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The memoirs of John Bolton (President Trump’s former National Security Advisor, 2018-19) have stabbed Trump from the front. Trump approached a U.S. Court to have their publication blocked. The judge decided otherwise. Meanwhile, they have been secreted on the internet, available to lock-downers.

Bolton clearly intends them to damage Trump before the presidential election in November this year. Unfortunately for Bolton, it is the US electoral system that will decide on Trump’s re-election or removal.

Bolton’s book The Room Where It Happened – A White House Memoir deserves to be read, only once. Historians will have scant use for it, as little as they had for his earlier work – Surrender is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad (2007), published within a year of his equally short stint as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (August 2005-December 2006).

Over the years, Bolton had chiselled out of himself an image of a rigid hawk, an obsidian Horus, obsessed with using U.S. military force in the Middle East to dominate, punish and to achieve regime change. As Trump’s National Security Advisor, he saw his job was ‘to ensure that a President understood what options were open to him for any given decision he needed to make, and then to ensure that this decision was carried out by the pertinent bureaucracies.’

Bolton’s mission? To keep ‘America safe from another 9/11, or even worse, a 9/11 where the terrorists had nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. As long as the threat existed, no place was too far away to worry about. The terrorists weren’t coming to America on wooden sailing ships.’

As NSA, Bolton had access to Trump’s ear, but he soon discovered someone else always filled the other ear –  among them, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Bolton’s successor at the U.N. Nikki Haley, Trump’s daughter Ivanka and his Cassius son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Reading between the lines of these self-serving memoirs, Bolton’s insecurities and resentments are all too apparent. He fears Trump’s re-election. He dreads that Nikki Haley (with the support of Ivanka and Jared) will replace Mike Pence as Trump’s running mate in the election this year. He cavils at being excluded by Trump from his one-to-one meetings with the North Korean leader Kim Jon-un. And he hated being out-trumped by Trump.

After the confrontation with the Iranians over the downing of a U.S. drone, an RQ-4A Global Hawk, over the Strait of Hormuz in June 2019, Bolton manoeuvred to have Trump’s top advisors agree with his recommendation that the U.S. should retaliate decisively. Bolton recollection reads: ‘Ultimately, we compromised on destroying the three sites and several other measures. I said I wanted to be sure we were all in agreement, so I could tell Trump his advisors would present a unanimous recommendation. This was a good thing for the President.’

To Bolton’s chagrin, Trump baulked. ‘Trump said he had been told by someone unnamed there might be a hundred fifty Iranian casualties. “Too many body bags,” said Trump, which he was not willing to risk for an unmanned drone — “Not proportionate,” he said again.’

Bolton simmered until he could spill his bile before the public: ‘In my government experience, this was the most irrational thing I ever witnessed any President do [.] What would happen if we ever got into a real crisis with Trump as President? Well, we now had one, and Trump had behaved bizarrely’.  

Since the book came off the printing press, the media has pounced upon Bolton’s exposé of Trump’s pathetic appeal to the Chinese president Xi Jinping for his help to win the 2016 presidential election, and Trump’s misplaced assessment of the dictatorial Kim Jon-un as ‘really smart, quite secretive, a very good person, totally sincere, with a great personality.’

They have missed why Trump at the White House’s communications epicentre could not tweet one night because his mobile phone was out of order.  Or why the mutually suspicious presidents of Russia and the U.S. entered a summit meeting, with their ‘two military aides in the room, each carrying his country’s nuclear control codes.’ Or Trump’s disparaging dismissal of the EU as being ‘worse than China, except smaller’.

Bolton is at his worst over Iran, trumpeting: ‘It had taken one month to shred the Iran nuclear deal, showing how easy it was to do once somebody took events in hand. I did my best to prepare our allies Britain, Germany, and France for what happened, because they had seemed completely unready for a possible US withdrawal.’

Early in his book, Bolton coins a phrase: ‘The Axis of Adults’. He ends with a neo-Shakespearean observation ‘that adults in US politics today understand that they are always on stage.’ Bolton has chosen to play the part of Brutus, off-stage.   



[Dawn, 25 June 2020]  


25 June 2020
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