John Bolton's Astonishing Neo-Neo-con Rewrite of History
- Bob FertikWant to meet our members? Click 'Join' above!
On March 25, John Bolton was interviewed by BBC Newsnight's Jeremy Paxman (video here). I don't know why this interview didn't get noticed by U.S. bloggers, because Bolton's claims are simply extraordinary. When the history of the Iraq debacle is written, this interview will stand out for its astonishing claims:
- Saddam did have WMD, we just haven't found them yet.
- It didn't matter if Saddam had WMD or even a WMD program because he had 1000 "Nuclear Mujahadeen" who could build a nuclear weapon at the drop of a hat without any equipment or materials.
- Iraq wasn't an "imminent threat" and the U.S. never said it was - blame the stupid British for that.
- America's only interest is "making sure no part of Iraq be used by terrorists as a base against us."
- Even though Saddam Hussein was doing that job to perfection (albeit dictatorially), it was "unquestionably" right to overthrow him.
- Even though it's a "failed state" and a "haven for terrorists," Iraq is now a better place to live than it was under Saddam, because it's not a "dictatorship."
- The only mistake the U.S. made was not turning Iraq over to the Iraqis while they were looting stores, museums, hospitals, and weapons depots.
- If we had immediately invited all Iraqis to run their government, they would have magically done so, and with civility.
- Now that we have created anarchy and civil war, the U.S. has no responsibility to ensure Iraqis are not murdered.
Beyond Bolton's claims, we can also draw a few inferences:
- Every U.S. soldier who died after the overthrow of Saddam died for no reason.
- All of the time we spent creating an Iraqi government (including Iraq's purple-finger elections) was a waste of time.
- All of the money we spent trying to rebuild the economy we destroyed was a waste of money.
- The only mission for our 150,000 soldiers should be to fight 1-2,000 Al Qaeda.
- If Iraq's civil war turns into genocide, that's not our responsibility or concern.
- If Iraq's civil war creates a regional conflagration involving Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, that's not our responsibility or concern.
BBC Newsnight's Jeremy Paxman
Iraq 4 Years On: A Neo-con Rethink?
Way back in 1998, he was arguing for removing Saddam Hussein by force. As Undersecretary of Defense in 2001 he played a key role in Pres Bush's policy towards Iraq and the so-called Axis of Evil. He said the only language rogue states understood was the language of force: regime change. He had little or no time for multilateral negotiations...
But when discontent over Iraq led to Republicans losing control of Congress and it was clear he wouldn't be confirmed, he walked.
Since then some of the neo-conservatives have begun to quewastion whether the Iraq streategy was right after all.
and some of their number are considering a different approach to Iran and Syria.
So has John Bolton too had a chance of heart?
Q. I asked John Bolton whether 4 years ago when he was drumming up support for the invasion of Iraq he imagined things would become as bad as they are in the country.
A. I did not because I imagined largely that well before this point the U.S. would have turned responsibility for the governance and security of Iraq back over to Iraqis.
Q. SO that was the big mistake was it?
A. Analytically there are two questions here to look back on and to learn lessons from.
The first quesiton was it right to overthrow Saddam Hussein. That seems to me to be yes unquestionably knowing everything we know now.
The second question analytically is What do after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein
and there's where I think reasonable people can disagree about the consequences. Where we are today is because of the second question.
Q. And that was absense of planning for what would follow the invasion
A. No there were lots of plans. I think the real problem was in not relying more on Iraqis. The basic difficulty under a dictatorship is there is no political culture. To have stability in Iraq you have to have Iraqis dealing with each other in a civil way. By imposing the Coalition Authority for a year we denied the Iraqis at least a year of learing how to live with each other. I don't think you breed political maturation by making decisions for other people. So in 20-20 hindsight - and I confess it's hindsight - that was a mistake obviously.
Q. Of course there's no culture of democracy under a dictatorship but what you do have under a dictatorship is a great apparatus of the state. Was it a mistake to de-Baathify or try to de-Baathify the whole apparatus and thereby dismantle it?
A. No I don't think that part was the mistake. I think the decisions that were made in retrospect such as dismantling the army that have caused so much difficulty may or may not have been handled differently if Iraqis themselves had been making the decisions.
That's why I don't think there's an American interest in what kind of Iraq emerges from the present circumstance.
I think the American strategic interest is in making sure no part of Iraq be used by terrorists as a base against us.
That's what we should focus on, not how to structure the country. That's what we should have left to the Iraqis...
Q. So when you said the U.S. remains committed to a unified, democratic and prosperous Iraq, you were just spouting the party line were you?
Q. Is there not an American responsibility, having invaded a country, dismantled all the apparatus of government, to ensure the citizens of that country are not murdered?
A. I think it's the responsibility which we've tried to fulfill to turn it back over to the Iraqis... We made a mistake in hindsight not turning it over to them earlier.
But we don't have a responsibility to make the government of Iraq succeed, that's their responsibility.
Q. Do you have a responsibility to keep the peace or not?
A. I think that's their responsibility too. I think we're all agreed the sooner the Iraqis can decide whether they're gonna do that or not the the better off everyone is.
Q. You sound as if you're washing your hands of the whole affair?
A. What I would have done differently is much earlier, much sooner after the overthrow, given it back to the Iraqis, and I'll exaggerate for effect here, but given them a copy of the Federalist Papers and said good luck.
Q. What do you say when people turn to you and say, ok Saddam Hussein was a dictator
but Iraq was not then a failed state and it was not a haven for terrorists and that's precisely what you've created in Iraq?
A. [Angry] That's great, you'd rather live in a dicatatorship than a failed state. That's your preference that wouldn't be my preference. And What you had in that dictatorship was a person who had accumulated and used chemical weapons... had kept together over a thousand scientists and technicians to rebuild his nuclear weapons program, a group he called his "Nuclear Mujahadeen."
Q. Except Of course he didn't have any WMND did he?
A. Well let's be clear what he was doing. I mentioned before he kept a thousand Nuclear Mujahadeen together, that's what you need for a nuclear weapons program - the materials, the technology all flow out of the intellectual property those scientists possess.
Q. But this claim turned out to be a lie Mr. Bolton didn't it?
A. No no no you're quite wrong on that. The capability that Saddam kept was not physical pieces of equipment but the intellectual capability...
Q. Hold on - we were told by no less a person than your own Secretary of State that he had an active and ongoing program for acquiring and developing WMD.
A. And I fully believe that all of the evidence on that is not yet in. And it was never the American claim - it was your British problem - that Saddam's WMD programs constituted an imminent threat.
What we said and what was approved by broad majorities of both parties in both houses of our Congress that the threat of the regime itself.
Q. Do you at least accept that what has happened in Iraq has done immense damage to your attempts to deal with other states which definitely do have a program for developing and acquiring WMD.
A. It has caused damaged because there are some faint hearts in places nearer to where you're speaking from than where I'm speaking from that have allowed themselves to be intimidated by the claims and by the programs of these other countries. Some of that intimidation has even occured here in Washington but it hasn't intimidated me.