John R. Bolton

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John R. Bolton
John R. Bolton

John Robert Bolton, (born November 20, 1948, in Baltimore, Maryland) is an American political figure and diplomat. He is the current U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

Bolton was nominated by President George W. Bush to become the Ambassador to the UN on March 7, 2005. His nomination had been the subject of a prolonged filibuster in the United States Senate by Democrats.

On August 1, 2005, President Bush used a recess appointment to install Bolton as Ambassador to the UN. This recess appointment will last until a new Congress convenes in January 2007.



Bolton was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and raised as Lutheran. He attended McDonogh School in Owings Mills, Maryland, graduating in 1966. Bolton then attended Yale University, from where he received a B.A. in 1970 and a J.D. in 1974. Bolton was a supporter of the Vietnam War, enlisting in the National Guard (and wearing his uniform in a 1970 Yale guide book picture [1]). Bolton did not serve in Vietnam, writing in his Yale 25th reunion book "I confess I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy. I considered the war in Vietnam already lost," [2]but at his graduation in 1970, while other "student speakers compared the United States to pre-Nazi Germany" Bolton "sounded a contrarian theme." [3]

From 1983 to 1985, Bolton was an associate at the Washington office of Covington & Burling (he returned to the firm again from 1993 to 1999). Bolton was also a partner in the law firm of Lerner, Reed, Bolton & McManus. [4][5]

Between 1997 and 2000, Bolton served pro bono as an assistant to James Baker in Baker's capacity as Kofi Annan's personal envoy to the Western Sahara [6]. Before joining the George W. Bush administration, John Bolton was Senior Vice President for Public Policy Research at the American Enterprise Institute.

During the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations, he served in several positions within the State Department, the Justice Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). He is the former executive director of the Committee on Resolutions in the Republican National Committee.[7]

Bolton served as

He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (2001), [10] and was a member of the Council on National Policy in 1988.[11][12]

Under the administrations of G.W. Bush, Bolton has been the Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security (since May 11, 2001) and nominated as US Ambassador to the UN (March 7, 2005).

Bolton has been a prominent participant in many neoconservative lobbying groups such as the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), and the Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf (CPSG).

Undersecretary of State for Arms Control

Stop! The neutrality of this section is disputed.

Bolton has served as the Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security since being sworn in on May 11, 2001. In this role a key area of responsibility was the prevention of proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Bolton also led the Bush administration's opposition [13] on constitutional grounds [14]to the International Criminal Court, placing heavy pressure on many countries to sign agreements with the US to exempt Americans from any possible prosecution by the Court; around 70 have signed such agreements so far.

Weapons of mass destruction

Bolton was instrumental in derailing a 2001 bio-weapons conference in Geneva convened to endorse a UN proposal to enforce the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. "U.S. officials, led by Bolton, argued that the plan would have put U.S. national security at risk by allowing spot inspections of suspected U.S. weapons sites," [15] despite the fact that the US claims not to have carried out any research for offensive purposes since 1969. The US's failure to support the plan ensured it would be meaningless, and to this day there is no practical enforcement mechanism against the spread of biological weapons.

Also in 2002, Bolton is said to have flown to Europe to demand the resignation of Jose Bustani, head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and to have orchestrated his removal at a special session of the organization. The United Nations' highest administrative tribunal later condemned the action as an "unacceptable violation" of principles protecting international civil servants. Bustani had been unanimously re-elected for a four-year term—with strong US support—in May 2000, and in 2001 was praised for his leadership by Colin Powell. [16]

He also pushed for reduced funding for the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program to halt the proliferation of nuclear materials [17].


According to an article in The New Republic he has been highly successful in pushing his agenda, but his bluntness has won him many enemies. "Iran's Foreign Ministry has called Bolton 'rude' and 'undiplomatic'".[18] In response to critics, Bolton states that his record "demonstrates clear support for effective multilateral diplomacy." Bush administration officials have stated that his past statements would allow him to negotiate from a powerful position; "It's like the Palestinians having to negotiate with [Israeli Prime Minister] Ariel Sharon. If you have a deal, you know you have a deal," an anonymous official told CNN. [19] He also "won widespread praise for his work establishing the Proliferation Security Initiative [20], a voluntary agreement supported by 60 countries" [21]

He was part of the State Department's delegation to six-party talks on the North Korean nuclear program in 2003. He was removed from the delegation after describing Kim Jong-il as a "tyrannical dictator" of a country where for many, "life is a hellish nightmare." [22] In response, a North Korean spokeman said "such human scum and bloodsucker is not entitled to take part in the talks." [23] American Democrats argued that Bolton's words at the time were undiplomatic and endangered the talks. Critics argue that Bolton's record of allegedly politicizing intelligence will harm U.S. credibility with the United Nations[24]which has many current problems. [25] [26]President Bush wants the organization reformed and said he wants John Bolton because he "can get the job done at the United Nations." [27]

Use of intelligence

Bolton appears to have tried to spin intelligence to support his views and political objectives on a number of occasions. Greg Thielmann, of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), was assigned as the daily intelligence liaison to Bolton. Thielmann stated to Seymour Hersh that, "Bolton seemed troubled because INR was not telling him what he wanted to hear ... I was intercepted at the door of his office and told, 'The Undersecretary doesn't need you to attend this meeting anymore.'" According to current and former coworkers, Bolton withheld information that ran counter to his goals from Secretary of State Colin Powell on multiple occasions, and from Powell's successor Condoleezza Rice on at least one occasion. [28] Frederick Fleitz, from the CIA, was loaned to Bolton's office to assist in intelligence matters.

In 2002 Bolton accused Cuba of transfers of biological weapons technology to rogue states and called on it "to fully comply with all of its obligations under the Biological Weapons Convention." [29] According to a Scripps Howard News Service article, Bolton "wanted to say that Cuba had a biological weapons capacity and that it was exporting it to other nations. The intelligence analysts seemed to want to limit the assessment to a declaration that Cuba 'could' develop such weapons." [30] Bolton attempted to have the chief bioweapons analyst in the State Department's bureau of intelligence and research and the CIA's national intelligence officer for Latin America reassigned. Under oath at his Senate hearings for confirmation as Ambassador, he denied trying to have the men fired, but seven intelligence officials contradicted him. [31] Ultimately, "intelligence officials refused to allow Bolton to make the harsh criticism of Cuba he sought to deliver," [32] and were able to keep their positions. Bolton claims that the issue was procedural rather than related to the content of his speech, and that the officers behaved unprofessionally, but neither official worked under him.

Bolton is alleged by Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman to have played a role in encouraging the inclusion of claims that Iraq attempted to procure yellowcake uranium from Niger in President Bush's 2003 State of the Union Address[33](pdf). These claims were based on documents later found to be forged [34]. Waxman's allegations are difficult to confirm as they are based on documents that have not been cleared for public release[35](pdf).

Bolton was also wrong in June 2004 congressional testimony in claiming that Iran was lying about enriched uranium contamination: "Another unmistakable indicator of Iran's intentions is the pattern of repeatedly lying to ... the IAEA, ... when evidence of uranium enriched to 36 percent was found, it attributed this to contamination from imported centrifuge parts." The IAEA later determined from detailed isotope analysis that the uranium contamination was indeed from imported contaminated Pakistani equipment [36].

Nominee for Ambassador to the UN

On March 7, 2005 Bolton was nominated to the post of US Ambassador to the United Nations by President George W. Bush, but he was never confirmed by the Senate. Bolton's nomination initially received strong support from Republicans but faced heavy opposition from Democrats due initially to concerns about his strongly expressed views on the United Nations, and later, alleged actions while at the State Department.

Holding a 10-8 majority in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (tasked with vetting ambassadorial nominees), the Republican leadership hoped to send Mr. Bolton's nomination to the full Senate with a positive recommendation. Concern among some Republicans on the committee however prompted the leadership to not risk losing such a motion and to instead send the nomination forward with no recommendation. In the full Senate, Republican support for the nomination remained uncertain, with the most vocal Republican critic, Ohio Senator George V. Voinovich, circulating a letter urging his Republican colleagues to oppose the nomination [37]. Democrats insisted that a vote on the nomination was premature, given the resistance of the White House to share classified documents related to Bolton's alleged actions. The Republican leadership moved on two occasions to end debate, but because 60 votes are needed to end debate, they were unable to muster the necessary votes with only a 55-44 majority in the body. (An earlier agreement between moderates in both parties to prevent filibustering of nominees related only to judicial nominees, not ambassadorships.)

View of the United Nations

Bolton has been a strong critic of the United Nations for much of his political career. In a 1994 Global Structures Convocation hosted by the World Federalist Association (now Citizens for Global Solutions), he stated, "There is no such thing as the United Nations. There is only the international community, which can only be led by the only remaining superpower, which is the United States."[38] He also stated that "The Secretariat building in New York has 38 stories. If it lost ten stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference." [39] Interestingly enough, both Bolton's opponents and supporters use the same video of his remarks at the 1994 event in support of their efforts.

When pressed on the statement during the confirmation process, he responded "There's not a bureaucracy in the world that couldn't be made leaner." [40]Despite these comments, in a paper on US participation in the UN, John Bolton stated "the United Nations can be a useful instrument in the conduct of American foreign policy" [41]

A member of the Project for the New American Century, Bolton was also one of the signers of the January 26, 1998 PNAC Letter sent to President Clinton urging him to remove Saddam Hussein from power using US diplomatic, political and military power. The letter also stated "American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council." [42]

Senate confirmation hearing

Day 1

On April 11, 2005, The Senate Foreign Relations Committee reviewed Bolton's qualifications. Bolton said that he and his colleagues "view the U.N. as an important component of our diplomacy" and will work to solve its problems and enhance its strengths.

Republican committee chairman Richard Lugar of Indiana criticized Bolton for ignoring the "policy consequences" of his statements, threatening diplomacy "simply to score international debating points to appeal to segments of the U.S. public opinion or to validate a personal point of view." The committee's top Democrat, Joe Biden of Delaware compared sending Bolton to the UN to sending a "bull into a china shop," and expressed "grave concern" about Bolton's "diplomatic temperament" and his record: "In my judgment," Biden said, "your judgment about how to deal with the emerging threats have not been particularly useful."

Meanwhile, the Republican George Allen of Virginia said that Bolton had the "experience," "knowledge," "background," "and the right principles to come into the United Nations at this time," calling him "the absolute perfect person for the job."

Russ Feingold, a Democrat on the committee from Wisconsin, asked Bolton about what he would have done had the Rwandan genocide occurred while he was ambassador to the United Nations, and criticized his answer – which focused on logistics – as "amazingly passive."

According to Newsday, Lincoln Chafee a Republican from Rhode Island "may be pivotal for Bolton's nomination."[43] His initial remarks were cautiously favorable: "You said all the right things in your opening statement," he said. Chafee has stated that he will probably support Bolton "unless something surprising shows up."

According to an Associated Press story on the hearing, "[t]hree protesters briefly interrupted the proceedings, standing up in succession with pink T-shirts and banners, one reading: 'Diplomat for hire. No bully please.'"

On the whole, Bolton "displayed not the slightest bit of energy, one way or the other, when discussing the challenges facing international organizations," according to Fred Kaplan of Slate Magazine.[44]

Day 2

On April 12, 2005, the Senate panel focused on allegations discussed above that Bolton pressured intelligence analysts. "I've never seen anybody quite like Secretary Bolton. ... I don't have a second, third or fourth in terms of the way that he abuses his power and authority with little people," former State Department intelligence chief Carl W. Ford Jr., said, calling Bolton a "serial abuser." Ford contradicted Bolton's earlier testimony, saying: "I had been asked for the first time to fire an intelligence analyst for what he had said and done."

Lugar, who criticized Bolton at his April 11 hearing, said that the "paramount issue" was supporting the president's nominee. He conceded that "[b]luntness may be required," even though it is not "very good diplomacy."

Chafee, the key member for Bolton's approval, said that "the bar is very high" for rejecting the president's nominees, suggesting that Bolton would make it to the Senate.

Erosion of Republican support

On April 19, Democrats, with the unexpected support of Senator George V. Voinovich, Republican of Ohio, forced Senator Lugar to delay the committee vote on Mr. Bolton's nomination until May. The debate concerning his nomination raged in the Senate prior to the Memorial Day recess. Two other Republicans on the Foreign Relations Committee, Senators Lincoln Chafee and Chuck Hagel, also expressed serious concerns about the Bolton nomination.

Asked on April 20 if he was now less inclined to support the nomination, Mr. Chafee said, "That would be accurate." He further elaborated that Mr. Bolton's prospects were "hard to predict" but said he expected that "the administration is really going to put some pressure on Senator Voinovich. Then it comes to the rest of us that have had some reservations."

On April 22 the New York Times and other media reported that Bolton's former boss, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, is personally opposed to the nomination and had been in personal contact with Republican Senators Chafee and Hagel. This development was interpreted as a further rift between Powell and the Bush Administration. Reuters reported, also on April 22, that a spokesman for Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said that the Senator felt the committee "did the right thing delaying the vote on Bolton in light of the recent information presented to the committee." [45]

On 28 April The Guardian reported that Powell was "conducting a campaign" against Bolton because of the acrimonious battles they had had whilst working together, which among other things had resulted in Powell cutting Bolton out of talks with Iran and Libya after complaints about Bolton's involvement from the British. It added that "The foreign relations committee has discovered that Bolton made a highly unusual request and gained access to 10 intercepts by the National Security Agency... Staff members on the committee believe that Bolton was probably spying on Powell, his senior advisers and other officials reporting to him on diplomatic initiatives that Bolton opposed." [46] However Rich Lowry points out that "During the same four-year period, other State Department officials made roughly 400 similar requests." [47]

On May 11 Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, who once offered a considerable reward for any dirt on Bob Barr, published allegations that Bolton had forced his first wife, Christina Bolton, to engage in group sex at Plato's Retreat, a New York sex club popular in the late 1970s and early 1980s. [48]

Also on May 11 Newsweek reported allegations that the American position at the 7th Review Conference in May 2005 of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty had been undercut by Bolton's "absence without leave" during the nomination fight, quoting anonymous sources "close to the negotiations".

The Democrats' filibuster

On Thursday, May 26, 2005, the Senate Democrats postponed the vote on John Bolton's UN nomination. The Republican leadership failed to gain enough Republican or Democratic support to pass a cloture motion on the floor debate over Bolton, and minority leader Harry Reid conceded the move signalled the "first filibuster of the year." The Democrats claim key documents regarding Bolton and his career at the Department of Defense are being withheld by the Bush administration. Scott McClellan, White House press secretary, responded by saying, "Just 72 hours after all the good will and bipartisanship (over a deal on judicial nominees), it's disappointing to see the Democratic leadership resort back to such a partisan approach." [49]

The failure of the Senate to end debate on Bolton's nomination provided one surprise for some: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) voted against cloture for procedural reasons. [50] (Although Senator George Voinovich (R-OH) has spoken out against confirming Bolton, calling him "the poster child of what someone in the diplomatic corps should not be", he voted for cloture.) Senator John Thune (R-SD) voted to end debate but announced that he would vote against Bolton in the up-or-down vote as a protest against the government's plans to close a vital military base (Ellsworth) in South Dakota.

On June 20, 2005 the Senate voted again to pass cloture. The vote failed 54-38, six votes short of ending debate. That marked an increase of two "no" votes, including the defection of Republican Voinovich, who switched his previous "yes" vote and urged President Bush to pick another nominee (Democrats Mark Pryor, Mary Landrieu and Ben Nelson voted to end debate both times). Some speculated that Bush would install Bolton via recess appointment; the appointment would expire in 2007. On June 21, Frist expressed his view that attempting another vote would be pointless, but later that day, following a lunch at the White House, changed his position, saying that he would continue to push for an up-or-down vote.

Accusations of perjury

On July 28, 2005 it was revealed that a statement made by Bolton on forms submitted to the Senate was false. Bolton indicated that in the prior five years he had not been questioned in any investigation, but in fact he had been interviewed by the State Department Inspector General on July 18, 2003 as part of an investigation into the sources of pre-war claims of weapons of mass destruction evidence in Iraq. After insisting for weeks that Bolton had testified truthfully on the form, the State Department reversed itself stating that Bolton had simply forgotten about the investigation.

Recess appointment

On August 1, 2005, President Bush officially made a recess appointment of Bolton, installing him as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations on a temporary basis. The Bolton recess appointment will last until 2007. During the announcement, Bush said, "This post is too important to leave vacant any longer, especially during a war and a vital debate about U.N. reform." Democrats criticized the appointment and Republican Sen. George Voinovich, whose opposition originally stalled a vote on the nominee, said Bolton would lack credibility in the U.N. because he lacked Senate confirmation. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, "We look forward to working with him as I do with the other 190 ambassadors and we will welcome him at a time when we are in the midst of major reform. I think it is the president's prerogative, and the president has decided to appoint him through this process."

Bolton began his term by laying out a list of wanted amendments to details of the 2005 World Summit to be held in New York City in September 2005. These included stopping the UN use of the term "Millennium Development Goals".


  • "Reform is not a one-night stand. Reform is forever. That's why we're going to continue to work on it." – on UN reform.[51]

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Preceded by:
Anne W. Patterson
United States Ambassador
to the United Nations

2005 - 2007(a)
Succeeded by:

Preceded by:
Under Secretary of State
for Arms Control and International Security

2001 - 2005
Succeeded by:
Robert Joseph

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