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Source: The Atlantic (Philip Montgomery)

By: Joseph Oliveri

President Trump fired national security advisor John Bolton on Tuesday, Sept. 10. While people like The Atlantic’s David Frum have the luxury of lauding Bolton as a “patriot,” any decent human being with a conscience and a grasp on ethics and democracy would and should call him what he really is: an accomplice to mass murder. 

We are fortunate that Bolton served a president with as short an attention span for foreign policy as Donald Trump. If he hadn’t, and served another Bush, or another Reagan, as he did, there is no telling what kind of additional suffering and destruction his lust for war might have incurred. To recount every specific individual aggression Bolton had a hand in would fill tomes. 

But that isn’t the point of discussing his legacy in the wake of his firing, though. What matters is his overall impact on foreign policy, a result of the influence of the offices he occupied.

As an assistant attorney general under Reagan, Bolton fought to suppress information that would incriminate the United States in the Iran-Contra affair, which funded death squads in Nicaragua responsible for thousands of civilian deaths. As Undersecretary for Arms Control under George W. Bush, he pulled the U.S. out of the Human Rights Council. 

During the buildup to the “War on Terror,” he fraudulently accused Cuba, Libya, and Iran of having a mutual weapons of mass destruction program and, unsurprisingly, became a proponent of the equally unfounded claim that Iraq did too. In order to invade Iraq in 2003, Bolton sabotaged a chemical weapons treaty which could have prevented armed intervention in favor of a nonviolent investigation by bullying the Nobel-Prize recipient in charge of it out of office.

Under Trump, he threatened legal action against any agents of the International Criminal Court who might try to charge the United States for war crimes (to add insult to injury, an act signed in 2002 violates international law by declaring the United States will invade the Netherlands if held by the Court). He was eager to escalate attacks on Syria and inflame relations with Russia in the process

He was instrumental in dismantling the Iran nuclear deal, which had reimbursed the country for unfair economic sanctions imposed on it by the U.S., as if our legacy there—supporting a coup and installing a dictator—wasn’t enough. Amid dubious claims of attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, which the White House raced to blame Iran for, he immediately rushed to get the Pentagon to draw up airstrike plans. 

When Washington refused to recognize Nicolás Maduro as the president of Venezuela, Bolton tried his best to organize a coup by means of aiding the illegitimate challenger Juan Guaidó, and voiced hopes for an invasion. Thankfully for the people of Venezuela, Guaidó’s support petered out, and hopes for a new war were lost. 

Bolton once said, “I look to define and defend American interests, and to protect and expand them.” We know what those interests really are—control of overseas resources like oil reserves, like the ones in Iraq and Venezuela—and what they actually require: more civilian deaths than even academic researchers are able to keep track of, not to mention the rise of ISIS and an ongoing refugee crisis.

Bolton was, is, and will always be an avatar of the virtues which seem to be the prevailing modus operandi of our country’s foreign policy: war for the sake of private profit, no matter the human cost, and exemption from the same international standards we expect other countries to adhere to.