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John Bolton Clashes With Trump as He Exits Administration

John R. Bolton speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.
U.S. National Security Advisor John R. Bolton speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Whether John Bolton was fired or he resigned is unclear, but one thing is for sure, Trump’s hawkish advisor is out.

President Trump fired his hawkish National Security Advisor John Bolton on Tuesday, tweeting, “I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House.”

“I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration, and therefore I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning. I thank John very much for his service. I will be naming a new National Security Advisor next week,” Trump continued on.

Bolton and Trump Clash Over Dismissal

Bolton contradicted the president’s narrative, swiftly telling media outlets that he had made the decision to resign.

“Let’s be clear, I resigned, having offered to do so last night,” Bolton said in a text to The Washington Post. “I will have my say in due course. But I have given you the facts on the resignation. My sole concern is U.S. national security.”

Analysts saw Bolton as among the driving forces escalating tensions with Iran throughout the summer. The Washington Post writes that his fraying relationship with Secretary of State Pompeo, who believed Bolton’s rigidity and aggression was dangerous, contributed to his ouster.

Bolton was opposed to repeated meetings with North Korea and direct meetings with Iran. Bolton also pushed against Afghanistan peace negotiations with the Taliban, an arena he appeared to have recent success in through Trump’s controversial withdrawal of negotiations with the group on Saturday.

Bolton marks the latest in a long succession of ousted Trump cabinet appointments. He was the president’s third national security adviser after Michael Flynn and H.R. McMaster.

Bolton served as undersecretary of arms control and as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under George W. Bush and was one of the most strident advocates of the 2003 Iraq invasion.

John Bolton’s Departure Cheered

Anti-war advocates celebrated the departure of Bolton, likely the most hawkish member of Trump’s entire cabinet.

“John Bolton threatened International Criminal Court judges and prosecutors for investigating the United States’ war crimes in Afghanistan,” said ACLU Human Rights Project director Jamil Dakwar. “He celebrated when victims of torture were denied the opportunity to hold their torturers accountable. He abdicated on our country’s responsibility to its international human rights commitments. None of this was apparently disagreeable enough to the president.”

Libertarian Senator Rand Paul praised the decision:

“I think fundamentally President Trump and Bolton have different worldviews,” Sen. Paul told reporters. “I don’t know exactly what precipitated [his leaving], but the president deserves people around him who will carry out his policies … I for one think the chances of war go down greatly with John Bolton leaving the administration. The president deserves someone who understands his America first policy.”

Meanwhile, hawkish Senator Lindsey Graham expressed some regret at Bolton’s departure, praising Bolton as “always pursuing an agenda that not only helps the President but makes America safe.”

“I hope the president will choose someone with a strong background in national security and a world view that there is no substitute for American power when it comes to world order and that strength is better than weakness,” said Graham.

Bolton’s Controversial Record

Last year, the Intercept’s Mehdi Hasan profiled Bolton and interviewed José Bustani, the former Brazilian diplomat who was working as head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) before the Iraq War, and was threatened by Bolton for challenging the Bush administration’s rational for invading Iraq.

“He came to my office, and he said, ‘Cheney wants you out. You have 24 hours to leave the organization, and if you don’t comply with the decision by Washington, we have ways to retaliate against you,'” Bustani told Hasan. After the Brazilian diplomat protested, Bolton allegedly said “You have to be ready to face the consequences, because we know where your kids live.”

Although Bustani would be vindicated in his conviction that Iraq had no WMDs, the Brazilian government agreed to oust the diplomat at the time to avoid the wrath of the Bush administration.

Hasan also interviewed Thomas Countryman, a state department veteran who worked with Bolton, who described the ousted national security adviser as abusive to his staff, hateful of any form of international agreement, and willing to withhold information from his bosses in order to push his pro-war agenda. Countryman argues Bolton has had a severely negative influence on US relations with Iraq, Iran, North Korea and Russia.

Hasan views Bolton as a “chickenhawk,” someone who loves to send others to war but would never fight in one himself. In his Yale University 25th reunion book, Bolton explained why he avoided the war in Vietnam: “I confess, I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy. I considered the war in Vietnam already lost.”

Critics speculated that mainstream media outlets like MSNBC and CNN will quickly welcome Bolton despite his record of vehement warmongering so long as he criticizes Trump.

“Four words,” tweeted Daily Beast editor Noah Shachtman. “MSNBC contributor John Bolton.”

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Peter Castagno

Peter Castagno is a freelance writer with a Master’s degree in International Conflict Resolution. He has traveled throughout the Middle East and Latin America to gain firsthand insight in some of the world’s most troubled areas, and he plans on publishing his first book in 2019.

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1 Comment

  1. Larry N Stout September 10, 2019

    Long overdue. Good riddance.

    Reply

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