Former Trump administration official John Bolton mentions the “United States” or “America” exactly 351 times in his new memoir, “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir.” “Iran” or “Iranian,” however, appears 755 times. To put it in perspective, that’s about the word count equivalent of the length of this column. One might say that Bolton has an Iran fetish. Unfortunately for Iran, he also has a war fetish. Good thing he only rose to the level of — checks notes — U.S. national security adviser.
What’s amazing about this memoir is that most people with war jollies have enough sense — or at least an editor with enough sense — to include a token humanitarian pretext for their warmongering. Former President Barack Obama bombed at least seven countries — Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and Afghanistan — but no one would chalk up these attacks to personal obsession. It’s impossible to say the same of Bolton when he makes his own best case against himself.
In an alternate universe, where President Donald Trump had acquiesced to Bolton’s openly stated desire to attack Iran, it’s hard to imagine that Bolton would have gone offside and written something so entirely (and probably inadvertently) self-owning.
Over several opening pages, Bolton describes his failed personal quest to be Trump’s first secretary of state and expresses gratitude for the support of pro-Israel Americans, Cuban-Americans, Venezuelan-Americans, and Taiwanese-Americans. These factions, apparently, ascertained that if you’re jonesing for a regime change war in Iran, Cuba, Venezuela or China, respectively, then Bolton’s your guy.
Bolton credits himself with convincing Trump to withdraw the U.S. from the multilateral nuclear deal with Iran. The decision, which has now left the U.S. sidelined, has pushed the other signatories — European nations keen to do business with Iran — economically closer to fellow signatories and longstanding Iranian allies, Russia and China.
Instead of staying the course with the profitable long-term business approach that the deal afforded, Bolton says that he told Trump that an attack on Iran’s nuclear program was “the only lasting solution.”
On Venezuela, which at least has the good fortune of not being Iran, Bolton positions himself as a voice of reason. Even though Bolton sees Maduro’s leadership as a threat because it could open the door to foes — like Iran — he claims to have talked Trump down from attacking Venezuela. According to Bolton, former Trump chief of staff, Gen. John Kelly, said that Trump qualified a potential invasion of Venezuela as “cool.” Bolton said that he tried to convince Trump that regime change could be just as easily achieved by working with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s opponents. Smells a lot like political meddling in the affairs of a sovereign nation.
The theme of U.S. meddling — in Venezuela, in Iran, with Israel, in Syria — is secondary only to that of Bolton’s lifelong quest to turn peacetime into war fun time. He scolds Russia for “meddling globally in U.S. and many other elections.” Yet, during Bolton’s tenure, a Venezuelan politician, Juan Guaido, proclaimed himself “interim president of Venezuela” with U.S. backing, and met with Bolton and Trump while calling repeatedly for Maduro’s ouster.
Presumably without any irony — unless the whole book is next-level satire — Bolton rails against foreign interference in U.S. politics, all while making a career of it himself. In a meeting with Vladimir Putin on the subject of the Syrian war, Bolton says that Putin’s stated goals for Syria were to keep the country intact to prevent it from descending into another quagmire like the war in Afghanistan. Putin apparently told Bolton that the “Syrian rebels” weren’t reliable allies for America — something that the Pentagon itself already knew from blowing $500 million on training and equipping them, only for them to vanish into the jihadist landscape. Putin also encouraged the U.S. to help advance the Syrian peace process.
Peace? Pfft. Who did Putin think he was talking to? Bolton told Putin that U.S. objectives were to destroy ISIS and remove Iranian forces. “We were not fighting Syria’s civil war; our priority was Iran,” Bolton said. Because maybe Putin had been living on a different planet and hadn’t yet heard that Bolton has a thing for Iran.
Bolton proves that the talk of overthrowing Syrian President Bachar al-Assad for the Syrian people’s humanitarian interests was all just a convenient pretext to ensure that Iran didn’t nail down another regional ally. Putin even brought up to Bolton the possibility of Arabs uniting behind Iran, which Bolton calls “preposterous,” even though prevention of an Iran-Syria alliance was exactly why the U.S. was meddling in Syria. And since this particular Bolton-Putin meeting, Iraq and Turkey have also fostered closer relations with Iran.
Well, at least Trump now has the belated benefit of Putin’s prescient advice and analysis, thanks to Bolton’s book.
If Washington is angry about Bolton’s memoir, it’s primarily because it shows the entire world the ugliest face of U.S. foreign interventionism in all its unvarnished glory.
Rachel Marsden is a columnist, political strategist and host of an independently produced French-language program that airs on Sputnik France. Her website: www.rachelmarsden.com.