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Bolton Faces Fight For UN Post

by Jim Lobe

With Bolton At The UN, The Pentagon's Back In Control

(IPS) WASHINGTON -- While Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz now appears assured of a relatively smooth ride to the top of the World Bank, another controversial foreign-policy nominee of U.S. President George W. Bush, UN Ambassador-designate John Bolton, faces a far bumpier course in his bid for confirmation by the Senate.

Groups that have been organizing a grassroots campaign against Bolton's nomination say they believe that all eight Democratic members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which must approve Bolton he can be confirmed by the entire Senate, are now either lined up or leaning against him.

If only one of the 10 Republican members joins their ranks when the nomination comes to a Committee vote -- probably during the first week of April at the earliest -- the nomination could not go forward under normal Senate rules.

The groups, notably Citizens for Global Solutions (CGS) and the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) and their local affiliates, are going all out to persuade two key moderate Republicans, Sen. Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island and Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, to vote 'no' on the nomination.

The Committee chairman, Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, is also known to have expressed disappointment about the nomination, which was reportedly pushed hard by Vice President Dick Cheney after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice rejected Bolton as her deputy.

Because of his position as chairman, however, Lugar, who announced Friday that the confirmation hearing on Bolton will begin next Thursday, is considered unlikely to cast a 'no' vote.

"I think Bolton's in trouble," said Jim Cason, FCNL's communications director. "He's become the symbol for the most extreme unilateralist tendencies of the Bush administration, and we know that many moderate Republicans, as well as Democrats, have deep reservations about this nominee."

Unlike Wolfowitz, whose career-long internationalism (albeit of a U.S.-centric nature) have won him substantial support among liberals and appear to have persuaded Europeans not to block his selection, Bolton is widely seen as a gratuitous slap in the face of those who believe the United Nations has an important role to play on the world stage.

Bolton, who won confirmation as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security in 2001 by a narrow 57-43 vote, is best known as perhaps the most bellicose figure within the administration, as well as its most ardent proponent of unilateralism.

A right-wing Republican since he volunteered as a high school student in Barry Goldwater's unsuccessful presidential campaign in 1964, Bolton held senior positions in the Agency for International Development and the Justice Department under Ronald Reagan and then moved over to assistant secretary of state for international organizations under former President George H.W. Bush.

During the Clinton administration, Bolton worked in top positions in right-wing think tanks, notably the mainly ultra-conservative American Enterprise Institute.

In his role there, he launched repeated attacks on all manner of arms control treaties, advocated independence for Taiwan, and warned of the grave threats posed to U.S. sovereignty by the United Nations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that promoted treaties and conventions that might constrain Washington's freedom of action overseas or influence U.S. laws at home.

His worldview and style were particularly well-displayed during a 1994 debate with a senior UN official, Erskine Childers, that was captured on video and can be seen at the CGS website,

It is in that debate that Bolton asserted that, "There's no such thing as the United Nations," adding that "If the UN (secretariat) building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference.

The video clip, which is expected to be run in television ads broadcast in target states over the coming weeks during the confirmation process beginning next week, shows Bolton becoming nearly apoplectic while insisting that the UN can only be effective when it is serving the U.S. national interest.

Significantly, the video is also featured on the website of an anti-UN, pro-Bolton group, Move America Forward.

"There are a lot of people outraged by these clips," said Harpinder Athwal of CGS, which was formerly known as the World Federalist Association. "One thing that is very clear, however, is that supporters and opponents believe it shows real John Bolton. So the question is whether we want this guy representing U.S. national interests at the United Nations."

In a 1999 televized exchange with right-wing Fox News host Bill, Bolton argued against humanitarian interventions, such as in Rwanda, if they did not serve the U.S. national interest. O'Reilly, who is decidedly anti-liberal, suggested that as a superpower Washington may have a duty to intervene.

"I do not believe in standing by while people are slaughtered," O'Reilly told Bolton, who responded: "Our foreign policy should support American interests. Let the rest of the world support the rest of the world's interests."

As undersecretary of state, a position obtained for him by Cheney, Bolton brought with him lobbyists from the anti-gun control National Rifle Association to an international conference on small arms; single-handedly sabotaged a UN meeting to forge an international verification protocol designed to put teeth into a treaty on bio-weapons; and led the drive to withdraw from the 1973 Anti-Ballistics Missile treaty.

More recently, he has campaigned against the re-election of Mohamed ElBaradei as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

He has also spearheaded the administration's campaign against the International Criminal Court (ICC). Bolton even prevailed on his boss, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, to allow him to sign the formal notification to Kofi Annan that Washington was renouncing Clinton's signature on the treaty established the ICC.

He later told the Wall Street Journal that signing the letter was "the happiest moment of my government service."

Much of his tenure as undersecretary was taken up with controversy over his charges, sometimes voiced publicly, about alleged programs of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Cuba, Iraq, North Korea, Syria, elsewhere that were questioned by U.S. intelligence agencies, including the State Department's own highly regarded Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR).

At one point, the Bureau's briefing officer, Greg Thielmann, who was assigned to Bolton's office, was barred from attending his regular staff meetings.

"Bolton seemed to be troubled because INR was not telling him what he wanted to hear," Thielmann told The New Yorker magazine.

Powell frequently complained to his closest aides that Bolton was taking his orders from Cheney and the Pentagon hawks, deliberately undermining his own department's policy positions, particularly in the case of North Korea, whose leader Bolton repeatedly called a "dictator" and "tyrant" in a speech in Seoul just as Pyongyang had agreed to enter multilateral talks on its nuclear program with Washington.

"If confirmed, the U.S. will have put forth a face and a style to the international community that will fuel anti-Americanism," said Cason.

The administration insists that will not be the case at all and that, what with the Iraq oil-for-food dispute and the recent charges about sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers, Bolton will prove a needed tonic by demanding "accountability."

Officials insist that he will act in the tradition of previous UN ambassadors, particularly Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Jeane Kirkpatrick, who were unabashed about their criticisms of the world body.

But depicting Bolton as a purveyor of "tough love" toward Turtle Bay is a stretch, given his long record of contempt for the UN and his strongly held conviction that it must not act in ways that constrain Washington's freedom of action.

In addition to lobbying Chaffee and Hagel, Bolton foes, who also include a large number of bloggers, led by Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation (NAF), are also seeking to firm up Democratic ranks against the nominee.

Most concern is directed at Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson, a conservative Democrat, and Wisconsin Sen. Russell Feingold, who was one of a half a dozen Democrats who voted for Bolton's confirmation as undersecretary in 2001.

Lobbyists who have heard from their activists in those two states, however, believe that both Democrats will line up behind the ranking Democrat, Sen. Joseph Biden, in voting 'no,' leaving Bolton's -- and perhaps the UN's fate -- to the political and foreign-policy sensibilities of just one internationalist-minded Republican senator.

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Albion Monitor March 29, 2005 (

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