party’s chairmanship, the forum was organized as a nonprofit, tax-exempt education institute, although the IRS later ruled that NPF was a subsidiary of the RNC and not entitled to its requested tax-exempt status.
A congressional investigation into foreign money and influence in the 1996 presidential campaign brought to light the role of the NPF, which, according to a minority report of the congressional committee, channeled $800,00 in foreign money into the 1996 election cycle after having also used the same mechanisms to fund congressional races around the country in 1994.
When John Bolton became NPF president in 1995, the forum began organizing “megaconferences” as a hook to raise money for the party. These conferences brought together Republican members of congress, lobbyists, and corporate executives to discuss matters that were frequently the object of pending legislation. An NPF memo laid out the funding strategy: “NPF will continue to recruit new donors through conference sponsorships. … In order for the conferences to take place, they must pay for themselves or turn a profit. Industry and association leaders will be recruited to participate and sponsor those forums, starting at $25,000.”
Corporate representatives professed surprise at the size of the contribution request. “It’s pretty astounding,” said one invitee. “If this doesn’t have “payment for access’ (to top GOP lawmakers) written all over it, I don’t know what does.”
Bolton also made sure that handsome contributors received their money’s worth. In another NPF memo, two NPF employees told Bolton that, in return for a $200,000 donation by US West, the telecommunications company should be assured that the policy issues that most concern them should be incorporated into the NPF agenda for their upcoming telecommunications “megaconference.”
In addition to the continuing money laundering, during John Bolton’ tenure as NPF president, the forum received a $25,000 contribution from the Pacific Cultural Foundation. Both Barbour and Bolton expressed their appreciation in a letter to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative, which functions as Taiwan ‘s embassy in Washington. According to one communication with Taiwan ‘s official representative in Washington, it was noted that the “generous contribution” would enable the forum “to continue to develop and advocate good international policy.”
Bolton left his position at the National Policy Forum shortly before Congress launched its probe into whether the group illegally accepted foreign contributions. No charges were ever filed as a result of the congressional hearings, which according to the Democratic Party minority members of the committee didn’t devote adequate resources into the investigation of NPF operations.33
Foreign Policy Mandate
The naming of Bolton as UN ambassador was another clear signal from President Bush that he intends to forge ahead with the national security strategy blueprint laid out for him by groups like the Project for the New American Century and the American Enterprise Institute. This has never been a hidden agenda, and during Bush’s first term the radical statements and policies of Bolton and other high foreign policy officials clearly described the directions and methods of this aggressive foreign and military policy agenda.
The president says his reelection gave him a mandate for his radical policy agenda at home and abroad. By nominating Bolton to represent the United States before the international community, President Bush has in effect challenged all nations either to get with the agenda or be swept aside by U.S. power and purpose.
- Philip H. Burch, Reagan Bush, and Right-Wing Politics: Elites, Think Tanks, Power, and Policy (Greenwich, CN: JAI Press, 1997), p. 158.
- Jill Abramson, ” Right Place at the Right Time,” American Lawyer, June 1986; Philip H. Burch, Reagan Bush, and Right-Wing Politics: Elites, Think Tanks, Power, and Policy (Greenwich, CN: JAI Press, 1997), p. 182.
- Christopher Marquis, “Absent from the Korea Talks: Bush’s Hard-Liner,” New York Times, September 2, 2003.
- Wall Street Journal, July 19, 2002; “John Bolton: The Iron Hand in the State Department’s Velvet Glove,” NewsMax.com, July 19, 2002.
- Glenn Kessler and Colum Lynch, “Critic of UN Named Envoy,” Washington Post, March 8, 2005.
- Gabriel Espinosa Gonzales, “The Dubious Career of John Bolton: The Latest Mad Man at Foggy Bottom.” CounterPunch, December 16, 2004.
- “John Bolton: The Iron Hand in the State Department’s Velvet Glove,” Newsmax.com, July 19, 2002.
- Address by the Honorable John Bolton, The 2003 National Lawyers Convention of the Federalist Society, November 13, 2003.
- Washington Times, October 24, 1998.
- John R. Bolton, “Kofi Annan’s UN Power Grab,” Weekly Standard, October 4, 1999.
- Gabriel Espinosa Gonzales, “The Dubious Career of John Bolton: The Latest Mad Man at Foggy Bottom.” CounterPunch, December 16, 2004.
- Ian Williams, “United Nations of America? Why the Right Loves the UN,” The Nation, April 13, 1992.
- Honorable John Bolton, “Resolving the Western Sahara Conflict,” Defense Forum Foundation, March 3, 1998.
- See Stephen Zunes, “Western Sahara Conflict Continues to Challenge the United Nations,” Foreign Policy in Focus/International Relations Center, September 2003.
- Address by the Honorable John Bolton, The 2003 National Lawyers Convention of the Federalist Society, November 13, 2003.
- Jim Lobe, “North Korea Won’t Recognize State Department Ideologue,” Inter Press Service, August 8, 2004.
- New Atlantic Initiative, Right Web Profile, International Relations Center.
- U.S. Committee on NATO, Right Web Profile, International Relations Center; Project on Transitional Democracies, International Relations Center.
- Letter to the President, February 19, 1998, Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf.
- Ian Williams, “John Bolton in Jerusalem: The New Age of Disarmament Wars,” Foreign Policy in Focus, February 20, 2003.
- Ian Williams, “Road to Damascus,” Foreign Policy in Focus/Project Against the Present Danger, November 24, 2003.
- Jim Lobe, “North Korea Won’t Recognize State Dep’t. Ideologue.” Inter Press Service, August 4, 2003.
- Council for a Livable World, Oppose John Bolton’s Nomination as State Department’s Arms Control Leader! August 11, 2001.
- Jim Lobe, “North Korea Won’t Recognize State Dep’t. Ideologue.” Inter Press Service, August 4, 2003.
- Conn Hallinan, “Cornering the Dragon,” Foreign Policy In Focus, February 25, 2005.
- Foreign Policy in Focus: The Republican Rule: Other Officials’ Profiles; David Corn, “Bush Gives the UN the Finger.” The Nation, March 7, 2005; Ian Williams, “Bush’s Perverse UN Pick.” The Nation, March 8, 2005.
- Statement on the Defense of Taiwan, PNAC and Heritage Foundation, August 20, 1999.
- Charles Snyder, ” U.S. Policy Maker Bolton Meets with First Lady Wu,” Taipei Times, September 26, 2002.
- John Bolton, “Unequal Treatment for Taiwan,” On the Issues, AEI, January 1, 2000.
- “North Korea Bans Bolton from Talks,” Associated Press, August 3, 2003.
- Charles Babington, “Helms PAC’s Debt to Covington Lingers,” Legal Times, February 19, 1990; James Lyons, “Congressional Club, Once Mighty, in Deep Debt,” Legal Times, November 23, 1987; Ben Macintyre, “Bush “Accepted Foreign Donations,” The Times (London), February 9, 2000.
- Investigation of Illegal or Improper Activities in Connection with 1996 Federal Election Campaigns. Final Report of the Committee on Governmental Affairs, Senate, March 10, 1998.