Mouth For War: John Bolton

Arturo Tha Cuban
May 13 · 7 min read

Many know John Bolton as a war hawk based on recent events. Others know his long history of involvement in beating the drums of war. Some don’t know much about him at all. So who is the mustached man running the U.S. war machine?

Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore licensed under Creative Commons 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

John Bolton has made headlines quite often over the last year after he began serving as National Security Advisor to Donald Trump. His rhetoric, for many of us, conjures up images of using the United States military over the last three decades for trivial interventions all over the world. We also know him as the man who fiercely backed (and still does) the Iraq War. Even more so, he is known as a nationalist who meddles in other country’s internal affairs on behalf of U.S. corporate interests.

Bolton has been advocating for military action and regime change in Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Venezuela, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen for over a decade. In March 2015, in a hyperbole-laden op-ed published by the New York Times titled “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran,” Bolton called for preemptively bombing Iran by basing his argument on an overly simplistic view of a complex situation. He did the same in February 2018. In a similarly worded op-ed published by the Wall Street Journal, Bolton provided vague rhetoric for the bombing of North Korea. Never taking into account — or caring about — the destabilization and the negative impacts such unilateral actions have on entire regions across the globe.

Bolton has also made arguments to preemptively intervene militarily in Latin America due to China’s growing influence in the region (via substantial infrastructure projects, foreign aid, and vast investments in natural resources). By referring to China’s activities as “incursions” with “no coherent response” and calling for greater U.S. involvement, Bolton is laying the groundwork for taking control of the region — by force if necessary — with rhetoric that can be built upon later in the same way that led to so many previous disastrous incursions.

For Bolton, it’s about control over resources, economies, and power. In describing the Trump administration’s policy in Latin America he has twice invoked the Monroe Doctrine in just the last two months. For those that don’t know, The Monroe Doctrine originally warned European nations that the United States would not tolerate further colonization or puppet monarchs, but seems to have expanded to include other nations under Bolton. That’s bad news for Latin American families both in the United States and abroad.

John Bolton’s extensive involvement in the foreign policy decisions of the United States over the last 30 years has resulted in the starvation of millions of children, the suffering of tens-of-millions of refugees, and the loss of autonomy for many sovereign nations. His warmonger playbook is always the same; never one to deviate. His methodology is to sanction, starve, and sow discord among civilians of nations he believes should be working solely on behalf of U.S. corporate interests. Then, he picks a side and provokes countries into war to get what he and his backers want.

We’ve seen this all before.

Bolton considers himself a Republican. His views, however, have been described as nationalist and neoconservative. While he rejects the latter and instead refers to himself as pro-American. Not surprisingly, he has never rejected the white-nationalist label.

Much of Bolton’s ideas have been implemented through his involvement in policy institutes and think-tanks promoting ideas akin to those behind Manifest Destiny. For those that don’t know, Manifest Destiny is the 19th-century doctrine/belief that the expansion of the US throughout the American continents was both justified and inevitable.

Bolton continues to push an agenda that similarly justified the colonization of Latin America and he salivates at the thought of war. It should come as no surprise that Elliot Abrams — currently serving as Special Representative for Venezuela — is similarly involved with the same lobbying firms and policy institutes as Bolton. They are two of the hardest-hitters behind the American war machine.

They are the tag-team of terror.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Bolton was the protege of North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms, a segregationist who opposed Martin Luther King Day so badly that he distributed a 300-page packet in Congress falsely declaring the civil-rights leader as a political radical who adopted “action-oriented Marxism” and detailing Dr. King’s supposed treachery in which he appeared to have welcomed collaboration with communists. Helms was also an advocate of interventionism in Latin America, invoking the Monroe Doctrine on many occasions.

During the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, Bolton served in many governmental roles within the State Department, the Justice Department, and the United States Agency for International Development.

His position in the Justice Department as an assistant attorney general under Reagan required him to advance the administrations positions including opposition to financial reparations to Japanese-Americans held in World War II-era internment camps; the insistence on Reagan’s executive privilege during William Rehnquist’s chief justice confirmation hearings, when Congress asked for Rehnquist’s memos as a Nixon Justice Department official; shepherding the judicial nomination process for Antonin Scalia; and framing a bill conflating immigration as a drug war issue, thus further criminalizing migrants crossing the border.

It’s also worth noting that he was involved in the Iran-Contra affair.

From 1989 to 1993, John Bolton was assistant secretary for International Organization Affairs at the Department of State where he was successful in rescinding the United Nations resolution from the 1970s that equated Zionism with racism. He also played a key role in the efforts by the United States to obtain United Nations resolutions endorsing the unilateral use of force to fight Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.

In January 1998, Bolton signed the Project for New American Century letter to President Bill Clinton urging regime change in Iraq stating, “American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council.”

In 2002, Bolton accused Cuba of manufacturing biological weapons and transferring the technology to rogue states demanding Cuba “fully comply with all of its obligations under the Biological Weapons Convention.” It would later be revealed, during his Senate confirmation hearing for ambassador, that he was pressing intelligence analysts to say Cuba had biological weapons capacity and was exporting it to other nations, but intelligence officials refused to allow Bolton to make the harsh criticism of Cuba he sought to deliver.

From 2013 to 2018, Bolton was the chairman of the Gatestone Institute, a nonprofit organization that has been criticized for disseminating false anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim information — a practice that continues today. Bolton and Abrams published many of the inaccuracies on Iran and immigration while at Gatestone.

Bolton was also a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institue (AEI) where he shared his views alongside white nationalists who support the use of racial biases in law-enforcement, arguing that without them, white people would be targeted by authorities just for the sake of showing evenhandedness.

Bolton has also been critical of Russian and Chinese policies but he stops short of taking or suggesting any critical action against them. Certainly not militarily. His criticisms of other nations only surface when their policies get in the way of U.S. interests. Never speaking out about China’s treatment of Muslims or Russia’s invasion of Crimea while pounding the drums of war when it involves Latin America, Africa, or the Middle East.

A seemingly odd couple, John Bolton is more in line with Donald Trump when you look at his track record of trying to undermine international cooperatives such as NATO and the United Nations. In that sense, he suits Trump’s nationalist-isolationist agenda just fine. Beyond that, Bolton goes against the administration’s promised non-interventionist policies. Something that does not bode well for the world at large. Particularly in Latin America and the Middle East.

While the national conversation has shifted to Iran, don’t get complacent. Iran is just part of the plan. They’ll be coming back around to Latin America in due time. And if you’re like me, with family in both Cuba and Venezuela, your families are still at great risk. The mustached war machine has already placed our people on a hit-list and John Bolton will get his wars one way or another.

Making Trump a wartime president all but assures his reelection. Even if it doesn’t, all you have to do is convince him it does and he’ll be willing to go to war at the drop of a hat.

Bolton knows this.


NOTE: According to the White House, John Bolton’s total income for 2017 was about $2.2 million, including $569,000 from Fox News and $747,000 in speaking fees from the Victor Pinchuk Foundation, Deutsche Bank, and HSBC.


This is the second article in a series focusing on the agenda of the people behind the American war machine, with a particular focus on Latin America.

Up next: Elliott Abrams.

Arturo Tha Cuban

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A front-line anti-racism activist, essayist, and upcoming author; advocating for equality, justice, and accountability.