I am covering the John Bolton hearings from 216 Hart Senate Office Building.
Senator Lugar has just called the hearing to order and opened proceedings. So far, the Senators in attendance are Barbara Boxer, Richard Lugar, John Warner, George Allen, Chris Dodd, George Voinovich and Norm Coleman.
Joe Biden will be here shortly but is at the White House at a signing ceremony for the Voting Rights Act.
The most heartening item I have read this morning is a stunning reversal by the Washington Post that has essentially withdrawn its support from Bolton — and takes serious exception to George Voinovich’s reversal, which he declared in his own Washington Post op-ed.
My hunch is that neither Fred Hiatt nor Jackson Diehl wrote that Post editorial — and that it was written by Sebastian Mallaby, who has brought real balance and objectivity to his mostly conservative commentary.
I just received John Bolton’s prepared statement.
One paragraph that instantly jumped out at me dealt with the killing of innocents in Lebanon by Israeli forces.
. . .These are all important questions currently under discussion by the Secretary (Rice) in Rome and the Security Council. The question of Israel’s response has come up as well. Of course it is a matter of great concern to us, as President Bush has stressed, that civilian deaths are occurring. It is a tragedy, and I would not attempt to describe it any other way.
We have urged the government of Israel to exercise the greatest possible care in its use of force. But it is a mistake to ascribe a moral equivalence to civilians who die as the direct result of malicious terrorist attacks, the very purpose of which are to kill civilians, and the tragic and unfortunate consequence of civilian deaths as a result of military action taken in self-defense.
It is somewhat staggering to see this in print — not a misstatement. If John Bolton’s daughter was killed accidentally in Southern Lebanon like so many other innocents have, I wonder if his calloused view of this tragedy would remain as firm.
The killing of innocents on the scale we have seen in Southern Lebanon is not only tragic, it’s outrageous and sends a signal to the Muslim world that their lives “are worth less”.
Hezbollah committed a criminal, terrible act that had to be responded to — but Israel has now assured that it has many other families and peoples who fear it and have more desire for revenge than for peace.
Israel had choices in its options to defend itself — and had Israel acted more judiciously — I would be more sympathetic to Bolton’s views. But the present flamboyant display of power by Israel and the harm done to innocent people, including UN observers, is something that Israel and John Bolton should be far more contrite about.
Chris Dodd has led the charge for Democrats and just called John Bolton a bully. A bully that was effective would be something that Dodd could support — but he is outlining why and how John Bolton is an entirely ineffective bully. Very good statement overall.
Lincoln Chafee — whose support of John Bolton remains inexplicable — has just arrived.
— Steve Clemons