On Bolton’s First Day on the Job, a Look Back at Some of His Angry Outbursts

Today is John Bolton’s first day as national security adviser. Here Paul Pillar recalls the infamous temper that White House staff, and perhaps many regions of the world, may have in store.

By Paul R. Pillar

John Bolton has a glaring record of extreme and bombastic views and behavior.  First-hand recollections of that record include, for example, former State Department officer Greg Thielmann’s description of Bolton’s performance as one of the most enthusiastic promoters of the Iraq War.

The following passage from my 2011 book Intelligence and U.S. Foreign Policy describes how, even compared to other proponents of that disastrous expedition, Bolton was exceptionally heavy-handed in trying to crush opposing viewpoints and distort intelligence.  While reading it, think about how one of the most important functions of the job of national security adviser, to which Bolton has been appointed, is to ensure that the president receives all relevant options and insights and the best possible information before making policy decisions.

The most egregious recent instances of arm twisting arose in George W. Bush’s administration but did not involve Iraq. The twister was Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton, who pressured intelligence officers to endorse his views of other rogue states, especially Syria and Cuba.

Bolton wrote his own public statements on the issues and then tried to get intelligence officers to endorse them.  According to what later came to light when Bolton was nominated to become ambassador to the United Nations, the biggest altercation involved Bolton’s statements about Cuba’s allegedly pursuing a biological weapons program.

When the relevant analyst in the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) refused to agree with Bolton’s language, the undersecretary summoned the analyst and scolded him in a red-faced, finger-waving rage.

The director of INR at the time, Carl Ford, told the congressional committee considering Bolton’s nomination that he had never before seen such abuse of a subordinate—and this comment came from someone who described himself as a conservative Republican who supported the Bush administration’s policies—an orientation I can verify, having testified alongside him in later appearances on Capitol Hill.

When Bolton’s angry tirade failed to get the INR analyst to cave, the undersecretary demanded that the analyst be removed.  Ford refused.  Bolton attempted similar pressure on the national intelligence officer for Latin America, who also inconveniently did not endorse Bolton’s views on Cuba.

Bolton came across the river one day to our National Intelligence Council offices and demanded to the council’s acting chairman that my Latin America colleague be removed.  Again, the demand was refused—a further example of how such ham-fisted attempts at pressure seldom succeed.

There was even more to the intimidation than has yet been made public, but I leave it to those directly targeted to tell the fuller story when they are free to do so.

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is author most recently of Why America Misunderstands the World. (This article first appeared as a blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.)

24 comments for “On Bolton’s First Day on the Job, a Look Back at Some of His Angry Outbursts

  1. john vasconcelos
    April 11, 2018 at 15:35

    John Bolton, George W Bush, and Dick Cheney needlessly lied us into the Iraq war in which many innocent people were killed.

  2. Kathy Gray
    April 11, 2018 at 11:31

    All of this insanity with trump never would have happened if not for Hillary Clinton and the DNC robbing Bernie Sanders of the nomination. Many of trump’s votes were protest votes because of Hillary, and like most who either didn’t vote or voted 3rd Party would have voted for Bernie Sanders if he were on the ballot. And now we’re not only stuck with trump but this maniac, who was instrumental in pushing the ILLEGAL invasion of Iraq.

    • Skip Scott
      April 11, 2018 at 12:02


      I agree completely. RussiaGate is all about keeping people from seeing this very plain reality. We are paying the price of an entirely corrupted DNC. The puppet masters are getting desperate. The strings are showing.

  3. April 10, 2018 at 20:02

    April 2018. Boltons first day on job, he fired Tom Bossert, the adult in the room. Why? He wants to staff up with his neo con zionist loving cohorts. The world is as unsafe today as it was during Cuban missile crisis. The con man, paranoid lunatic in the white House is unhinged. Now that the FBI raided cohen’s office and now have all the evidence going back years on the two…Trump is more crazy than ever before. HE will bomb the hell out of Syria, kill as many as he can, to get the headlines OFF Russia Gate and Stormey…he knows that it will work.

  4. Zachary Smith
    April 10, 2018 at 12:28

    Bolton doesn’t seem to be wasting any time. Headline:

    “Trump’s top homeland security advisor Tom Bossert resigns a day after John Bolton starts as national security advisor”

    Add this to the raid on Trump’s “fixer” lawyer, and I’d say it’s time to batten down the hatches. “They” have truckloads of ironclad legal dirt on the man now, and the pressure to do the Syria Attack – plus any other demands – will be so strong I don’t think he will even try to resist.

    “Do What We Tell You, And There Will Be No Charges”

    Very bad news indeed.

  5. April 10, 2018 at 10:53

    Bolton has been listed on several websites as holding dual US-Israel citizenship along with other notorious Bush operators as Wolfowitz, Perle, Chertoff, Abrams, and others. Also, Sheldon Adelson is Bolton’s biggest backer as well as a backer of Trump, Haley, and a big contributor to AIPAC. Adelson supports war on Iran.

    Philip Giraldi on 4/5/18 posted at Ron Paul Institute and Strategic Culture Foundation, “”What’s Wrong with Trump’s New National Security Advisor?,” states that 1- while Bolton was Undersecretary of State in 2003 and 2004 he made trips to Israel unreported to State Department. In February 2003 he told Israelis that US would remove Saddam Hussein, before the invasion was officially made. He had secret meetings with Dagan, head of Mossad, about supporting strikes on Iran. Also, 2 – while Bolton was ambassador to UN in 2006 he called Israel’s ambassador to UN Gillerman to tell him that the US about to vote against Israel on Res. 1701 of Security Council to end Israel’s month-long war between Israel and Hezbollah, which Condi Rice supported. Gillerman then called Ehud Olmert, who called Bush, and Bush overruled Rice on the vote.

    It appears to me that Bolton holds allegiance to Israel above to the United States. How is this acceptable? And just a day after Bolton steps into his new job, we are brought to the brink of war by the Cowardly Lyin’ Trump. Which is almost a year to the day after Trump’s Khan Sheikhoun 59 Tomahawks attack in response to an also unproved chemical attack in Syria.

    • April 10, 2018 at 20:06

      Bolton and all those neo cons you mentioned…..he helped write the Project for a New American Century taking out 7 countries in 5 yrs. Bush was going at it full blast UNTIL he got bogged down in Iraq…however, these neo cons know their lies, deceptions worked before so why not again. The US mililtary industrial complex and the rich billionaires in every country are aligned to destroy nations with resources…lying about the muslim faith, lying about dictators running: Saudia Arabia, UAE, Israel et al…The US congress is 98% zionist owned, which is why no demoRAT has made any statements to stop him from attacking Syria…they bought the lies as they have for decades.

  6. April 9, 2018 at 23:03

    Military bases is the most popular online news that provides news about the US military bases. The US has more than 800 military bases in all over the world and you can know about all of these bases by visiting our site.

    • April 10, 2018 at 20:09

      Another Vets group: Veterans Today publish a lot of truth.

  7. Zachary Smith
    April 9, 2018 at 17:38

    There was even more to the intimidation than has yet been made public, but I leave it to those directly targeted to tell the fuller story when they are free to do so.

    I’ve gotten the impression from many articles like this that to know Bolton was to dislike him. The only exceptions appeared to be high-level bosses or people he wanted to hire him. Obnoxious to peers, atrocious to subordinates, and endlessly smooching butt to superiors.

    I’d predict that Trump had some skin rash issues on his nether regions from the kissing up by Bolton. What better way to please the Orange POTUS?

  8. mike k
    April 9, 2018 at 17:35

    What a time for “bolt from the blue” Bolton to come aboard Trump’s ship of fools! What will he whisper in Capn’ Ahab’s ear at this crucial juncture??

    • Sam F
      April 9, 2018 at 19:50

      It may be that Trump appointed Bolton to complete a Junta of menacing tyrants. Trump’s bluster in lieu of diplomacy would be recommended only by tyrants seeking power through fear and confrontation, and his recent appointments all do that without contradiction, so it may be the Trump plan. Yet bluster seems to gain nothing at all from other nations, and has disgraced and discredited the US. Foreign leaders enjoy ridiculing Trump’s bluster. It may be no more than domestic grandstanding to recruit the frustrated bullies of the former democracy.

      The Trump junta may be close to getting out of control, but I suspect that Russia will be the cautious actor. If the Trump junta gets aggressive via KSA/Israel in Lebanon/Syria/Iran, Russia may find it best to destroy bases in Israel/KSA/Jordan/Qatar with threats of annihilation of their forces if they retaliate. A two stage plan should be considered, first a measured retaliation, followed if unsuccessful with complete destruction of several major military base, with the threat of nuclear destruction of their nuclear weapons, ports, and airports. That would disable Israel and KSA in Syria while alienating few in the US but the zionists, a radical minority. The failure of their efforts to get the US to fight for their land thefts might reduce their credibility and political bribery in the US.

      • Sam F
        April 9, 2018 at 20:47

        Actually, Trump aggression via Israel/KSA/Jordan/Qatar might really help destroy the zionist grip on the US.

        Russia could destroy their forces and bases to any necessary and forewarned extent, especially over a period of weeks or months between response levels, to allow diplomatic communications and a general consideration by the US of its real interests in the Mideast, which are in fact zero. As citizens we do not bomb or take over gas stations when we need gas, and neither would our government feel any military necessity in the Mideast without the zionist corruption. No other nation does that.

        Efforts of the zionists to demand brinksmanship by the US after retaliatory strikes by Russia would likely fail. Retaliations by Israel would meet increasing responses well forewarned, exposing them as the aggressors.

        • jeff montanye
          April 10, 2018 at 05:07

          as noted, who would believe that assad would snatch defeat from the mouth of victory by using chemical weapons? that they (the zionist deep state) don’t care if they are believed by their own citizens (well, sort of close) is the tell. the american empire is dying at increasing speed and israel’s jewish colony with it.

          give israel sovereignty in palestine and the palestinians voting rights as israeli citizens already and end this holocaust/charade.

          • Sam F
            April 10, 2018 at 08:57

            There is a complex matter, whether Israel would not tyrannize the Palestinians as much or more as second-class citizens in a one-state solution, as seems to me. I have suggested a repartition of Israel-Palestine creating two viable nations with a large DMZ, and various measures of completing distinct infrastructures, relocation, reallocation of property, assignment of shares in the DMZ and common property, all to be rejoined after several generations.

        • Skip Scott
          April 10, 2018 at 08:34

          Sam F-

          I would hope that your scenario would be the one to play out, but Bolton and Trump have both proven themselves to be Bibi loyalists for the most part. Sanity would have to prevail to keep the US out of the fray once Russia retaliates, and I’ve seen very little sanity thus far. Bolton is such a hot head that he would have a stroke if Trump didn’t jump right into the thick of it and start WWIII. I can’t think of a worse time for him to be appointed National Security Advisor.

          • Sam F
            April 10, 2018 at 09:04

            It is a complex issue, where the crisis of counterattacks of Israel would lead, but the US would have no proxy state of Russia to retaliate against for counterattacks in Israel/KSA/Jordan/Qatar. If Bolton proposed attacks in Crimea, Russia would have counterstrikes in West Ukraine already on the table.

            Perhaps the US would strike in Iran/Syria on false claims of equivalency despite Israeli aggression. Unlike the Cuba Missile Crisis, there is no JFK/RFK to realize that the US missiles in Turkey were the cause of USSR missiles in Cuba, and quietly back down. But no doubt Russia sees like most nations that the US bluster is no more than that, and that it can go ahead and attack US proxies engaged in obvious aggression.

            The worst would be Trump blowing off some nukes in a remote area. Likely the US would be properly humiliated or forced to stand aside, which should much weaken the zionists here when the dangers they have caused to the US are realized.

  9. john wilson
    April 9, 2018 at 16:42

    Bolton exists only to be a bully, make war and serve the interest of the military war machine. He now has the ideal post to further those interests. I expect him to order Trump to make an attack on Syria within the next week on the ludicrous allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria. Such was the power of the supposed chemical weapon that the victims were able to be successfully treated with a hose pipe!!!! I’m beginning to wonder in Trump appointed Bolton himself or was actually told by someone to appoint this psychopath. By the way, off topic I know, but the American secret service criminals have said the Skripals (the two who were supposedly poisoned in the UK by the Russians with weapons grade chemicals) should be taken to the US on witness protection programme even though the daughter wants to return home to Russia. What its got to do with the Americans is anyone’s guess, but if the Skripas do go to the US they will never appear on camera and most likely never be heard of again.

    • Zachary Smith
      April 9, 2018 at 17:27

      … even though the daughter wants to return home to Russia.

      I’d seen that the daughter was likely to be “protected” in the US, and that caused me to start thinking that she may not be any kind of “innocent victim” after all. In all this time the Russians have surely taken a very careful look at her activities and connections, and she may want to go anywhere on the planet instead of back home. Just a feeling….

      Regarding Bolton, as soon as I read your first sentence an idea popped into my head. He could advise Trump to avoid targeting any Syrian Army targets, but instead send hundreds of cruise missiles against Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria. There are bound to be a lot of those, and it’s unlikely they’d have the same level of air defense protection as the Syrians. It could be pitched as “we didn’t attack Syria, but rather the evil outside terrorists infesting the place”.

      If I was advising those evil outsiders, I’d tell them to disperse their camps and everybody dig a covered foxhole which was both deep and well away from anybody else, but still within jogging distance from where they do their work.

    • Kevin
      April 9, 2018 at 17:50

      The Skripals will most likely go into “Witness Protection,” which will be a front to have them disappeared. I do not expect an interview or an on camera statement to released as this would run the risk of destroying the whole narrative if even a single word contradicts the Official Narrative offered by the British Government, let alone a full denial of events that have been described. No one will be admitted to see them in the hospital, they will enter Witness Protection, and they will never be heard from again. Any inquiry from the public will elicit a generic statement from the British Government that they are “Safe,” all the while the Skripal’s ashes will be spread across the Atlantic. The British government failed miserably in this False Flag and they will seek to cover up all lose ends. Also one thing to pay attention to is that three high profile figures have are denied access to the public: Sergei, Yulia, Julian Assange within over period of a few weeks. One has to wonder if Julian has not been removed from the picture as well, given that he has not been seen or heard from in days. We all peasants here, though, so the best we can do is wait and see.

    • KiwiAntz
      April 9, 2018 at 18:07

      Great comment here? First, carry out another Fake False flag chemical attack but this time in the UK to soften up the public & get them ready for the drumbeats of war just as they did in Iraq to justify that invasion? This time, the go to fall guy is not Saddam but Putin & Russia, thus setting the stage for another illegal invasion, this time of Syria! This sickening & blatantly obvious, faked & staged chemical attack in East Gouta, Syria with America’s proxy terrorist army of Al Quaeda, a CIA creation, is now being setup to provide the pretext excuse that’s needed for America to invade Syria & replace Assad in its never ending regime change, chaos spreading agenda of genocidal murder & mayhem in order to steal Syria’s resources just as they stole Iraq’s oil fields? The Skripal’s are now being rendered to the US & probably blackmailed & paid millions to relocate to the good ole USA where they will conveniently disappear so they can’t be any investigation into this shameful affair concocted by Theresa May & her corrupt buffoon Boris Johnson & that pathetic English Govt! Where is all this leading to? With the appointment of Bolton & the other Neocons, it has to be a third World War, however this time America may have bitten off more than it can chew? This War has already been started by the US, the first stage has been in operation since Obama with this unprecedented propaganda campaign to demonise Russia; China & Iran & to brainwash the World’s & US citizens then the second stage is to start Trade Wars, then the final stage is Military action? Geographically, America has been isolated from the Worldwide chaos it creates with the Pacific Ocean on one side & the Atlantic on the other side, it has been insulated but that can change in a heartbeat with Russia & China’s nuclear weapons especially Russia’s hypersonic & long range missile capabilities that can evade US missile defences! Trump & Bolton may be ruling over a nuclear wasteland of a Country if they don’t alter their warmongering trajectory? America is playing a dangerous game of Nuclear chicken with Russia & if it had any sense, needs to pull its arrogant head in & abide by International law?

    • BaBa
      April 10, 2018 at 06:48

      As Mr. Gogol advised it is unwise to hold on tightly to flying troikas.

      This observation is not made tinged with schadenfreude which is best left to opponents who are so immersed, but to draw attention to opportunities afforded to others in facilitation of the transcendence of opponents.

    • Abe
      April 10, 2018 at 14:51

      U.S. & Israel Revving Up War Machine:
      Democracy Now interview with Glenn Greenwald on Israel and Gaza, Syria, Bolton and Trump

    • Hank
      April 12, 2018 at 13:26

      Take away the glasses, hair and mustache and lo and behold, what do you have? The Devil himself!

Comments are closed.