I thought it was over in September 2019, when Donald Trump and his third national security adviser, the execrable John Bolton, got into a “You’re Fired/I Quit!” fight on the front page of all the papers. “Maybe he’s really gone now,” I thought wistfully of Bolton, the war-humping neoconservative ghoul who has haunted U.S. foreign policy in one form or another since the Reagan administration, lo these 40 long years.
No such luck. Now he has a book poised for release that is allegedly filled with all the scurrilous details on the Ukraine debacle that he should have shared under oath before Rep. Adam Schiff’s impeachment hearings. He didn’t, Trump was acquitted, and now the president has filed suit to upend Bolton’s publication party.
Of course, Trump is proceeding in perfect Trumpian style. Block the book’s release outright? Nah, go for the loot instead. “The lawsuit filed on Tuesday gestured at blocking publication, but it seemed more squarely focused on seizing Mr. Bolton’s profits,” reports The New York Times. “Filed against Mr. Bolton — not Simon & Schuster — it asked for the court to take control of the money he made from the book.”
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As I said: Perfect.
Trump brought Bolton on in the first place for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was to show Fox News that he was a foreign policy tough guy. Bolton has made a career out of promoting the killing of people in wars and other profitable enterprises — though he did avoid his own opportunity to see war first-hand in Vietnam (a conflict he of course supported) because he “had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy.”
The friction began almost immediately, though for a time it seemed Bolton would get the war with Iran he has yearned for since before the Iran-Contra scandal, another lethal endeavor with his fingerprints on it. Soon enough, however, it became clear to Bolton that Trump was unwilling to turn Tehran and Pyongyang into smoldering craters. The falling out between them was as inevitable as the tide, and Bolton took his notoriously copious notes and retreated into (alas) temporary obscurity.
Bolton, like male pattern baldness, is incredibly difficult to be rid of. He didn’t have an active hand in the foreign policy of the Obama administration, but he was there all the same. His Project for a New American Century (PNAC) agenda, fully adopted by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, turned the smoldering kindling of the Middle East into a pillar of fire that rained soot on Obama from the day he took office to the day he left. Bolton wasn’t there, but yeah, he was there, and the dead piled up like cordwood.
Before Obama, there was Bush and WMD in Iraq, and Bolton’s tireless efforts to manipulate and obfuscate the weapons data so he could get the region-wide war he and his PNAC buddies had always wanted. It was in this context that perhaps the most notorious Bolton story, until recently unreported in English, unfolded.
In his charge toward war in Iraq, Bolton sought to clear the field of those who could credibly dispute his baseless WMD claims. One such was José Bustani, a Brazilian diplomat who was head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), a 145-nation body dedicated to thwarting the acquisition and spread of such deadly weapons. Bustani was widely respected, and had just been unanimously re-elected to his post when Bolton came calling.
Bustani was not buying what the Bush administration was peddling on Iraq, so Bolton arrived at OPCW headquarters in the Hague in March 2002 with a pointed message. According to a detailed report by The Intercept, Bolton told Bustani, “Cheney wants you out. We can’t accept your management style. You have 24 hours to leave the organization, and if you don’t comply with this decision by Washington, we have ways to retaliate against you. We know where your kids live. You have two sons in New York.”
So, yeah, let’s all line up to buy a book written by that guy. Few thought anyone would come along to give the rampant bloodlust of Henry Kissinger a run for its money, but here we are. In the U.S., war criminals write books, go on television and never see the inside of a courtroom. Bolton continues the vicious tradition.
In April of 2005, former State Department intelligence chief Carl Ford told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Bolton was “a quintessential kiss-up, kick-down kind of guy. He’s got a bigger kick, and it gets bigger and stronger the further down the bureaucracy he’s kicking. And he stands out. I don’t have any other example to give you of someone who acts this way.”
That about sums it up. Now, Bolton wants to kick Trump while he’s down, and Trump is kicking back by trying to grab Bolton’s money. Two of the worst people ever to foul the skin of the Earth are at each other’s throats, and all I want for Christmas is a meteor to make it stop.
There is a line credited to Sun Tzu that reads, “If you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by.”
I’m still waiting.