Juan Cole / Informed Comment & Ian Williams and Helena Cobban / Just World Educational & Gareth Porter / The American Conservative & Democracy Now! – 2018-03-27 01:30:37
Let’s Call Bolton What He Is: He’s Not Just “Hawkish,”
He’s a War Criminal With Terrorist Ties
Juan Cole / Informed Comment
(March 26, 2018) — John Bolton helped lie our country into an illegal war of aggression that killed several hundred thousand Iraqis, wounded over a million, and displaced 4 million from their homes, helped deliver Baghdad into the hands of Iran, and helped create ISIL, which blew up Paris. In a just world, Bolton would be on trial at the Hague for war crimes. Instead, he has been promoted into a position to do to Iran what he did to Iraq.
He is also in the back pocket of the MEK Iranian terrorist organization, which despite its violent and smelly past has proved so useful to those plotting the apocalyptic destruction of Iran that the Washington elite decided to take it off the list of terrorist organizations in 2012.
The acceptable political spectrum inside the Beltway in Washington DC is a marvel to behold. Bernie Sanders, a long-serving senator and public servant won 13.2 million popular votes to 16.8 million votes for Hillary Clinton (i.e. he was backed by 43% of one of the two major parties in the country).
But Sanders was virtually blacked out from corporate television coverage during his impressive presidential bid, while Jeff Zucker turned CNN over to Trump every night at 7:30 pm throughout the summer and fall of 2016 and just let him talk, or whatever he does, for an hour without even a semblance of journalistic analysis. Supposedly left-leaning MSNBC did the same thing.
America’s corporations love the fascist side of the spectrum, which is obvious from the way they promoted Trump and Trumpism. Zucker also hired Cory Lewandowski, who was at the time contractually obligated to avoid criticizing Trump, as a CNN commentator. Fascism after all favors big corporations and vilifies and punishes workers and the poor. Under Mussolini, the Italian poor were plunged into much deeper poverty.
Television news also loves the maniacal side of the spectrum. You seldom see normal people as commentators on cable news, and much of the commentary is polarized and superficial and often simply incorrect on the facts of the matter. Sometimes it is even just a criminal conspiracy.
During the Iraq War, the NYT revealed that the Pentagon successfully pressed on CNN a gaggle of former generals, many of them actively making money off of the Iraq War through contracting while they were promoting it on television. They presented an Alice in Wonderland view of the brutal US occupation of that country as a shining success.
Tom Fenton, a career television journalist, once wrote a book suggesting that television news is so bad that it is actually a standing risk for US security, since an uninformed or misinformed public cannot play the democratic role of watchdog and is not being alerted to genuine threats.
Maybe the maniacs draw eyeballs and increase advertising dollars. Maybe Wall Street doesn’t see people as maniacs as long as they advocate giving billionaires more money.
The fascination with the far right wing and with the maniacal dovetails in the person of Bolton, now Trump’s National Security Adviser. Jesus said that if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch. The ditch in this case could well be a ruinous war with Iran.
In a sane society, people like Bolton wouldn’t be allowed on television, much less put in charge of American security.
Bolton has assiduously tried to do the same thing he did to Iraq to Iran. Big corporations like wars. Wars mean you have to manufacture more shiny children-murdering weapons and bombs, the ultimate in planned obsolescence. No war, and the factories fall silent and the money-counting stops.
People called “hawks” in Washington, a euphemism for “murderous maniacs,” often get supported one way or another by the arms industry. Sometimes it is direct and their bank accounts should be examined.
Iran has never had a nuclear weapons program, and as long as the nuclear deal holds, it has no opportunity to develop them. It has no heavy water reactor. It has a limited number of centrifuges. It destroyed its stockpile of uranium enriched to 19.5% for its medical reactor. It is being actively inspected. No country under active UN arms inspections has ever developed a bomb.
Bolton wants to bomb Iran so badly that he does not care about these facts. He wanted to bomb Iran himself if he could, sort of like Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove. If not he wanted to have the Israelis do it.
He has a list. He’d like to bomb nuclear-armed North Korea, too.
The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists that keeps that clock showing how many minutes the world is away from a nuclear midnight can put it away. With Bolton’s appointment, it is past midnight.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
John Bolton Is “A Paleocon; a Republican Dinosaur”
Ian Williams in discussion with Helena Cobban / Just World Educational
(March 24, 2018) — Ian Williams has twice served as President of the UN Correspondents’ Association. He has been covering the UN since 1989 for The Guardian and other outlets, is the author of a recent book on the United Nations titled UNtold: The Real Story of the United Nations in Peace and War (Just World Books, 2017).
Williams followed Bolton’s brief tenure at the UN in 2006 (and his previous performance as George W. Bush’s Under-Sec of State for Arms Control).
LISTEN: In a podcast discussion with Just World Educational president Helena Cobban, he commented, “Bolton has complete disregard for international agreements and international law . . . He’s a paleocon, a Republican dinosaur . . . he’s anti-China like the old anti-Beijing crowd in Washington.”
The Untold Story of John Bolton’s Campaign for War With Iran
Everyone knows Bolton is a hawk.
Less understood is how he labored
in secret to drive Washington and Tehran apart
Gareth Porter / The American Conservative
(March 22, 2018) — In my reporting on US-Israeli policy, I have tracked numerous episodes in which the United States and/or Israel made moves that seemed to indicate preparations for war against Iran. Each time — in 2007, in 2008, and again in 2011 — those moves, presented in corporate media as presaging attacks on Tehran, were actually bluffs aimed at putting pressure on the Iranian government.
But the strong likelihood that Donald Trump will now choose John Bolton as his next national security advisor creates a prospect of war with Iran that is very real.
Bolton is no ordinary neoconservative hawk. He has been obsessed for many years with going to war against the Islamic Republic, calling repeatedly for bombing Iran in his regular appearances on Fox News, without the slightest indication that he understands the consequences of such a policy.
His is not merely a rhetorical stance: Bolton actively conspired during his tenure as the Bush administration’s policymaker on Iran from 2002 through 2004 to establish the political conditions necessary for the administration to carry out military action.
More than anyone else inside or outside the Trump administration, Bolton has already influenced Trump to tear up the Iran nuclear deal.
Bolton parlayed his connection with the primary financier behind both Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump himself — the militantly Zionist casino magnate Sheldon Adelson — to get Trump’s ear last October, just as the president was preparing to announce his policy on the Iran nuclear agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). He spoke with Trump by phone from Las Vegas after meeting with Adelson.
It was Bolton who persuaded Trump to commit to specific language pledging to pull out of the JCPOA if Congress and America’s European allies did not go along with demands for major changes that were clearly calculated to ensure the deal would fall apart.
Although Bolton was passed over for the job of secretary of state, he now appears to have had the inside track for national security advisor. Trump met with Bolton on March 6 and told him, “We need you here, John,” according to a Bolton associate.
Bolton said he would only take secretary of state or national security advisor, whereupon Trump promised, “I’ll call you really soon.” Trump then replaced Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with former CIA director Mike Pompeo, after which White House sources leaked to the media Trump’s intention to replace H.R. McMaster within a matter of weeks.
The only other possible candidate for the position mentioned in media accounts is Keith Kellogg, a retired lieutenant general who was acting national security advisor after General Michael Flynn was ousted in February 2017.
Bolton’s high-profile advocacy of war with Iran is well known. What is not at all well known is that, when he was under secretary of state for arms control and international security, he executed a complex and devious strategy aimed at creating the justification for a US attack on Iran.
Bolton sought to convict the Islamic Republic in the court of international public opinion of having a covert nuclear weapons program using a combination of diplomatic pressure, crude propaganda, and fabricated evidence.
Despite the fact that Bolton was technically under the supervision of Secretary of State Colin Powell, his actual boss in devising and carrying out that strategy was Vice President Dick Cheney.
Bolton was also the administration’s main point of contact with the Israeli government, and with Cheney’s backing, he was able to flout normal State Department rules by taking a series of trips to Israel in 2003 and 2004 without having the required clearance from the State Department’s Bureau for Near Eastern Affairs.
Thus, at the very moment that Powell was saying administration policy was not to attack Iran, Bolton was working with the Israelis to lay the groundwork for just such a war. During a February 2003 visit, Bolton assured Israeli officials in private meetings that he had no doubt the United States would attack Iraq, and that after taking down Saddam, it would deal with Iran, too, as well as Syria.
During multiple trips to Israel, Bolton had unannounced meetings, including with the head of Mossad, Meir Dagan, without the usual reporting cable to the secretary of state and other relevant offices. Judging from that report on an early Bolton visit, those meetings clearly dealt with a joint strategy on how to bring about political conditions for an eventual US strike against Iran.
Mossad played a very aggressive role in influencing world opinion on the Iranian nuclear program. In the summer of 2003, according to journalists Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins in their book, The Nuclear Jihadist, Meir Dagan created a new Mossad office tasked with briefing the world’s press on alleged Iranian efforts to achieve a nuclear weapons capability. The new unit’s responsibilities included circulating documents from inside Iran as well from outside, according to Frantz and Collins.
Bolton’s role in a joint US-Israeli strategy, as he outlines in his own 2007 memoir, was to ensure that the Iran nuclear issue would be moved out of the International Atomic Energy Agency and into the United Nations Security Council. He was determined to prevent IAEA director general Mohamed El-Baradei from reaching an agreement with Iran that would make it more difficult for the Bush administration to demonize Tehran as posing a nuclear weapons threat.
Bolton began accusing Iran of having a covert nuclear weapons program in mid-2003, but encountered resistance not only from ElBaradei and non-aligned states, but from Britain, France, and Germany as well.
Bolton’s strategy was based on the claim that Iran was hiding its military nuclear program from the IAEA, and in early 2004, he came up with a dramatic propaganda ploy: he sent a set of satellite images to the IAEA showing sites at the Iranian military reservation at Parchin that he claimed were being used for tests to simulate nuclear weapons.
Bolton demanded that the IAEA request access to inspect those sites and leaked his demand to the Associated Press in September 2004. In fact, the satellite images showed nothing more than bunkers and buildings for conventional explosives testing.
Bolton was apparently hoping the Iranian military would not agree to any IAEA inspections based on such bogus claims, thus playing into his propaganda theme of Iran’s “intransigence” in refusing to answer questions about its nuclear program. But in 2005 Iran allowed the inspectors into those sites and even let them choose several more sites to inspect. The inspectors found no evidence of any nuclear-related activities.
The US-Israeli strategy would later hit the jackpot, however, when a large cache of documents supposedly from a covert source within Iran’s nuclear weapons program surfaced in autumn 2004. The documents, allegedly found on the laptop computer of one of the participants, included technical drawings of a series of efforts to redesign Iran’s Shahab-3 missile to carry what appeared to be a nuclear weapon.
But the whole story of the so-called “laptop documents” was a fabrication. In 2013, a former senior German official revealed the true story to this writer: the documents had been given to German intelligence by the Mujahedin E Khalq, the anti-Iran armed group that was well known to have been used by Mossad to “launder” information the Israelis did not want attributed to themselves.
Furthermore, the drawings showing the redesign that were cited as proof of a nuclear weapons program were clearly done by someone who didn’t know that Iran had already abandoned the Shahab-3’s nose cone for an entirely different design.
Mossad had clearly been working on those documents in 2003 and 2004 when Bolton was meeting with Meir Dagan. Whether Bolton knew the Israelis were preparing fake documents or not, it was the Israeli contribution towards establishing the political basis for an American attack on Iran for which he was the point man.
Bolton reveals in his memoirs that this Cheney-directed strategy took its cues from the Israelis, who told Bolton that the Iranians were getting close to “the point of no return.” That was point, Bolton wrote, at which “we could not stop their progress without using force.”
Cheney and Bolton based their war strategy on the premise that the US military would be able to consolidate control over Iraq quickly. Instead the US occupation bogged down and never fully recovered.
Cheney proposed taking advantage of a high-casualty event in Iraq that could be blamed on Iran to attack an IRGC base in Iran in the summer of 2007. But the risk that pro-Iranian Shiite militias in Iraq would retaliate against US troops was a key argument against the proposal.
The Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs of Staff were also well aware that Iran had the capability to retaliate directly against US forces in the region, including against warships in the Strait of Hormuz. They had no patience for Cheney’s wild ideas about more war.
That Pentagon caution remains unchanged. But two minds in the White House unhinged from reality could challenge that wariness — and push the United States closer towards a dangerous war with Iran.
Gareth Porter is an investigative reporter and regular contributor to TAC. He is also the author of Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare (Just World Books, 2014). Follow him on Twitter @GarethPorter.
Trump’s Most Alarming Foreign Policy Move Yet? Warmonger John Bolton Named
National Security Adviser
(March 23, 2018) — President Trump has tapped John Bolton to become his next national security adviser, replacing H.R. McMaster. Bolton is known for his ultra-hawkish views. He has openly backed war against Iran and North Korea, and was a prominent supporter of the US invasion of Iraq.
Just three weeks ago, Bolton wrote an article for The Wall Street Journal titled “The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First.” In 2015, while the Obama administration was negotiating the Iran nuclear deal, Bolton wrote a piece titled “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran.”
We speak to longtime investigative reporter Gareth Porter. His new piece for The American Conservative is titled “The Untold Story of John Bolton’s Campaign for War with Iran.”
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: In the latest White House shake-up, General H.R. McMaster is resigning as national security adviser. President Trump has tapped John Bolton to replace him. Bolton is known for his ultra-hawkish views. He has openly backed war against Iran and North Korea, and was a prominent supporter of the US invasion of Iraq, to this day.
Just three weeks ago, Bolton wrote an article for The Wall Street Journal headlined “The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First.” In 2015, while the Obama administration was negotiating the Iran nuclear deal, Bolton wrote a piece headlined “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran.”
Bolton will take over the position on April 9th and will not need to be confirmed by the Senate. Under President George W. Bush, Bolton served as US ambassador to the United Nations. He was given a recess appointment, after Bush feared he would not be confirmed by the Senate. For decades, John Bolton has been one of the most vocal critics of the United Nations.
JOHN BOLTON: The point that I want to leave with you, in this very brief presentation, is where I started, is there is no United Nations. There is an international community that occasionally can be led by the only real power left in the world, and that’s the United States, when it suits our interest and when we can get others to go along . . . . The Secretariat Building in New York has 38 stories. If you lost 10 stories today, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.
AMY GOODMAN: John Bolton has also been a leading critic of the International Criminal Court. Human rights groups have condemned the selection of Bolton. Zeke Johnson of Amnesty International said, quote, “This is a reckless decision. Bolton’s influence over national security policy could result in even more civilian deaths and potentially unlawful killings given his disdain for international law and international institutions.”
Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council also criticized the selection of Bolton. He said, quote, “Bolton now represents the greatest threat to the United States. This is a dangerous time for our country and a slap in the face even to Trump’s supporters who thought he would break from waging disastrous foreign wars and military occupations.”
One longtime supporter of Bolton has been right-wing billionaire Robert Mercer. Jane Mayer of The New Yorker reports Mercer has donated $5 million to Bolton’s super PAC since 2013 and is Bolton’s biggest donor.
We go now to Washington, D.C., where we’re joined by longtime investigative reporter Gareth Porter. His new piece for The American Conservative is headlined “The Untold Story of John Bolton’s Campaign for War with Iran.”
Gareth Porter, welcome to Democracy Now! When you heard the news yesterday, though it has been rumored for months, what were your thoughts?
GARETH PORTER: Well, I thought that it was very probable that John Bolton was going to become the next national security adviser for the Trump administration, but I wasn’t expecting it this soon. So, it was, in fact, a bit of a surprise in terms of the timing.
But it’s really been a matter of some weeks now that there have been rumors that — not rumors, but reports based on leaks from the White House, that McMaster was going to be replaced and that Bolton was clearly the leading candidate. So, that’s why I wrote that piece, in anticipation of the likelihood that this was going to happen.
AMY GOODMAN: So, what are your major concerns?
GARETH PORTER: Well, I think everyone knows, by now, that John Bolton has been, in fact, a very vocal advocate of the — of war with Iran, as well as with North Korea. I mean, he has, for years, been appearing on Fox News regularly. And I haven’t counted them, but there must be dozens of times that he has publicly called for the United States to attack Iran militarily.
No one else in American life has done anything even remotely similar to what John Bolton has done in terms of advocating war with Iran. He’s not the only one, but he’s done it more consistently. And since he left the Bush administration in 2005, basically, he has been — or, rather, 2007, I guess it was, he has been the leading advocate of war with Iran.
So, for President Trump to make him his national security adviser, clearly, is the most alarming thing that has happened in terms of US foreign policy under this administration thus far.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to John Bolton speaking on Fox News in 2015.
GRETCHEN CARLSON: Ambassador, you’ve written an op-ed today in The New York TimesJOHN BOLTON: Well, the negotiations, whether they lead to an agreement or not, are not going to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. They are so far advanced now, the concessions they’ve made are so trivial and easily reversible, that the deal actually legitimizes Iran’s existing nuclear program.
So, my conclusion is not a happy one, but given that if Iran gets nuclear weapons, so will Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and maybe others, that just as Israel twice before has struck nuclear weapons programs in the hands of hostile states, I am afraid, given the circumstances, that’s the only real option open to us now.
AMY GOODMAN: Your response, Gareth Porter?
GARETH PORTER: Well, John Bolton actually began to make that argument as early as 2003, 2004, when he was the point man for Vice President Dick Cheney in the Bush administration for policy toward Iran, and the leading — I mean, the key point of contact with the Israeli government on this question. And during that time, 2003, 2004, Bolton was consciously maneuvering to get the United States in a position where it could exercise the option of an attack on Iran.
And what he did was to basically make sure that the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, could not or would not make an agreement, have an agreement, with Iran that would resolve the issue of whether Iran had a nuclear weapons program.
He was so afraid that Mohamed El-Baradei, the head of IAEA, would do that, that he consciously maneuvered to try to move the file from the IAEA — the file on Iran — from the IAEA to the UN Security Council, where he believed the United States would be able to then, essentially, accuse Iran of having a nuclear weapons program, and have the option available to use military force. And in his memoirs, he’s very candid about the fact that he did do that and that the purpose was to basically give that option a real chance of being carried out.
And he said that he was doing so because the Israelis were telling him that Iran was very close to what they called the point of no return, which meant that at that point the United States would not be able to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon without using force.
And, of course, as I have documented in my book Manufactured Crisis, that whole story about Iran having a nuclear weapons program was really a falsified account, which the Israelis planted with the international community. And Bolton, maybe, maybe not, was aware of that, of that Israeli plot, but he worked with the Israelis very closely to try to bring about a situation where the Iranians would be accused of having a nuclear weapons program. That’s for sure.
AMY GOODMAN: To this day, John Bolton says the invasion of Iraq was the right thing to do. He doesn’t have to be approved by the Senate right now. He didn’t have to be approved by the Senate to become UN [sic] ambassador to the United Nations, not because you don’t — the US ambassador to the United Nations, not because you don’t have to, but because Bush understood he might not get approved, so he made a recess appointment.
So, his support for the invasion of Iraq went right through today, but it was back in 2003. Just three weeks ago, this Wall Street Journal piece he wrote, “The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First.” This is three weeks ago, in February. Can you talk about his views on North Korea? And as NSA, as national security adviser, what power does he actually have? What is the significance of his position so close to President Trump?
GARETH PORTER: Well, first of all, with regard to his Wall Street Journal piece, it is really quite astonishing. The kind of argument that he made was, essentially, claiming to give a legal argument for bombing North — a first strike against North Korea. But what he did, in fact, was simply to say, “The North Koreans are getting the capability to strike the United States with nuclear weapons. That means that the United States must strike first.”
It was simply a sort of psychological argument, rather than a legal argument or even an argument that took into account the fundamental notion of deterrence. He never used the word “deterrence” in the entire article. It was as though that concept doesn’t exist. So, that sort of gives you an insight into the mentality that John Bolton will bring to this job.
With regard to what he could do as national security adviser, obviously, he will have the ear of Donald Trump more than anyone else in the administration at this point. And despite the fact that Donald Trump has committed himself to a summit meeting with Kim Jong-un in May, you know, we have to anticipate that there are bumps in the road in the future that will give John Bolton the opportunity to try to convince him to move not just away from that agreement with the North Koreans, but towards the kind of unilateral first-strike policy that Bolton has championed in the past.
AMY GOODMAN: We just have a minute, but I wanted to ask you two questions: What is the Gatestone Institute that he chairs, and also, his super PAC, the major funder of it being the ultra-right billionaire funder Robert Mercer?
GARETH PORTER: Well, the Gatestone Institute is one of the many think tanks that have an extreme right-wing, anti-Islamic, pro-war, obviously, very aggressive foreign policy orientation. And basically, it’s not just — I want to add that it’s not just Mercer who has been very close to Bolton or who Bolton has been close to.
It’s also Sheldon Adelson, who has been Donald Trump’s main funder during the 2016 presidential election. And it’s no accident that it was in Las Vegas, meeting with Adelson, that — from which Bolton called the White House last October and convinced Trump to basically take the position that he would withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, unless the US allies and Congress agreed to changes which obviously were deal killers.
AMY GOODMAN: And the super PAC. Time magazine says, “President Donald Trump’s pick for his new national security advisor has ties to Cambridge Analytica, the voter-profiling firm currently facing criticism for its use of improperly obtained Facebook data.
A super PAC run by former UN Ambassador John Bolton has paid Cambridge Analytica more than $1.1 million since 2014 for research.” That’s according to the Center for Public Integrity review of campaign finance records. We’ll end with that, Gareth Porter.
Gareth, I want to thank you for being with us, investigative journalist. His new piece for The American Conservative, which we’ll link to, “The Untold Story of John Bolton’s Campaign for War with Iran.” Gareth Porter is also the author of Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.
The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.