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Bolton and the Road to the War He Wants

Isn’t it obvious? A moronic president with no firm principles other than the preservation of his base’s support chose as his third national security advisor the notorious John Bolton. Bolton is using his position to try to guide the supposedly isolationist president into more wars of imperialist aggression. He is the Wormtongue in Trump’s court, allied not with Saruman and Mordor but Binyamin Netanyahu, Prince Mohammad bin Salman and the neocon cause for Middle East dominance. He presently tows the administration’s line in seeking peace with North Korea, but he has historically urged regime change in the DPRK. He was probably the one who at the last minute sabotaged the announcement of an already worked out agreement in Hanoi.

He has long been a proponent of regime change in Venezuela, and deliberately threatened to post 5000 U.S. troops in Colombia to “assist” Venezuelans (and distribute food to them, and help in the coup). The planned coup fizzled however, much to the disappointment of the corporate media that was expecting high drama last week. Trump reportedly felt he’d been misled to think the clown Guaido would be able to seize power. He may blame Bolton for that.

Bolton has been an advocate of regime change in Syria, too, for over two decades. He has lied before to produce pretexts for U.S. actions (or to justify Israeli ones) against the Syrian state. Most of all he has demanded the bombing of Iran, on the basis of the Big Lie that Iran has ever had anything other than a peaceful, civilian nuclear program (initially supported by General Electric under the Eisenhower “Atoms for Peace” program in the 1950s). Now he is chomping at the bit, thinking his moment has come.

Trump is besieged by investigations, embarrassing revelations about his rather pathetic business history, and fallout from the China trade war. Impeachment is a real possibility, if House hearings show criminality so obvious that Republicans will desert the president. (It is not as though all Republican Senators love him; they are simply too awed by his solid 35-40% to break with him publicly.) The president is no doubt distracted and troubled.

In this context a National Security Council meeting was held in which the acting secretary of “defense” Patrick Shanahan (and Bolton) laid out options for a war with Iran. No fewer than six people present contacted the press afterwards to leak this news, indicating shock that such was even being considered.

Then Bolton, in a highly unusual statement in his own name, and perhaps without even the knowledge of the moron-president, announced that the U.S. was sending an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf to respond to Iranian threats to U.S. troops and interests in the area. Even MSNBC and CNN are questioning the basis for the reported threats, which are obviously more Bolton bullshit.

Trump joked recently, “I’m actually the one who tempers John, isn’t that amazing?” implying that it was odd that
Bolton was even more bellicose and outrageous than himself. Hahahaha.

Imagine Bolton saying, “Look we can use those explosions on the UAE oil tankers in the Persian Gulf May 13 to blame Iran. Think about the U.S. Maine. You know? Oh you don’t? We used this accident on a U.S. navy ship in Havana Harbor in 1898 to blame it on Spain and go to war. Spain wasn’t responsible. But we got Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Philippines and Hawaii out of the deal.”

Trump perhaps laughs at this reminder (?) of U.S. history. He enjoys interacting with total warmongers. But he promised his base no more foreign wars. Morality has nothing to do with hesitation to send troops; when it comes to bombing and missile strikes Trump has shown his manhood in Afghanistan (dropping the monstrous MOAB bomb for the first time, just to show off what it could do) and Syria (striking some mothballed aircraft at a Syrian air force base in response to a bogus allegation of Syrian government sarin use). But he hesitates to deploy more troops abroad.

Yet suddenly (due to Bolton) we read of plans to dispatch 120,000 U.S. troops to the region around Iran if there’s some attack on U.S. forces. Or maybe, allied (Saudi, UAE) forces. Trump’s challenge to Iran, expressed in his childlike vocabulary, is both clear and totally unclear: “If they do anything they will suffer greatly.” Anything. Will there be war? “We’ll see.”

Bolton must have now gained enough insight into Trump’s malignant narcissistic personality that he knows what times and moods to exploit to pursue his own initiatives. Again, Trump may not even have been aware of Bolton’s announcement. But Secretary of State Pompeo would have known, and acting Secretary of War Shanahan (Boeing Aircraft executive with no military experience) would have known as he announced plans for a potential deployment of 120,000 troops.

The warmongers have swiftly risen in the administration, raising worries about war on Venezuela or Iran if not North Korea. Trump is mercurial, impulsive, impressionable, without compassion or conscience. At this point the equally evil Bolton is the worst Wormtongue to have at his side and in his ear.

*****

Breaking news: Trump tells the press that he is not planning to send 120,000 troops to the Persian Gulf. (This is after the British Foreign Minister strongly advised against the move.) He calls it fake news. But, he adds, if he sends troops it will be a lot more than 120,000!

Unless you read that Bolton is fired in the near future, be rationally anxious. He’s a despised, crazed monster, as any time Google-searching will convince you. And he serves a man without empathy, who admires outrageously brutal and foul-mouthed men. The combination is terrifying.

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Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: gleupp@tufts.edu

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