Global Policy Forum

Running Amok with John Bolton


By Mike Whitney
March 11, 2006

John Bolton's tenure at the United Nations has been relatively unsurprising. He was shoehorned into his position as UN ambassador by presidential edict although the Senate openly opposed his appointment. Since then, he has lived up to his reputation as a "loose cannon" that represents neither the American people nor the values espoused in the UN Charter. Bolton is the new face of the UN; a blustery huckster whose sole task is to promote the interests of big business and Israel. He is not a diplomat at all, but an uber-lobbyist whose mission is to take a wrecking ball to the foundations of international accord. As chief weapons-inspector, Scott Ritter noted, "Bolton was sent to destroy the UN."

From Day 1, Bolton has worked tirelessly to reinforce corporate America's stranglehold on the developing world and to transform the institution into a fiefdom for western elites. Under the banner of "Reform", he has affected a number of changes that will forever alter the composition of the UN and eradicate its last vestiges of legitimacy. In a year or so the United Nations will be just another American NGO doing the leg-work for the multinational corporations. That's good news for Bolton and his friends at the American Enterprise Institute, the ideological headquarters for America's imperial incursions.

By enlisting Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Bolton has advanced his agenda for "radical reform" including "more financial oversight, simplified hiring and reporting procedures, staff buyouts, and a modern information system." (Al Jazeera) He is pushing to privatize more of the work-load and outsource as many of the routine tasks as possible. Ultimately, he intends to staff the organization with like-minded people from the business and banking communities who will cater to the needs of their corporate managers. This will allow agency funds to be diverted to the usual suspects (Halliburton, Bechtel, Flour etc) while the relentless colonization of the developing world continues apace.

The New York Times has played a pivotal role in hyping the reform-project. Staff writer, Warren Hoge, has done most of the heavy-lifting (although he was assisted at one point by NYT icon Judith Miller) carping about the fictitious "oil for food" scandal and extolling Bolton's ax-wielding activities. The Times critique of UN failures reads like an extended passage from the "Rubaiyat"; great reading, but mostly hot air.

Kofi Annan, however, agrees with Bolton about the need for change: "Just as this building after 50 years of ad hoc repair and maintenance, now needs to be fully refurbished from top to bottom, so too our organization, after decades of piecemeal reform, now needs a thorough strategic refit."

So, what's the bottom line?

American plutocrats and corporate big-wigs are looking for an organization that is more responsive to their needs. The UN provides the credibility they need as cover for their "humanitarian interventions" (re: wars of aggression) and reconstruction projects, (Sluicing money to the major corporate players) but it requires major revamping to better serve their interests.

Bolton is pushing for structural changes to the Human Rights Commission so the UN can chastise the weaker nations for rights-violations while exempting the US from charges of prisoner abuse and war crimes. This all fits into the broader objective of converting the UN into a rubber stamp for American foreign policy. To that end, Bolton is pushing for a new post of "Chief Operating Officer". This job will be filled by a political-loyalist who can override the decisions of the Secretary-General and move the organization in a prudent, pro-corporate direction. Right now, it looks like the job will go to Mark Malloch Brown, who did a stint with the World Bank; proving he has the proper pedigree for his next assignment.

It appears that the job of Secretary-General will become a meaningless ceremonial role much like that of the President of the United States. Undoubtedly, it will be filled by someone who is capable of expressing great warmth and humanity while carrying out the imperial-mandate. Does Bill Clinton's name come to mind?

Bolton has worked diligently to remake the UN from the ground up ignoring the criticism of those who don't share his vision of a less-democratic institution. Dismissing their ridicule as sour-grapes, Bolton said triumphantly, "This work is too important to be caught up in procedural wrangles in this body." Bolton prefers his "business-friendly" version of democracy.

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