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The Bolton Deception

William Norman Grigg | April 16 2005

Described by allies and critics alike as the bane enemy of the UN, John Bolton, the Bush administration's nominee to serve as U.S. ambassador to the UN, has pledged to strengthen the world body, rather than work for its abolition.

Prior to Senate hearings into his nomination to be U.S. ambassador to the UN, John Bolton was portrayed by both his allies and critics as the bane enemy of the world body. Some critics of the Bush administration have suggested that Bolton’s nomination is part of a plot to destroy the UN. Yet during the opening day of Senate hearings Bolton made it clear that the Bush administration, its "unilateralist" posturing notwithstanding, is not only willing to work with the UN, but actually eager to strengthen the organization.

"Walking away from the United Nations is not an option," insisted Bolton in opening remarks before a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "The United States is committed to the success of the United Nations, and we view the UN as an important component of our diplomacy…. If confirmed, I look forward … [to forging] a closer relationship between the United States and the United Nations, which depends critically on American leadership."

Bolton predicted that the UN would play a central role in the Bush administration’s "global democratic revolution." "Now more than ever the UN must play a critical role, as it strives to fulfill the aspirations of its original promise," he declared. While conceding that he had often spoken critically of the UN in recent years, Bolton asserted that the "consistent theme" of his public criticism "is that for the UN to be effective requires American leadership. I say it over and over again. I deeply believe it. My criticisms during the 1990s were in large measure because of what I thought was the lack of effective American leadership." It is the Bush administration’s intention, he continued, to "strengthen" the UN by making it "a more efficient and uncorrupt organization."

This performance was enough to overcome the resistance of Senator Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.), a Republican UN supporter who had expressed misgivings about Bolton. "You said all the right things in your opening statement," Chafee informed Bolton. Among those "right things" was Bolton’s claim that he had earned the warm endorsement of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

The Bush administration’s most vocal constituency is found among conservative Americans who understandably despise the UN and all its works and pomps. Yet most of them have rallied behind the Bolton nomination out of simple partisan reflex: They have taken Bolton (a member of the globalist Council on Foreign Relations, the body that essentially created the UN) to their bosom simply because he has drawn rhetorical fire from Democratic politicians and their activist allies.

Among those herding conservative Americans behind the Bolton nomination is "Move America Forward," a Republican Party front organization created by a GOP-aligned consulting group in California. Through advertisements on television and the Internet, Move America Forward has promoted a petition drive devoted to the theme, "Get the UN Out of the U.S." It has also served as an uncritical booster of Bolton, insisting that as UN ambassador he would help make the UN work on behalf of U.S. interests.

The April 11 Wall Street Journal described Move America Forward as "a conservative group that wants the U.S. to withdraw entirely from the UN…." In fact, while the group has called for the eviction of the UN from the U.S., it has never called for the U.S. to reclaim its independence by leaving the body. Move America Forward’s advertising campaign at once artlessly mimics, and subtly inverts, the long-established John Birch Society catchphrase "Get US Out of the UN." In substantive terms, Move America Forward is saying: "Keep US In the UN – as long as its headquarters are located abroad."

As long as the U.S. remains in the UN, it makes no material difference where the UN’s headquarters is located. After all, the World Trade Organization, which is already issuing rulings that have a direct impact on our economy, is headquartered in Geneva, not New York. Granted, removal of UN Headquarters to Geneva (or, more appropriately, to Moscow or Beijing) would do much to improve the civic hygiene of New York City. But with the Bush administration committed to strengthening the UN, nothing would be gained by merely changing its address. And this reality is probably not lost on the PR flacks who created Move America Forward, who have distinguished themselves only by the slavishness with which they’ve shilled for the Bush administration.

The Journal also took note of the curious fact that both the pro-Bolton Move America Forward and the anti-Bolton Citizens for Global Solutions (the renamed World Federalist Association) have used "the same old clips of Mr. Bolton" from a 1994 seminar, in which he declared: "There is no such thing as the United Nations.… [if UN Headquarters] lost 10 stories today it wouldn’t make a bit of difference."

As a reporter who covered that seminar 11 years ago, I was struck by the way in which Bolton’s over-the-top performance reminded me of the ritual posturing associated with "heels" in Professional Wrestling. Pro Wrestling is built on storylines called "angles." The key to a successful angle is a villain who can generate "heat" from the audience on behalf of the scripted conflict.

Bolton’s clear and repeated endorsement of the UN as the focus of the Bush administration’s foreign policy demonstrates beyond reasonable contradiction that his anti-UN persona was part of an "angle." As in any good Pro Wrestling angle, this has a win-win for the promoters:

If the "heel" wins and Bolton (as expected) ends up at the UN, the otherwise moribund pro-UN constituency will be energized in opposition, and Bolton – like the Bush administration in general – will cash in his anti-UN rep and spend his political capital on pro-UN initiatives;
If the "heel" is defeated, the same gains will be made through confirmation of a less conspicuously "anti-UN" official.
It is doubtful that there is one American in ten million who believes that Professional "wrestling" is an actual athletic competition, as opposed to a highly scripted form of steroid-enhanced performance art. Tragically, millions of supposedly conservative Americans have been taken in by the Bolton "angle."

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