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Bolton Goes East – The Wrong Man For Korea

Memorandum to the Press

03.02 For Immediate Release Wednesday, January 22, 2003

State Department's John Bolton the Wrong Man to Send to Korea

* Peace emissary is one of the administration's prime unilateralists and a jingoist nationalist.

* Progenitor of invented Cuban bioweaponry charge, strangely silent when it came to proving it.

* Senator Jesse Helms' protégé is one more example that the State Department, under Secretary Powell, is a den of zealous ideologues when it comes to dealing with Latin America.

Bolton Goes East

Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton has been meeting with South Korean diplomats while on the second leg of his tour of Northeast Asia. High on Bolton's agenda has been the current nuclear crisis vis-à-vis North Korea, which he has and will be discussing with ministers from China, South Korea and Japan. Absent from the table has been North Korea, which has been holding its own bilateral talks in Seoul with South Korean cabinet ministers and has just received a delegation from Russia. If Bolton is to be the only dirty bomb that the Bush administration fires from its negotiating arsenal, then prospects for a resolution of regional security issues look poor, as he is one of the administration's most controversial, if not outlandish figures, who is a known dissembler and behind-the-scenes purveyor of hard-line rhetoric and tendentious policy positions, and who essentially is a rabid ideologue rather than a bona fide diplomat.

A War of Words

Bolton, like fellow hardliner and newly nominated Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere Roger Noriega, is an alumnus from the staff of former Senator Jesse Helms, the now-retired arch conservative who chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and was a kingpin in Washington for architecturing skewed Latin American formulations. Bolton has highly compromised political and ethical credentials for effectively challenging North Korea on the honesty of its actions in recanting its agreement with the U.S. not to maintain a nuclear weapons program.

Bolton, who has accused North Korea of an "egregious violation of obligations under the non-proliferation treaty," clearly does not see the irony in his defense of the administration's sense of outrage over Pyongyang's action, considering that he is on record as showing his own distaste for international agreements when he orchestrated the U.S. withdrawal in December, 2001 from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia, or his near ecstasy when Washington withdrew its signature from the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court. He was so ebullient over this narrow-minded, if not primitive, action that he sought and was given the opportunity to affix his name to the formal letter to Kofi Annan announcing the Bush administration's change of policy, despite the fact that this was far from within his realm of jurisdiction. Considering that the White House, in line with Pyongyang's recent reprehensible conduct, chose to retract its prior obligations to the ABM agreement and then opted to pursue a course of proliferation - a missile defense system which would have been illegal under the treaty - Bolton could be on shaky ground when he publicly makes the ideological distinction between "legitimate nuclear weapons states" and rogue states, whom presumably should be dealt with by a "regime change."

A Diplomatic Solution by an Undiplomatic Emissary

Speaking before a sympathetic audience at the conservative Heritage Foundation, on May 6, 2002, Bolton accused Havana's highly regarded biomedical industry of concealing a more sinister bio-warfare capacity. He alleged that Cuba "has a least a limited offensive biological warfare research development effort [and has] provided dual-use technology to other rogue states." Claiming that the Cuban threat had been "underplayed," Bolton tried to cast Cuba's internationally-applauded biotechnology sector, which accounts for millions of dollars in its badly needed export income and substantially contributes to the island's own high health standards, as a front for bio-terrorism.

Bolton's accusations relied almost entirely on self-serving and untrustworthy circumstantial data generated not mainly by official U.S. intelligence sources, but by Miami exile Cuban sources, including from defectors. Bolton's charges took a quantum leap when he asserted that because of its negative cash flow, Havana must be supplementing its legitimate income with sales of illicit bio-warfare technology. After making these totally unsubstantiated accusations, Bolton then proceeded to threaten Cuba, and any of the other nations on the "rogue" list, that any non-compliance could become the source for possible military intervention; those nations choosing not to join the Bush administration's global war on terrorism, "can expect to become our targets."

Despite a complete lack of any credible evidence, Bolton's accusations made waves through the policy-making community, most of it to his disadvantage. Senator Bob Graham (D-FL), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and well-versed in threats to U.S. security, who normally is a total captive of Miami's rightwing Cuban American National Foundation on issues relating to Havana, indicated his surprise over Bolton's remarks, stating, "We've known that Cuba, with its large pharmaceutical industry, had had the capability to develop chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction.... but this is the first confirmation [Bolton's charges] that those actually matured into potentially militarily usable weapons."

Yet, this was a confirmation as much as it was an example of Bolton flexing his honest, if demented, convictions. No proof whatsoever was brought forward by the administration to substantiate Bolton's shockingly irresponsible remarks. On May 9, immediately after Bolton made his statement on Cuba, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld - who one would imagine would know about such matters - indicated to reporters that if such intelligence information existed connecting Cuba's biomedical industry to a bio-terror campaign, he had not seen it. Gen. Charles Wilhelm, the former commander-in-chief of the U.S. Southern Command (Ret.), now a fellow at the Center for Defense Information, rejected Bolton's accusations in an NPR interview, saying "During my three year tenure, from September 1997 until September 2000 at Southern Command, I didn't receive a single report or a single piece of evidence that would have led me to the conclusion that Cuba was in fact developing, producing or weaponizing biological or chemical agents." In response to such charges, The Washington Times reported that an unnamed senior administration official indicated that the administration remains "constrained" by what it can reveal about the source of the information. This same approach, of course, had been used by former State Department official Otto Reich, who during the contra war issued outrageous inventions to the U.S. media concerning that conflict. His statements minimized contra human rights violations and maximized those allegedly committed by Sandanistas, as part of Lt. Col. Oliver North's operations, always insisting that presenting any evidence would "compromise clandestine sources of information."

Compounding the near-certainty that Bolton's charges were a complete fabrication was the fact that Bush, in three separate May 20 speeches on the subject of Cuba in Miami, made not the slightest allusion to Cuba's alleged bio-terror efforts, something that he normally would rush to do if he could defend pinning the terrorist tail on Castro's donkey. On that occasion, Bush exploited the centennial of Cuba's independence to announce his administration's "Initiative for a New Cuba" and lashed out at Castro on several fronts; however, no mention was made of what would undoubtedly have been the strongest anti-Castro card in the U.S. president's hand - if it was in fact true; Havana's alleged production and distribution of dangerous biological and chemical agents. Even when speaking before the rabidly anti-Castro Cuban American National Foundation that day, Bush completely avoided the topic.

Bolton Gets Cold Feet

Compelling evidence indicates that Bolton received no new intelligence data before coming forward with his latent accusations against Cuba. During a March 19 hearing conducted before the Senate Foreign relations Committee, Carl Ford, Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research, first introduced the topic of Cuba's bio-terror capabilities. While the content of Ford's testimony was virtually identical to Bolton's comments two months later, Ford devoted only a few seconds of pro forma and boiler plate accusations against Cuba, focusing on far more germane threats to U.S. security elsewhere. For his part, Bolton clearly and pointedly meant to inflate his exiguous data to the point of a gross distortion, and then threaten action against Havana if it continued to do what Bolton, without any corroborating evidence, said it was doing.

When finally called to task about these accusations and asked to provide some proof of Havana's dual use of biotechnology or aggressive behavior on Cuba's part, Bolton went underground. On June 5, Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) formally asked Bolton to substantiate his Heritage Society charges regarding Cuba before the Senate subcommittee that he chaired at the time, which was attempting to assess the merit of his serious allegation that Havana potentially threatened U.S. security. If this were true, Cuba would presumably be as much in the crosshairs of U.S. policy-makers as Iraq. Bolton declined the invitation, indicating that his charges against Cuba did not have any weight, further implying that presenting his evidence at a private rightwing think tank was a more compelling venue than a Senate sub-Committee, where he would have had to testify under oath, and if he misrepresented the facts, could be charged with perjury. Indeed, if the bio-terror charges had any merit, Bolton and the State Department would have welcomed the opportunity to testify and have them spotlighted before the Senate subcommittee. Instead, Bolton decided to pass the buck to a subordinate and avoid the embarrassing heat of a Senate hearing that might only further tarnish his already shabby image.

Korea being Boltonized

John Bolton arrived in Seoul on Tuesday. While there, Bolton is meeting with senior South Korean officials to talk about North Korea's nuclear development program and efforts to prevent a deepening of the current crisis. After concerted effort from South Korea, Japan and Russia to break the deadlock, the North had softened to the possibility of talks with the U.S. and, specifically, had let it be known that it would not build a nuclear bomb. The U.S., for its part, has similarly inched away from its dogmatic refusal to budge, and is also expressing a willingness to negotiate. What the current situation requires is less Bolton and more contacts between North and South Korea as exemplified by the joint cabinet talks between the countries.

Enter John Bolton, whose earlier contributions to Korean diplomacy were, in his own words, "There is a saying, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. We are not going to be fooled twice." This level of sophisticated thinking aside, is John Bolton - a man with no compunction against fabricating outrageous claims and inflaming tensions with nations on President Bush's list of rogue authoritarian regimes - the kind of statesman ideally suited to deal with a paranoid authoritarian regime that may actually possess nuclear weapons and which views economic sanctions as an act of war?

Ever since his earlier days in the Reagan administration's Justice Department, Bolton has shown himself to be a shock-trooper for ultra-conservative causes. Bolton's extremist foreign policy positions puts him firmly in the camp of reactionary nationalistic ideologues, whose unyielding beliefs in the moral superiority of whatever U.S. policy is in place is unshakable. As a paid consultant to the government of Taiwan, he abused his position in advocating the recognition by the U.S. of that island as an independent nation, and also having been executive vice president of the American Enterprise Institute, Bolton is criss-crossed with a history of what is arguably conflicts of interest. As such, the chances of him conducting any sort of concessionary dialogue concerning the Korean crisis are far slimmer than the likelihood that he will promote an ill-advised extremist position accompanied by rhetoric to justify it. One can only hope that Secretary Powell, who is notorious for his hands-off approach on Latin American issues, will this time exert the necessary pressure to limit the damage done by Bolton as Washington's Korean policy-making proceeds to take form.

This analysis was prepared by Thomas Gorman, Research Associate, and Matthew Ward, Research Fellow at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. Issued Wednesday January 22, 2003

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, founded in 1975, is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and information organization. It has been described on the Senate floor as being "one of the nation's most respected bodies of scholars and policy makers." For more information, please see our web page at www.coha.org; or contact our Washington offices by phone (202) 216-9261, fax (202) 223-6035, or email coha@coha.org.


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