Sunday, June 05, 2005

Yet Another Bolton Allegation

It's been a few days, but another charge that John Bolton acted inappropriately and attempted (this time successfully) to sideline people who disagreed with him has emerged. Associated Press reporter Charles Hanley filed this report early this morning, noting that Bolton "flew to Europe in 2002 to confront the head of a global arms-control agency and demand he resign, then orchestrated the firing of the unwilling diplomat in a move a U.N. tribunal has since judged unlawful."

Jose Bustani, a Brazilian in charge of administering the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was in 2001-2002 trying to bring Iraq and other Arab states under the umbrella of the Organization's chemical weapons treaty, which would have enabled OPCW inspectors to enter Iraq and search for banned weapons programs. Hanley quotes U.S. and international diplomats as saying this effort by Bustani prompted Bolton to undertake a campaign to remove him from his position: "It was that that made Bolton decide he had to go," said Avis Bohlen, a former top aide to Bolton.

After a months-long private effort to pressure Bustani, Bolton went public in March of 2002, seeking a no-confidence vote against the director-general after Bustani refused to resign at Bolton's request. After failing to win the support of the OPCW's Executive Council, the U.S. called "an unprecendented special session" of the treaty's signatory nations. After the American delegation threatened to withhold dues (22% of the OPCW's budget), two-thirds of voting countries (but just barely a third of the entire 145-nation membership) voted to oust Bustani: 48 nations approved the move, 7 opposed, and 43 abstained from the vote.

Bustani appealed the decision to the UN's Administrative Tribunal of the International Labor Organization in Geneva, which "said the U.S. allegations were 'extremely vague' and the dismissal 'unlawful.' It said international civil servants must not be made 'vulnerable to pressures and to political change.'"

This is a striking example of a Bolton-led effort to remove an international diplomat who was, quite literally, doing his job in attempting to bring more nations into the OPCW's provisions. Bustani was reelected, unanimously, in 2000 for a second five-year term as director-general - with strong U.S. support and personal praise from Secretary Colin Powell. But Bolton apparently disagreed.

It is difficult to look at this case and see anything but a ridiculously inappropriate attempt by John Bolton to sideline someone with whom he had a disagreement - someone who, if successful in bringing chemical weapons inspectors to Iraq, might have provided vital information about the state of Iraq's weapons programs that could have averted a costly, bloody and continuing war.

I'll ask again: is this the kind of man we want representing us at the United Nations?

[Update: American Centrist and Joe Gandelman both have excellent posts on this story. -- 10:34 p.m.]


At 1:01 PM, Anonymous Stygius said...

Bolton came into office in 2001 with a hard-on about Bustani. But the Iraq twist is a new one. AP did a good job with this one.


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