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From Consortium News
John Bolton's March 22 appointment-by-tweet as President Donald Trump's national security adviser has given "March Madness" a new and ominous meaning. There is less than a week left to batten down the hatches before Bolton makes U.S. foreign policy worse than it already is.
During a recent interview with The Intercept's Jeremy Scahill (minutes 35 to 51) I mentioned that Bolton fits seamlessly into a group of take-no-prisoners zealots once widely known in Washington circles as "the crazies," and now more commonly referred to as "neocons."
Beginning in the 1970s, "the crazies" sobriquet was applied to Cold Warriors hell bent on bashing Russians, Chinese, Arabs -- anyone who challenged U.S. "exceptionalism" (read hegemony). More to the point, I told Scahill that President (and former CIA Director) George H. W. Bush was among those using the term freely, since it seemed so apt. I have been challenged to prove it.
I don't make stuff up. And with the appointment of the certifiable Bolton, "the crazies" have become far more than an historical footnote. Rather, the crucible that Bush-41 and other reasonably moderate policymakers endured at their hands give the experience major relevance today. Thus, I am persuaded it would be best not to ask people simply to take my word for it when I refer to "the crazies," their significance, and the differing attitudes the two Bushes had toward them.
George H. W. Bush and I had a longstanding professional and, later, cordial relationship. For many years after he stopped being president, we stayed in touch -- mostly by letter. This is the first time I have chosen to share any of our personal correspondence. I do so not only because of the ominous importance of Bolton's appointment, but also because I am virtually certain the elder Bush would want me to.
Scanned below is a note George H. W. Bush sent me eight weeks before his son, egged on by the same "crazies" his father knew well from earlier incarnations, launched an illegal and unnecessary war for regime change in Iraq -- unleashing chaos in the Middle East.
Shut Out of the Media
By January 2003, it was clear that Bush-43 was about to launch a war of aggression -- the crime defined by the post-WWII Nuremberg Tribunal as "the supreme international crime differing from other war crimes only in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole." (Think torture, for example.) During most of 2002, several of us former intelligence analysts had been comparing notes, giving one another sanity checks, writing op-eds pointing to the flimsiness of the "intelligence" cobbled together to allege a weapons-of-mass-destruction "threat" from Iraq, and warning of the catastrophe that war on Iraq would bring.
Except for an occasional op-ed wedged into the Christian Science Monitor or the Miami Herald, for example, we were ostracized from "mainstream media." The New York Times and Washington Post were on a feeding frenzy from the government trough and TV pundits were getting high ratings by beating the drum for war. Small wonder the entire media was allergic to what we were saying, despite our many years of experience in intelligence analysis. Warnings to slow down and think were the last thing wanted by those already profiteering from a war on the near horizon.
The challenge we faced was how to get through to President George W. Bush. It had become crystal clear that the only way to do that would be to do an end run around "the crazies" -- the criminally insane advisers that his father knew so well -- Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, and Undersecretary of State John Bolton.
Bolton: One of the Crazies
John Bolton was Cheney's "crazy" at the State Department. Secretary Colin Powell was pretty much window dressing. He could be counted on not to complain loudly -- much less quit -- even if he strongly suspected he was being had. Powell had gotten to where he was by saluting sharply and doing what superiors told him to do. As secretary of state, Powell was not crazy -- just craven. He enjoyed more credibility than the rest of the gang and rather than risk being ostracized like the rest of us, he sacrificed that credibility on the altar of the "supreme international crime."
In those days Bolton did not hesitate to run circles around -- and bully -- the secretary of state and many others. This must be considered a harbinger of things to come, starting on Monday, when the bully comes to the china shop in the West Wing. While longevity in office is not the hallmark of the Trump administration, even if Bolton's tenure turns out to be short-lived, the crucial months immediately ahead will provide Bolton with ample opportunity to wreak the kind of havoc that "the crazies" continue to see as enhancing U.S. -- and not incidentally -- Israeli influence in the Middle East. Bear in mind, Bolton still says the attack on Iraq was a good idea. And he is out to scuttle the landmark agreement that succeeded in preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon any time soon.
Trying to Head Off War