Bob Kuttner has a powerful op-ed this morning in the Boston Globe on President Bush’s nominations of John Bolton and Paul Wolfowitz.
There is one super-zinger paragraph on Bolton that deserves special notice:
Bolton was among the most ferocious in promoting the fake story that Iraq had sought to buy nuclear material in Niger, long after intelligence agencies had discredited it, and he sought to mislead allies on a false report that North Korea has supplied nuclear materials to Libya. Bolton will also face questions for his role a decade ago in a foreign money-laundering scheme when he headed a think tank that lost its tax status as a Republican Party front.
Kuttner hits three important points on Bolton that move beyond question about Bolton’s views of the UN and other multilateral institutions. Kuttner asks about Bolton’s role pushing the Niger story inside the State Department — and EVERYONE I speak to tells me to dig further into this. I have been told — but have no hard evidence — that there was an internal investigation at State specifically focused on Bolton’s role in the UN/Niger story.
Frankly, I can’t tell whether the Waxman letter we have previously discussed and which mentions the report of an Inspector General is the same investigation of Bolton or not. Any intel on that from readers would be helpful. What I have heard from several insiders, however, is that State Department’s Intelligence and Research Division (INR) was furious with Bolton’s efforts to undermine its take on the Niger/Uranium matter inside the State Department.
Secondly, Kuttner raises something I have seen no one yet mention in the press. Recently, news came to light that America had lied to its allies in Asia about North Korean nuclear materials exports. In order to put pressure on our allies in the Six-Party Talks, American authorities told allies that North Korea had exported nuclear materials to Libya when in fact North Korea had exported these materials to Pakistan, an American ally.
North Korea’s exports to Pakistan have been a known matter — but the Libya connection was entirely new and would have shown that North Korea was helping to create yet another rogue nuclear state.
Lying to allies, particularly Japan and South Korea, is reprehensible — as it seriously undermines trust when needed in future serious contingencies.
Some are privately asking whether Bolton and his office had any role in this deception — and I do not know whether they did or not. It seems to me that other branches of America’s intelligence operations and the National Security Council could have managed this duplicitous fiasco without Bolton — but the question must and should be asked.
To be responsible though, I think Bolton critics should realize that this is new ground in the Bolton campaign — and more evidence and information is needed before jumping to conclusions.
Thirdly, Kuttner hits Bolton on his role in a 501c3 non-profit think tank that apparently went way over the line when it came to robust partisan activities and foreign funding that some have alleged found its way into federal elections.
This to me sounds like an investigation that Russell Feingold’s staff really ought to get into.
Kuttner has lots to say on Wolfowitz too — but just wanted to note that the questions about Bolton are gaining ground and that a nomination that many thought would be semi-controversial but go through easily is in “real play” now.
More to do.
— Steve Clemons