John Bolton said on Thursday that his past policy statements are “behind me” and that, after taking over next month as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, “The important thing is what the President says and the advice I give him.”
But Bolton’s history of provocative, often bellicose pronouncements, typically in the form of calls to bomb countries like Iran and North Korea – along with his unwavering support, before and after, for the 2003 invasion of Iraq – are impossible to pass off, especially as Trump considers tearing up the Iran nuclear deal and prepares for talks with Pyongyang.
What follows is a small sampling of Bolton’s rhetoric, dating back to the post-9/11 period. Back then, while working in the Bush administration, Bolton made the case at home and abroad that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and that the US role in the aftermath of regime change in Iraq would be “fairly minimal.” Trump, by the way, has pointed to his own opposition to the Iraq war as evidence of his smarts.
Bolton also publicly accused Cuba of providing “dual-use biotechnology to other rogue states.” Years later, after leaving his post as ambassador to the UN, he pushed to expand the Iraq War into Iran. More recently, he’s pushed for unilateral strikes in Iran and North Korea, while casting doubt on Russia’s role in 2016 election-related hacking.
He made the case last month for striking North Korea ‘first’
Citing preemptive strikes by Israel on Syrian (2007) and Iraqi (1981) reactor sites, Bolton in February of this year – less than four weeks ago – made a case in the Wall Street Journal for a potential US attack on North Korea:
“Pre-emption opponents argue that action is not justified because Pyongyang does not constitute an ‘imminent threat.’ They are wrong. The threat is imminent, and the case against pre-emption rests on the misinterpretation of a standard that derives from prenuclear, pre-ballistic-missile times. Given the gaps in U.S. intelligence about North Korea, we should not wait until the very last minute. That would risk striking after the North has deliverable nuclear weapons, a much more dangerous situation.”
He suggested election hacking was a ‘false flag operation’ designed to frame the Russians
In December 2016, Bolton said he wasn’t convinced the Russian had a role in pre-election hacking.
“It’s not at all clear to me just viewing this from the outside that this hacking into the DNC and the RNC computers was not a false flag operation. The question that has to be asked is, why did the Russians run their smart intelligence service against Hillary’s server but their dumb intelligence services against the election?”
He seems to have changed his mind; is now advocating heavy retaliation
In an opinion piece filed after special counsel Robert Mueller returned indictments alleging conspiracy to defraud the US against a group of Russian nationals, Bolton wrote:
“One way to (deter Russia) is to engage in a retaliatory cyber campaign against Russia. This effort should not be proportional to what we have just experienced. It should be decidedly disproportionate. The lesson we want Russia (or anyone else) to learn is that the costs to them from future cyberattacks against the United States will be so high that they will simply consign all their cyberwarfare plans to their computer memories to gather electronic dust.”