Words of Mass Destruction.
President Bush’s appointment of John Bolton to the UN has indeed created a disasterous relationship with the organization, as many predicted. Bush ignored the Senate in order to confirm Bolton perhaps because someone (Cheney and Rumsfeld) believed that the only way to right (what they saw as) the wrongs of Colin Powell would be to appoint a fire-breathing loyalist to the post.
Poetic phrasing aside, the fact today is that Bolton has pissed off the UN to the point where they are talking about ending ties with the US.
Did you realize that the US was voted off the Human Rights Commission early in Colin Powell’s term? It wasn’t widely discussed, but in fact it was a major blow to a country that wants to ensure it does not get judged “unfairly” by an international representative body. According to the BBC, “the US – which had been a member of the commission since its foundation in 1947 – lost its place May 2001 after criticism of its rejection of some key global treaties”. On the other hand, many on the radical right have wanted to reform (terminate) the US relationship with the UN so perhaps this was a calculated move…the radicals certainly will not see any resistance from fellow-radical Kristen Silverberg, the Assistant Secretary of International Organizations and Bolton’s supervisor.
Kristin who? Yes, my thoughts exactly. I find it to be yet another sign of a spoils system in effect that the person Bolton takes his orders from was
one of the wide-eyed conservatives who trekked to Austin in 2000 to get the George W. Bush for President train rolling. The former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was in the White House policy shop in the pre-9/11 days helping to dream up a health care plan, big tax cuts and “compassionate conservative” policies.
In 2003, she shipped out to Baghdad to advise L. Paul Bremer on the creation of an elected Iraqi government. Then it was back to the White House to help develop Bush’s second-term agenda. She went to work for Andrew H. Card Jr. and Karl Rove, the president’s two most powerful aides, on domestic, economic and foreign affairs.
Surprised? She’s loyal, bright, and not qualified. It is so scary that a legal clerk to Thomas and someone affiliated with Bremer’s totally self-defeating and counter-productive Iraq plans would end up somehow with responsibility over critical US foreign relations, but I digress. Maybe I’ll do an expose another day…
Bush’s administration set Bolton to the task of getting the US back in control of the Human Rights Commission, and in true bull-in-a-chinashop Texan style, that has been a mission of nothing less than ultimatums and bad relations:
“In addition to management reform, the question of reform of the fundamentally broken UN machinery on human rights remains a very high priority for us,” [Bolton] testified.
The United States has argued that the current UN Human Rights Commission is beyond repair, and needs to be replaced by a new Human Rights Council that is open, “legitimate” and effective and will not have in its membership gross violators of human rights.
“Our objective is to try to finish work on the Human Rights Council before the end of ,” he said.
Bolton’s fire-brand methods have created so much backlash that the only thing he seems to have achieved is more international resistance and resentment to the US. His real objective, thus, appears to be as disruptive to the UN as possible and to destroy what’s left of US credibility. Cheney and Rumsfeld at work again. In this matter, Powell and Rice seem to have been the odd ones out, probably because they know what it takes to make national security real. Rice was wise to say no when she was asked to hire Bolton for deputy secretary of state, but she probably did not realize where else he might land. After all, as USA Today once reported, “Powell is said to have accepted Bolton on the theory that he could control him and that Bolton would serve as insurance against right-wingers elsewhere in the administration. Instead, Bolton has reinforced their views.”
Again, for perspective, this is exactly what everyone expected from Bolton, a man who keeps a mock grenade in his office, labeled “To John Bolton — World’s Greatest Reaganite“. Perhaps an editorial called “Disaster, Not Diplomacy” put it best in the Washinton Post:
The literal facts did not in the least give Bolton pause. Weapons of mass destruction would be found, he insisted. Where? When? How come they had not yet been discovered? The questions were insistent, but they were coming, please remember, from Italians, whose government was one of the few in the world to actively support the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Bolton bristled. I have never seen such a performance by an American diplomat. He was dismissive. He was angry. He clearly thought the questioners had no right, no standing, no justification and no earthly reason to question the United States of America. The Bush administration had said that Iraq was lousy with WMD and Iraq therefore was lousy with WMD. Just you wait.
This kind of ferocious certainty is commendable in pit bulls and other fighting animals, but it is something of a problem in a diplomat. We now have been told, though, that Bolton’s Italian aria was not unique and that the anger I sensed in the man has been felt by others. (I went over to speak to him afterward, but he was such a mass of scowling anger that I beat a retreat.)
The rap against Bolton’s nomination as U.N. ambassador is that he has maximum contempt for that organization. He once went so far as to flatly declare that “there is no United Nations,” just an international community that occasionally “can be led by the only real power left in the world — and that’s the United States.”
The Wikipedia, for what it’s worth, also points out that Powell and Bolton are about as far apart in international security policy as you can find:
In 2002, Bolton is said to have flown to Europe to demand the resignation of Jose Bustani, head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and to have orchestrated his removal at a special session of the organization. The United Nations’ highest administrative tribunal later condemned the action as an “unacceptable violation” of principles protecting international civil servants. Bustani had been unanimously re-elected for a four-year termâ€”with strong U.S. supportâ€”in May 2000, and in 2001 was praised for his leadership by Colin Powell.
And in case you’re wondering why Bolton was sent to topple Bustani, some suggest it was simply because the Brazilian diplomat spoke out against the US receiving special treatment at the UN:
Bustani says he has little faith in the future of multilateralism, especially since Washington has rejected both the Kyoto Protocol on global climate change and the Biological Weapons Convention, and has “unsigned” the pact creating an International Criminal Court.
“It’s obvious that the present [US] administration is not prepared to accept rules that bind America and limit its freedom of action, for the sake of world stability,” Bustani says. “Washington’s refusal to join in such efforts only undermines commitments by other countries to foster common values.”
An infamous letter to the UK press painted an even starker picture:
By encouraging Saddam Hussein to sign the chemical weapons convention, Jose Bustani appears to have become an obstacle to the American intention to engage in military action in Iraq. If the US succeeds, it will be a victory for unilateralism and a blow to international law.
Obstacle to war and critical of the US position against international treaties, Bustani must have had a target on his back the size of Baltimore in the eyes of Bolton…so, finally, we have to wonder about a diplomat who provides this kind of violent disagreement with anyone who stands in his way:
Bolton, referring to the US promise that the [OPCW] directorship would pass to another Latin American, complains that â€œLatin Americans are so characterized by sheer incompetence that they wonâ€™t be able to make up their minds.â€? He tells the staff that â€œif any of this gets out of this room, Iâ€™ll kill the person responsible.â€?
Sorry for the long post. Perhaps I just should have said Bolton is to diplomacy what the Bush administration is to security.