We all know John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s pick for National Security Adviser, is a hawk. What many may have not known is that he’s infamous for using his position of power to threaten foreign officials — in addition to unofficially working for foreign countries.
The Intercept reports that in 2002, Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)’s first chief, the former Brazilian diplomat Jose Bustani, was trying to negotiate with Iraq and Libya to allow nuclear weapon inspectors to enter their countries. The goal was to negotiate an end to the presence of chemical weapons in their countries — if they had any.
At the time, however, Bolton, who served as the United Nations ambassador under President George W. Bush, threatened Bustani. Because the OPCW had already inspected Iraq in 2001 and had found that all chemical weapons had been destroyed by then, Bustani told reporters, he feels that his presence and his insistence in using diplomacy with these countries got in the way of the United States’ thirst for war.
"I got a phone call from John Bolton — it was first time I had contact with him,” Bustani explained. “[H]e said he had instructions to tell me that I have to resign from the organization, and I asked him why. He said that [my] management style was not agreeable to Washington."
After the 2001 operation, Bustani added, “it was obvious that during the first Iraq War everything had been destroyed [by Iraq]," and there was "nothing left for Iraq to be accused of possessing chemical weapons."
But that, he then concluded, was a problem to the U.S. After all, "they had plans already to take some action — military action — against Iraq."
As such, Bolton had no other choice but to pressure the Brazilian peacemaker to step down."
He came to my office and said: 'You have to resign and I give you 24 hours, this is what we want. You have to leave, you have to resign from your organization, director-general.'"
When Bustani said he was appointed by OPCW members and that he didn’t owe the U.S. anything, Bolton reportedly doubled down, telling Bustani the following:
"OK, so there will be retaliation. Prepare to accept the consequences," Bolton then reportedly said. Adding that "We know where your kids live."
The sinister threat got personal, as two of the diplomat’s kids were in New York and one in London at the time. Still, Bustani did not back down, telling Bolton that his “family is aware of what's going on, so [they're] prepared to face consequences."
"John Bolton is a bully," Bustani told The Intercept.
In 2002, Bustani was forced to step down as a special meeting was held and his removal was carried out by a vote of 48–7. Most of the abstentions, which totaled 43, were from developing countries like Bustani’s own nation of Brazil.
Brazil "left me behind,” the former diplomat said.
When asked whether Bustani felt Bolton was the right person for the job under Trump, he said:
"He's not a man you can have a dialogue with.”
"On the basis of my own experience, I don't believe that Mr. Bolton is capable of being a National Security Adviser to any government of the United States."
And because Bolton believes the U.S. should be more aggressive in Syria, Bustani added, he thinks that the new adviser’s influence is worrisome.
“[Syria] could be a new Iraq with much more serious consequences with impact on the whole Middle East today,” he said.
If Bustani, who has first-hand experience with Bolton is correct, then his presence in the Trump administration could mean another series of bad and disastrous policies in the Middle East. And as such, this could end up putting us in the path of a much larger war involving larger foreign players.
If Trump wants to be known as the president who started something that could resemble a potential world war, having Bolton as his right-hand man might be just the ticket.