John Bolton’s New Internationalism

Whether John Bolton did or did not ‘swing’ with various extramarital bodies at the DC club, Plato’s Retreat, as porn publisher Larry Flynt claims, is largely irrelevant. As far as other foreign bodies go, however, screw everyone is pretty much Bolton’s philosophy. So, despite what Joe Biden thinks, Bolton at the U.N. will be no bumbling bull in a china shop. His abrasive rhetoric is not in the slightest bit unintended. It reflects with complete accuracy his own undemocratic attitude and that of his bosses – kiss-up and kick-down, says Senator Voinovitch (R-Ohio), who compares the way Bolton tears into low-level employees and other little people to an 800-pound gorilla devouring bananas.

His appointment on August 2 to the post of U.N. ambassador thus drives a gruesomely large nail into the metal container in which for the past several years, the Bushies have been gleefully interring the U.N and every other international body around. Hands, feet, and mouth duct-taped, the U.N. will in due course join all the other legal non-persons created by Bush’s contempt for the rule of law within the state and abroad. No wonder that the appointment itself flouted standard procedure and was hustled through while Congress was in recess, a first time for such an important appointment.

Despite what his supporters say, Bolton at the U.N. is also not doing Nixon in China. Nixon’s gambit grew at least partly out of a long overdue recognition of the importance of more than a billion people to world affairs. With this appointment, however, Bush is signalling as clearly as possible the very low esteem in which he holds the U.N. as it exists. A list of Bolton’s biggest backers reads like a blue-book of hard-core U.N. bashers: Wolfowitz, Rice, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and of course Bush himself.

Some idea of what is in store for the U.N. can be gleaned from Bolton’s jaw-breakingly titled opus on the subject, “The creation, fall, rise, and fall of the U.N,” which lays out the tenets of “U.N. Reform,” the mantra of Bolton-backers. (1) It’s not a pretty picture:

Bolton’s objective is a U.N. “responsive to the major contributors.” Contributions would be entirely voluntary and would be withdrawn if the U.N. didn’t do what the donors wanted. And what the major donors want, according to Bolton, is a mop-up operation trailing behind the juggernaut of empire not an “international quota system” engaged in “international social work.” Bolton would block any moves to curtail the U.S. veto or expand Security Council membership. And there’s more:

Quote: No troops from the five permanent members of the Security Council should be involved in peace-keeping. Quote: Even in traditional peacekeeping operations, forces under U.N. command should operate under the control of the Security Council, not under that of the Secretary-General. Quote: The U.N. should be used when and where we choose to use it to advance American national interests. Quote: The U.N. is only a tool.

Right. First world nations buy control of U.N. policies and third world nations contribute warm bodies to the dirty leg-work of empire.

But that doesn’t make Bolton an America Firster and nationalist hawk, as some claim. Instead, his confirmation actually marks another step in the poisonous mushrooming of a selective internationalism where duly constituted international bodies like the U.N. get shown the door while in the backroom foreign elites jostle for their appointed place in the pecking order of empire on the basis of their ability to contribute to the well-being of first-world elites, under a new international law of the jungle. Bolton’s appointment is a pay-off for years of dedicated work in the service of that elite internationalism:

As Undersecretary for Arms Control and International security, he worked hard to create legally binding bilateral agreements with some 70 countries (comprising 40% of the world’s population) that would prevent the surrender of American persons to the authority of the International Criminal Court. (2) Since U.S. military forces, civilian personnel, and private citizens are active in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions in almost 100 countries at any given time, Bolton claimed that the United States had to engage in a global campaign to protect U.S. nationals from the ICC’s authority. He listed an assortment of protected persons that included the media, contractors working with the military, students in government-sponsored programs, and business men abroad.

Put this laundry- list next to the expansion of domestic and foreign surveillance promised us by Secretary Rumsfeld and something clicks. Recall that in 2002 the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board (DSB) urged an increase in “human intelligence (HUMINT) forward/operational presence and… new clandestine technical capabilities.” (3) Translated from Pentagon-speak, that reads – we need more spies in foreign countries equipped with secret spy technology.” And from where would these new spies be drawn?

From a “robust, global cadre of retirees, reservists and others who are trained and qualified to serve on short notice, including expatriates.” Selected from among this group, a master spy agency, the Proactive Preemptive Operations Group (P2OG), would launch secret operations aimed at instigating terrorism as a pretext for attacks by US forces.

And that’s when Bolton’s new internationalism would assert itself. Bilateral agreements would ensure that U.S. nationals abroad could get away with any provocation to a country’s security or any violation of its law while simultaneously guaranteeing the same protection to foreign nationals here. And to underscore that it’s not Joe Q. Public or Ahmad Q. Ali whom the agreements are principally intended to protect, keep in mind that Bolton was one of those who vehemently opposed the international indictment of former dictator Augusto Pinochet for atrocities during seventeen years of misrule in Chile in which thousands were kidnapped, tortured and killed by his CIA-enabled regime. Bolton’s reasoning on this illustrates the new tolerant internationalist thinking – “Chilians made their choice, and have lived with it.” He was really only echoing the fine global thinking of his predecessor at the U.N., John Negroponte, now intelligence chief, once Ambassador to the Honduras, who abetted and concealed C.I.A. complicity in the Honduran military’s torture and murder of hundreds of their compatriots in the 1980s.

Of course, this solidarity with foreign elites is only non-interventionist when it’s the rights of ordinary folks at stake. When elite interests are at risk, Bolton is all for intervention. In May 2002, without a shred of evidence as it turned out but in concert with the demands of Cuban elites in Miami, Bolton charged that Cuba possessed offensive biological warfare research capacity, had provided such technology to other rogue states, and was threatening to “bring the U.S. to its knees.” However, the record showed that Bolton’s spurious quotes were actually recycled inventions by right-wing Cuban exiles. (4) According to Congressman Henry Waxman, Bolton was also the main backer of the now-discredited claim that Iraq wanted to to get uranium from Niger to build nuclear weapons.The claim played a pivotal role in launching the war on Iraq and was promoted with equal fervor by the expatriate Iraqi banking felon, Ahmad Chalabi as well as the rightist government of Ariel Sharon in Israel. (5) Again, no lack of international solidarity here.

In another case demonstrating just how much international rapport he has, the non-profit National Policy Forum which he headed from 1995-96 channeled $800,000 in foreign money into the 1996 election cycle after having also used the same mechanisms to fund congressional races around the country in 1994, according to a congressional investigation into foreign money and influence in the 1996 presidential campaign. At his confirmation hearing Bolton also acknowledged that he had received $30,000 from the Taiwanese government for writing a series of papers.(6)

Bolton’s views of international law or state sovereignty are thus not really pro-American or nationalist at all but pro-elite and fit well with his long-time membership in the conservative Federalist Society, nursery of a generation of pro-elite and pro-business lawyers in government, including Attorney General John Ashcroft, Intelligence Chief John Negroponte, Homeland Security Czar Michael Chertoff, Assistant Attorney General and torture memo scribe Viet Dinh, and Supreme Court Justices Thomas and Scalia as well as nominee, John Roberts. Founded by prominent Reagan administration conservatives in the 1980s and funded generously by pro-business foundations like Scaife and Koch, the Federalist Society has a far from secret agenda – to implement a 1979 proposal by scholar Michael Horowitz to roll back 50 years of work by the public-interest law movement to protect individuals. Whatever diversity of opinion may exist on some policies among some Federalists, there is little divergence on this central goal.(7)

So when Federalists support states rights or civil rights or even national sovereignty – as Bolton claims to in his incessant attacks on the U.N. – it’s only because disempowering the federal government, or the U.N. in his case, is just as important to their goal as empowering business. To put it bluntly, Federalist society libertarianism is driven mostly by market-fundamentalism, not a concern for the rights of individuals or nations. Consider what happened in Michigan in 2000. When moderates were in a 4-3 majority on the State Supreme Court the previous year, individuals won 22 out of 45 cases they brought against business. But the next year when five of the seven justices as well as Governor Engler were Federalist members, the Michigan Court decided against the individuals in 19 out of 20 cases. (8)

Even the sacred Republican cow of state’s rights gets slaughtered when elite interests are in question. Never forget that it was John Bolton who personally led the Bush-Cheney effort to block the Florida state recount long enough for the Supreme Court to intervene and who disrupted the Miami-Dade County vote with an unceremonious yell, “I’m here to stop the vote!” (9) Stopping the vote is precisely what Bolton is likely do in the U.N., using veto power, saber-rattling, and financial blackmail to subvert the will of the General Assembly and the rule of law in favor of international business elites.

When this gorilla arrives at the U.N., expect a lot of international banana eating.

LILA RAJIVA is a free-lance journalist and an instructor at Duquesne University. She is the author of “The Language of Empire,” Monthly Review Press, 2005 and is working on a second book on the American media. She can be reached at:

(1) John Bolton, “The creation, fall, rise, and fall of the U.N,” in “Delusions of Grandeur: The United Nations and Global Intervention,” edited by Ted Galen Carpenter, “Why We Shouldn’t Give the U.N. More Power,” Cato, 1997.

(2) John Bolton, Speech at the American Enterprise Institute, Washington D.C., November 3, 2003.

(3) “Summer Study on Special Operations and Joint Forces in Support of Countering Terrorism,” Power Point Presentation, DSB,
August 16, 2002.

(4) “Fidel Castro, Bio-terrorism, and the Elusive Quote,” Nelson Valdes, Counterpunch, May 28, 2002.

(5) “Bolton’s Big Secret,” Ari Berman, The Nation, March 21, 2005.

(6) “Bolton’s Baggage,” Tom Barry, International Relations Center, posted on Antiwar, March 15, 2005.

(7) “The Federalist Society: The Conservative Cabal That’s Transforming American Law,” Jerry Landes, The Washington Monthly, March, 2000.

(8) Ibid.

(9) “John Bolton vs. Democracy,” John Nichols, The Nation, April 14, 2005.