John R. Bolton

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John Robert Bolton, appointed August 1, 2005, as ambassador to the United Nations by President George W. Bush and was unable to "win" confirmation by the U.S. Senate, will "step down when his temporary appointment expires" in January 2007. [1]

In 2005, Bush "sidestepped" the Senate and "installed [the] embattled nominee ... ending a five-month impasse with Democrats who accused Bolton of abusing subordinates and twisting intelligence to fit his conservative ideology. 'This post is too important to leave vacant any longer, especially during a war and a vital debate about UN reform,' Bush said. He said Bolton had his complete confidence." [2]

"Mr. Bolton did not win the support of a majority of members of the Foreign Relations Committee, and the Senate refused to make a final decision on this nomination pending review of documents that the Administration declined to provide in blatant disregard for the Senate's constitutional rights and responsibilities." [3]

John R. Bolton: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations

Background on Nomination and Opposition

Bolton, who has served as the Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security (sworn in May 11, 2001), and "whose strong statements on North Korea's nuclear program irked the leaders in Pyongyang," was nominated March 7, 2005, by President Bush as U.S. ambassador to the UN to fill the vacancy created when John C. Danforth resigned on November 22, 2004. [4][5][6][7]

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told journalists that "The president and I have asked John to do this work because he knows how to get things done. He is a tough-minded diplomat." [8]

Indiana Republican Senator Richard Lugar scheduled hearings on Bolton's nomination for April 7, 2005. However, 59 former American diplomats sent Lugar a letter "urging the Senate to reject John R. Bolton's nomination to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations." The diplomats' criticism centered "primarily on Bolton's stand on issues as the State Department's senior arms control official," saying that Bolton had "an 'exceptional record' of opposing U.S. efforts to improve national security through arms control." AP, March 28, 2005.

Key statements of Bolton

Bolton is known for his strident criticisms of the United Nations, international treaties and in favour of the U.S. taking unilateral measures to pursue what it sees as in its national interest. The nomination of Bolton has "shocked diplomats at the United Nations." [9]

Bolton's confirmation will not be without controversy, however, as "Bolton, who has been a leading hawk against Iran and North Korea as the top arms control policies diplomat, has complained the United Nations does not take strong enough action against such nations. He also is a leading critic of international treaties." [10]

Some of Bolton's controversial statements include:

  • At a 1994 panel discussion sponsored by the World Federalist Association Bolton stated "There is no such thing as the United Nations". He added that "if the U.N. secretary building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference." [11]
  • "...treaties are law only for U.S. domestic purposes. In their international operation, treaties are simply political obligations". John Bolton, Wall Street Journal November 17, 1997.
  • Responding to moves by a lawyer seeking to indict the then President Clinton and Secretary of Defense William Sebastian Cohen for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Yugoslavia, Bolton said: "It is a big mistake for us to grant any validity to international law even when it may seem in our short-term interest to do so - because, over the long term, the goal of those who think that international law really means anything are those who want to constrict the United States. We ought to be concerned about this so-called right of humanitarian intervention - a right of intervention that is just a gleam in one beholder's eye but looks like flat-out aggression to somebody else. What we did was bomb innocent civilian Serbs into the ground in order that the Albanians can come back and ethnically cleanse the Serbs' relatives out of what's left of Kosovo." [12]
  • "United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has begun to assert that the U.N. Security Council is 'the sole source of legitimacy on the use of force.' If the United States allows that claim to go unchallenged, its discretion in using force to advance its national interests is likely to be inhibited in the future." [13]
  • In 2001 Jim Lobe reports Bolton told foreign delegations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) at the UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons that the US would reject any attempt to regulate the trade in firearms or non-military rifles as it would "abrogate the constitutional right to bear arms." (Jim Lobe, "Ultra-right State Dept. official clashes with Pyongyang", Inter Press Service, August 4, 2003).
  • Bolton suggested that "A sounder US policy [towards North Korea] would start by making it clear to the North that we are indifferent to whether we ever have 'normal' diplomatic relations with it, and that achieving that goal is entirely in their interests, not ours." [14]
  • Bolton said of the UN that "many Republicans in Congress - and perhaps a majority - not only do not care about losing the General Assembly vote but actually see it as a ‘make my day’ outcome. Indeed, once the vote is lost, and the adverse consequences predicted by the U.N.’s supporters begin to occur, this will simply provide further evidence to many why nothing more should be paid to the U.N. system." Christy, Think Progress, March 7, 2004.
  • In an interview in 2000 on National Public Radio, Mr. Bolton told Juan Williams that "If I were redoing the Security Council today, I'd have one permanent member because that's the real reflection of the distribution of power in the world."[15]


Bolton, born November 20, 1948, in Baltimore, is considered to be a neo-conservative. Bolton is one of the signers of the January 26, 1998, Project for the New American Century letter sent to President William Jefferson Clinton. [16]

"Before joining the current administration, John Bolton was Senior Vice President for Public Policy Research at the American Enterprise Institute." Bolton was a member of the Council on National Policy in 1988. [17][18]

"During the Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush administrations, he served in several positions within the Department of State, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Agency for International Development. He is the former executive director, Committee on Resolutions, Republican National Committee. [19]

Bolton served as Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs at the Department of State (1989-1993); Assistant Attorney General, Department of Justice (1985-1989); Assistant Administrator for Program and Policy Coordination, U.S. Agency for International Development (1982-1983); and General Counsel, U.S. Agency for International Development (1981-1982). [20][21]

Also an attorney, Bolton was an associate at the Washington office of Covington & Burling, where he returned as a member of the firm from 1983-1985. From 1993-1999, Bolton was a partner in the law firm of Lerner, Reed, Bolton & McManus. Bolton received both his undergraduate and law degrees from Yale University." [22][23]

What others say

Carl Ford, Jr.

At a Senate Foreign Relations hearing into the appointment of John Bolton, Carl Ford, Jr., former assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research, described Bolton as a 'kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy' who abused analysts who disagreed with him.[24]

Bolton Scandals

National Congressional Club

"As a young lawyer Bolton in 1978 Bolton helped Sen. Jesse Helms' National Congressional Club form Jefferson Marketing, Inc. 'as a vehicle to supply candidates with such services as advertising and direct mail without having to worry about the federal laws preventing PACs, like the Congressional Club, from contributing more than $5,000 per election to any one candidate's campaign committee' (Legal Times). He later defended the club against charges from the FEC that led to a $10,000 fine in 1986. As a reward for his service Sen. Helms 'helped the career of John Bolton' by supporting him for his Department of Justice and State positions (Legal Times)." [25]


"At the Justice Department, Bolton acted as the Department's 'no man' refusing to provide congressional committees documents on Supreme Court nominees William H. Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy. He also refused to provide information, including his personal notes regarding the Iran-Contra scandal, and aided congressional Republicans who attempted to stop investigations of Contra drug smuggling." [26]


"The Taiwangate affair--which involves a $100 million secret Taiwan government slush fund that financed intelligence, propaganda, and influence activities within the United States and elsewhere--seems to be in the latter category ['fizzle'] at the moment. The beneficiaries of the lack of attention include three prominent Bush appointees at the State Department who, before joining the Bush administration, received money from this account. And one of these officials, John Bolton, the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, submitted pro-Taiwan testimony to Congress in the 1990s without revealing he was a paid consultant to Taiwan. His work for Taiwan, it turns out, was financed by this slush fund." [27]

Abolition of International Law

Bolton was instrumental in undermining international law, undermining the International Criminal Court (ICC), abrogating key international treaties, and scuttling attempts to implement important international agreements. Law is "only domestic law"; the remainder for Bolton is an issue of unhindered US power.

Pushing the Iraq war

Bolton was one of the key cheerleaders for the US-led war in Iraq in 2003, and appeared often on CNN and Fox News making the case for the war.

Foreign travel

Bolton stated at a congressional hearing in October 2005 that it was important to travel beyond New York. Bolton said:

"Well, I think that’s why it’s so important to work not only in New York…but to work in capitals as well. It is the phenomenon that sitting up there at Turtle Bay, that you operate in a little bit of a bubble... So that’s why this effort, I think, really does require a lot of attention not just in New York. If we left it only in New York I think we’d have the bubble problem and trying to break through that bubble should be one of our main diplomatic efforts."

However, in June 2006 the United Nations Security Council reported that Bolton had not attended any of the four missions undertaken by the Council to foreign countries.[28]


Related SourceWatch Resources

External links

John R. Bolton: External Links: Articles & Commentary

John R. Bolton: External Links: Speeches & Commentary

John R. Bolton: External Links: Nomination to UN


Bolton Publications

  • 2000 Annual Report, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, accessed September 20, 2007.
  • Board, Diamond Offshore Drilling, accessed January 27, 2011.