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State Dept. Neo-Con Attacks N Korea, Escalating Tensions

by Jim Lobe

John Bolton, Point Man at State Dept for Right Wing
John Bolton (IPS) WASHINGTON -- To the North Koreans, he is "rude human scum" and a "bloodthirsty vampire."

To former right-wing U.S. Senator Jesse Helms, he is "the kind of man with whom I would want to stand at Armageddon, if it should be my lot to be on hand for what is forecast to be the final battle between good and evil in this world."

His name is John Bolton; his title, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security. And he is widely seen as the reliable fifth columnist within the State Department for the neo-conservative hawks who led the drive to war in Iraq from their desks at the Pentagon and Vice President Dick Cheney's office.

North Korea, which last week agreed to multilateral talks on its controversial nuclear program with its Northeast Asian neighbors and the United States, announced Sunday that it will have nothing to do with Bolton and will not even recognize his status as a U.S. diplomat.

The highly unusual statement was provoked by a speech given by Bolton in Seoul last week, excerpts of which were reprinted with approval on the editorial pages of the 'Asian Wall Street Journal' on Friday.

Bolton, who ranks fourth in the State Department hierarchy, described life in North Korea as a "hellish nightmare," and accused Pyongyang's leader, Kim Jong Il, of being a "dictator" or "tyrant" running a "dictatorship" or "tyranny" no less than a dozen times.

Some U.S. and Asian analysts said last week that Bolton, who has made little secret of his belief that Washington should pursue "regime change" in Pyongyang rather than a new agreement on its denuclearization, might have intended to use the speech to provoke Kim into rejecting the forthcoming meeting.

Cheney and the Pentagon have long been skeptical of any negotiation with North Korea.

Even if Bolton's words were not as strong as Pyongyang's retort, his blast at Kim was a typical performance by the Yale Law School graduate, whose red-meat anti-communism, staunch pro-Likud outlook and ultra-unilateralist politics have delighted his admirers among the hawks, even as they have caused embarrassment and even some turmoil among his State Department colleagues.

Despite an avuncular, bespectacled round face, red cheeks, and a thick, drooping blond moustache, Bolton is known to be confrontational, combative, and publicly humorless.

He began excoriating alleged worldwide evils in the Reagan administration when, despite a lack of experience in developing countries, he held a series of posts in the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) before winding up as one of Attorney-General Edwin Meese's top aides.

In that capacity, he resisted all efforts by Congress to investigate the Justice Department role in the Iran-Contra affair, as well as efforts by Sen. John Kerry. (D-Mass.) to investigate drug and gun-running by the Nicaraguan contras in the mid-1980s.

His effectiveness gained him a promotion under President H.W. Bush to the position of assistant secretary of state for international organizations, a post he held until 1993 when he joined first the right-wing Manhattan Institute and then the ultra-conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI), home to such prominent hawks as former UN Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick, former Defense Policy Board Chairman Richard Perle, and Cheney's spouse, Lynne Cheney.

By the time former Secretary of State James Baker tapped him to serve as a senior member of the G.W. Bush legal team in Florida after the 2000 election, Bolton had become senior vice president at AEI, a position he used during the latter half of the 1990s to speak out strongly in favor of fully normalizing ties with Taiwan, from which he was receiving money at the time, according to the 'Washington Post'.

He also advocated withdrawing from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and railed against "nation-building," international arms-control agreements of all shapes and sizes, and the threats posed to U.S. sovereignty by the United Nations and its Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

So strongly was he opposed to the United Nations that, at one point, Bolton suggested simply halting U.S. payments to the world body.

Given his history of far-right positions, Secretary of State Colin Powell was reported to have been deeply skeptical of Bolton when Cheney suggested him for the undersecretary position. Cheney, however, insisted.

But within just a few months, it became clear that Bolton was far more in tune with the hawks than with Powell's relatively moderate positions.

In the summer of 2001, he shocked foreign delegations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) at the UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons when he announced that Washington would oppose any attempt to regulate the trade in firearms or non-military rifles or any other effort that would "abrogate the constitutional right to bear arms."

He played a similar role several months later when, amid the public shock that followed the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the anthrax scare, Bolton single-handedly sabotaged a UN meeting to forge an international verification protocol designed to put teeth into a treaty on bio-weapons. His efforts, which included naming six countries that he said were violating the treaty, provoked expressions of shock and outrage from some of Washington's closest allies.

Within State, Bolton led the drive to renounce the U.S. signature on the Rome Statute that created the new International Criminal Court (ICC), the first permanent tribunal with jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. At his request, Powell permitted his zealous lieutenant to sign the letter to Annan formally announcing Washington's withdrawal from the treaty, an act he later described to the 'Wall Street Journal' as "the happiest moment of my government service."

At the same time, Bolton was also engaged in a lengthy row with U.S. intelligence agencies over his public charge that Cuba had an offensive biological warfare program. His assertion became an embarrassment after anonymous intelligence officials and retired senior military officers, including the former head of the U.S. Southern Command, told the media that no such evidence existed and charged that Bolton was politicizing intelligence.

In a replay last month, Bolton was poised to tell Congress that Syria had developed weapons of mass destruction to such an extent that they threatened regional stability, an assertion which reportedly provoked a "revolt" by U.S. intelligence analysts, who insisted that the evidence did not warrant such a conclusion.

Senior Pentagon hawks, including most notably Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, have made little secret of their wish to practice "regime change" in Syria as in Iraq, but, given the growing public suspicion that evidence again Iraq was exaggerated and politicized, the White House decided to delay Bolton's appearance before Congress until next month at least.

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Albion Monitor August 4, 2003 (

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