I have been on the phone for days talking to people who have been wronged by John Bolton for this or that. Bolton has a lot of enemies that he has built up over the years for hack jobs he did on them while at the Justice Department or in his many other roles.
I realize that there are nearly always two sides to a story, maybe even five or six, and I don’t know Bolton’s side — though I’m seriously thinking of calling him up and asking him to do an interview with me in which I’ll commit to a completely above-the-board discussion, fair and balanced — and give him an opportunity to respond to some of the concerns I and others have been raising.
This news on John Bolton’s “Stop ElBaradei” campaign (rings pretty close to the sound of the Stop Bolton campaign) is old and ran in January of this year. Nonetheless, this article by Dafna Linzer gives a feel of the lengths John Bolton will go to punish those who run afoul of him.
In his role as Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei questioned American intelligence on Iraq’s nuclear WMD programs, and subsequently questioned our intelligence on Iran’s programs.
You would think in most circumstances, the guy who had it right — in this case, ElBaradei, would get the rewards and applause. (In a way he did, because he beat Bolton and was reappointed to a third term) But Bolton decided that questioning the authority and veracity of American claims was just too much and the guy had to be “retired.”
Some excerpts from the article:
— No country was willing to turn against ElBaradei, who is admired within the agency for his willingness to challenge the administration’s assertions on Iraq and Iran. That same willingness has put ElBaradei deeply at odds with the White House and has became the driving factor in the administration’s efforts to replace him, officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic sensitivities involved. “It’s on hold right now,” said one U.S. policymaker who was involved in lobbying against ElBaradei. “Everyone turned us down, even the Brits.”
— Most allies have viewed the campaign as retaliation against someone who questioned U.S. intelligence on Iraq and is now moving cautiously on Iran.
— The U.S. effort, led by John R. Bolton, the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, included sifting through intercepts of ElBaradei’s phone calls in hopes of finding material to use against him. There have also been orchestrated leaks by unnamed U.S. or Western officials who have told reporters that Iran was secretly improving upon a weapons program and that ElBaradei was trying to hide that information from the IAEA board.
— The U.S. effort may collapse altogether, officials said, if Bolton leaves the State Department in coming weeks, as is expected. “He was the driving force behind the block-ElBaradei idea,” said one official.
Bolton’s single-minded effort to get ElBaradei expelled actually worked against U.S. interests.
I think that there may be a lot of sense in replacing someone in a position after he had already had two terms — but to do it in the form of punishment for skepticism of U.S. claims only succeeded in uniting both our friends and enemies against America’s position.
Tactically, Bolton blew it big time — and if this represents the way he will engage other key nations in the struggle over reform of the United Nations, I want someone who is going to help us win — not get the entire world lined up against us.
Empirically speaking, if someone’s diplomatic record produces dismal results that produce the opposite of what the Bush administration wanted, Bush really should consider sending someone more effective and less threatening to American interests.
— Steve Clemons