John Bolton; From warmongering to advocating terrorism (part 2)

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In the Bush Administration

In the aftermath of the 2000 presidential election, Bolton worked in collaboration with his former boss James Baker to block recount efforts in Florida. According to the Wall Street Journal, after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a halt to the recount, Bolton entered a venue where the count was still taking place and declared: “I'm with the Bush-Cheney team, and I'm here to stop the count.” This marked Bolton's entrée into the administration of George W. Bush. At the time, Vice President-elect Dick Cheney commented: “People ask what [job] John should get. My answer is, anything he wants.”[44]

As undersecretary of state representing the administration in various international fora, Bolton gained a reputation as an arrogant and hawkish unilateralist willing to redefine U.S. positions in the global arena, diplomatic consequences notwithstanding. In an exemplary display of what the Wall Street Journal described as his “combative style,” Bolton warned an international conference on bio-weapons that a hotly disputed verification proposal, widely supported by arms control experts, was “Dead, dead, dead, and I don't want it coming back from the dead.”[45]

Among Bolton’s more notable actions during this period was withdrawing the United States from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. This bilateral treaty with the Soviet Union was the bedrock of efforts to reduce nuclear brinksmanship, but Bolton dismissed it as a relic that impeded the development of a U.S. national missile defense system. Also significant was Bolton’s effort to block progress on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, viewed as a cornerstone of the global nonproliferation regime.[46] Bolton was also given the task of officially rescinding the U.S. signature on the treaty that established the International Criminal Court, which he later called “the happiest moment in my government service.”[47]

Bolton was a key proponent within the Bush administration of taking military action against the so-called "Axis of Evil," or countries identified by the Bush administration as "rogue state" rivals of the United States. Two months before the Iraq invasion, Bolton met with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to discuss strategies for “preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction," focusing on the Bush administration's disarmament targets following the planned invasion of Iraq. Shortly after the visit, Bolton said once regime change in Iraq is complete, “It will be necessary to deal with threats from Syria, Iran, and North Korea.”[48]

Speaking before an audience at the Heritage Foundation in May 2002, Bolton argued that Cuba should also be included among the “axis of evil” countries because of its alleged development of bio-warfare capacity. Cuba is world-renowned for its biomedical industry, but Bolton claimed that the industry was concealing a WMD project. Providing no evidence, he insisted that Cuba was involved in the sales of illicit bio-warfare technology as a way to boost its cash-short economy. Other administration officials declined to support Bolton's accusations.[49] A congressional investigation of Cuba's alleged WMD program found no evidence supporting Bolton's assertions.[50]

Bolton was also one of the administration's leading hawks on Asia policy and one if its strongest advocates of Taiwan. According to a 2001 Washington Post investigation, Bolton had been on the payroll of the Taiwanese government before joining the Bush administration.[51] Bolton also 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.[52] “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,” wrote Bolton in a 1999 Weekly Standard article. “The notion that China would actually respond with force is a fantasy.”[53]

Bolton's penchant for intemperate statements often compromised his work as a diplomat. In July 2003, during the run-up to the six-party talks with North Korea, Bolton characterized North Korean 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 had to send a replacement for Bolton to the talks.[54]

After Condoleezza Rice became U.S. secretary of state at the outset of Bush’s second term, Bolton expressed an interest in becoming deputy secretary of state. However, Rice selected Bolton as ambassador to the UN, “thus appointing to this unique post the U.S. official most publicly contemptuous of the world organization,” wrote Brian Urquhart.[55]

Bolton served as UN ambassador from August 2005—when President Bush gave him a recess appointment after the Senate blocked his nomination—to January 2007. His resignation, announced in December 2006, came at the end of a controversial tenure marked by severe criticism from U.S. senators and international diplomats. His resignation also came less than three weeks after President Bush resubmitted Bolton's nomination for Senate confirmation—the second time in six months.

During his first confirmation hearings, Bolton's record as undersecretary of state came under intense criticism, particularly regarding his contacts with Israel. According to The Forward and other news sources, Bolton had met with officials of Israel’s intelligence agency, the Mossad, without first seeking “country clearance” from the State Department.[56]

There was enormous domestic and international opposition to Bolton’s nomination. In late July 2006, the New York Times reported deep scorn for Bolton among UN ambassadors. According to the Times, “[M]any diplomats say they see Mr. Bolton as a stand-in for the arrogance of the administration itself.” Rather than furthering his stated mission of UN reform, according to the Times, “envoys say he has in fact endangered that effort by alienating traditional allies. They say he combatively asserts American leadership, contests procedures at the mannerly, rules-bound United Nations, and then shrugs off the organization when it does not follow his lead.” One unnamed UN ambassador “with close ties” to the administration said: “He's lost me as an ally now, and that's what many other ambassadors who consider themselves friends of the United States are saying.”[57]

One of Bolton’s more controversial acts as ambassador came in 2005, when he sabotaged efforts to complete a joint UN declaration in connection with the organization’s 60th anniversary. According to Brian Urquhart, “UN delegations, including the United States and the Secretariat, had for the previous six months been working on this document, which originally contained a fairly ambitious mixture of global objectives and UN reform proposals. Bolton's seven hundred or so amendments, designed, he believed, to increase the influence and reflect the interests of the United States, caused considerable confusion and resentment and reopened many disagreements that had previously been resolved. Among other things, he insisted that there be no mention of the Millennium Development Goals to eradicate global poverty, which the US had supported in 2000. (Condoleezza Rice overruled Bolton on this at the last minute.) Bolton also insisted on the elimination of any mention of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the ICC, and global warming."[58]

In accepting Bolton's resignation in December 2006, Bush blamed a “handful” of senators who were determined to block a full Senate vote on the nomination.[59] Bolton himself asserted that his resignation was not about his policies or performance, but about “whether I was a nice person, thereby inviting every person in government whom I had ever defeated in a policy battle, of whom there were many, to turn the issue into one of personal disparagement.”[60]



Bolton has been closely associated, both in and out of government, with a number of political and financial controversies.

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 Meese’s deputies regarding their role in the affair.[61]

In 1978, as an associate at the high-powered Covington law firm, Bolton worked with Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) 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.[62]

In 1987, the National Congressional Club reported a debt of $900,000. Its major creditors were 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 PAC despite its failure to pay. Jefferson Marketing was the Congressional Club’s largest creditor, with more than $676,000 owed. By the end of the decade, FEC documents showed that Helms' PAC owed Covington $111,000. But this was not considered a major concern for Covington, according to firm spokesman H. Edward Dunkelberger Jr.[63]

A decade later, Bolton was again entangled in controversial schemes to support Republican candidates, this time involving money channeled from Hong Kong and Taiwan via a “think tank” linked to the Republican National Committee (RNC). In 1995-1996 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.[64]

The NPF had been established in 1993 in anticipation of the 1994 general election. Founded by then-RNC chair Haley Barbour, the forum was organized as a nonprofit, tax-exempt education institute, although the IRS later ruled that as a subsidiary of the RNC, NPF was not entitled to tax-exempt status. A 1996 congressional investigation brought to light the role of the NPF, which reportedly channeled $800,000 in foreign money into the 1996 election cycle—after having used similar tactics to fund congressional races in 1994.[65]

When Bolton became NPF president in 1995, the forum began organizing “megaconferences” with a fundraising hook. These events 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 requests. “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.”[66]

In another NPF memo, two NPF employees told Bolton that, in return for a $200,000 donation by U.S. West, the telecommunications company should be assured its top policy issues would be incorporated into the agenda for NPF’s upcoming telecommunications “megaconference.”[67]

Bolton left his position at the NPF 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.[68]

Relationship with the MeK

for the last several years Bolton has been a vocal cheerleader of the terrorist group Mujahideen-e Khalq and its political organization. He has been consistently misrepresenting a totalitarian cult as a “democratic” Iranian opposition group.

According to The Christian Science Monitor, Bolton along with Patrick Kennedy, Rudy Giuliani and Michael Steele have all received handsome speaking fees in the past from MEK-affiliated organizations. They were among a gaggle of former U.S. officials who lobbied the U.S. hard in recent years to take the MEK off the State Department terrorist list. The lobbying effort bore fruit last year when the State Department did just that, despite the MEK’s past involvement in violent attacks. [69]

On June 23, 2012, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and the then Mitt Romney adviser John Bolton was among several prominent former U.S. officials, politicians and commentators who appeared at a rally in Paris in support of the MEK, which was classified by the U.S. as a “foreign terrorist organization.” That was at least the third rally that year Bolton has appeared alongside the MEK’s leadership [70].

On January 25, 2011, Bolton drew a standing ovation at a Brussels conference in support of the MEK, giving a speech in which he "backed MEK’s legitimacy, and the notion of removing it from the list of terrorist organizations." [71] Georgetown law professor David D. Cole has pointed out that "the United States government has labeled the Mujahedeen Khalq a 'foreign terrorist organization,' making it a crime to provide it, directly or indirectly, with any material support [including] engag[ing] in public advocacy to challenge a group’s 'terrorist' designation," under the Supreme Court's 2010 decision in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project. [72]

According to the Department of State, “During the 1970s the MEK staged terrorist attacks inside Iran and killed several US military personnel and civilians working on defense projects in Tehran. Supported the takeover in 1979 of the US Embassy in Tehran. In April 1992 conducted attacks on Iranian embassies in 13 different countries, demonstrating the group's ability to mount large-scale operations overseas.” [73] MEK has also been accused of committing atrocities against Iraqi and Kurdish civilians while the group was allied with Saddam Hussein, and some Iranians refer to the organization’s leader, Masoud Rajavi, as “the Pol Pot of Iran.” [74]


[44] Quoted by James Traub, The Best of Intentions: Kofi Anna and the UN in the Era of American World Power (Macmillan, 2007),

[45] Cited in Sidney Blumenthal, “The Empire Strikes Back,” Salon, March 10, 2005,

[46] Brian Urquhart, “One Angry Man,” New York Review of Books, March 6, 2008,

[47] “John Bolton: The Iron Hand in the State Department's Velvet Glove,”, July 19, 2002.

[48] Ian Williams, “John Bolton in Jerusalem: The New Age of Disarmament Wars,” Foreign Policy In Focus, February 20, 2003,

[49] David Ignatius, “Bolton's Biggest Problem,” Washington Post, April 22, 2005,

[50] Jim Lobe, “North Korea Won't Recognize State Dep't. Ideologue,” Inter Press Service, August 4, 2003,

[51] Walter Pincus, “Taiwan Paid State Nominee For Papers on U.N. Reentry; Bolton's Objectivity On China Is Questioned,”Washington Post, April 9, 2001.

[52] David Corn, “Bush Gives the UN the Finger,” The Nation, March 7, 2005,

[53] John Bolton, “Time for a Two-China Policy,” Weekly Standard, August 9, 1999,

[54] Associated Press, “North Korea Bans Bolton from Talks,” Washington Times, August 3, 2003,

[55] Brian Urquhart, “One Angry Man,” New York Review of Books, March 6, 2008,

[56] Pri Nir, “Senate Probes Bolton's Pro-Israel Efforts,” Forward, May 6, 2005,

[57] Warren Hoge, “Praise at Home for Envoy, But Scorn at the UN,” New York Times, July 23, 2006,

[58] Brian Urquhart, “One Angry Man,” New York Review of Books, March 6, 2008,

[59] USA Today, "Bolton resigns as U.N. ambassador,” December 4, 2006,

[60] Cited in Brian Urquhart, “One Angry Man,” New York Review of Books, March 6, 2008, .

[61] Jim Lobe, “North Korea Won't Recognize State Dep't. Ideologue,” Inter Press Service, August 4, 2003,

[62] Charles Babington, “Helms PAC's Debt to Covington Lingers,” Legal Times, February 19, 1990.

[63] Charles Babington, “Helms PAC's Debt to Covington Lingers,” Legal Times, February 19, 1990.

[64] Final Report of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, “Investigation of Illegal or Improper Activities in Connection with 1996 Federal Election Campaigns,” March 10, 1998, available at:

[65] Final Report of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, “Investigation of Illegal or Improper Activities in Connection with 1996 Federal Election Campaigns,” March 10, 1998, available at:

[66] Final Report of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, “Investigation of Illegal or Improper Activities in Connection with 1996 Federal Election Campaigns,” March 10, 1998, available at:

[67] Final Report of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, “Investigation of Illegal or Improper Activities in Connection with 1996 Federal Election Campaigns,” March 10, 1998, available at:

[68] Final Report of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, “Investigation of Illegal or Improper Activities in Connection with 1996 Federal Election Campaigns,” March 10, 1998, available at:



[71] Miller, John (2011-01-25) Iranian Dissidents Lobby Brussels, Wall Street Journal

[72]   Cole, David (2011-01-02) Chewing Gum for Terrorists, New York Times

[73]   US Department of States, Chapter 6. Foreign Terrorist Organizations, OFFICE OF THE COORDINATOR FOR COUNTERTERRORISM, Country Reports on Terrorism 2011, Report, July 31, 2012

[74]   The BBC television program on the Communist MEK; Paul Sheldon Foote, 19/01/2007