Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Hooray! Bolton's Postponed

John Bolton's confirmation as UN ambassador was postponed yesterday, which means he is in some trouble. I'm still afraid he is likely to be confirmed, but giving such a bad nomination a little grief is better than letting him sail through. The letter from the US AID staffer was apparently the main reason for the hold up. Good for her!

The earlier letter from a number of diplomats opposing Bolton is here. Most of the signatories go way back. Most of the ones that I knew personally, I met while I was working on the Brazil desk, which was I think only my third assignment in the Foreign Service, under the Carter Administration. Nevertheless, more power to them!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Cheney Looks Bad on "24"

I'm surprised that Fox television, which is usually pretty loyal to the Bush Administration, is portraying Vice President Dick Cheney as such a coward in its hit show "24." The show has been dealing with a string of terrorist attacks modeled on 9/11. Most recently, Air Force One was shot down, with the President left incapacitated and the Vice President forced to take over. These are events not too unlike when a petrified Bush got in Air Force One on 9/11 and flew off to hide in the sky, Louisiana, Nebraska, wherever -- while Cheney took charge from a bunker under the White House, the same one the fictional VP is operating from in "24." The VP in "24" appears scared and afraid to come out of the bunker. Is this art imitating life, when Cheney disappeared into the bunker, and then stayed out of view for months? So far, Fox makes Cheney look pretty bad.

Cheney was a coward and dodged the draft during Vietnam. During 9/11 he went underground and stayed there. Let's hope he never really has to try to lead the country.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Bolton Is a Bad Man

The referenced letter from the Daily Kos Blog to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee regarding a US AID official who had a bad experience with John Bolton shows his bad personal traits. He was then out of government and working as a lawyer for some Republican organization that was doing US AID work in Kyrgyzstan. Interestingly, Kyrgyzstan, which lived in anonymity for years, is now in the news as a result of its coup. Is this due to the great work of Republicans in bringing democracy through this US AID project, or as most people think, just a coup.

I don't doubt that Bolton has some bad personal traits, which he evidenced in his dealings with some State/INR staffers during his more recent stint as Under Secretary of State, but more importantly are his political and philosophical views on foreign policy. In his earlier job as State Assistant Secretary for International Organizations (the UN) and more recently as Under Secretary, he has show his comtempt for diplomacy and working internationally. He, like many of his neo-con allies, believes that the US should just use its raw power internationally, as we did in Iraq. Diplomacy is for wimps (apparently in personal behavior as well as in international dealings).

The text of the letter is:

Dear Sir:

I'm writing to urge you to consider blocking in committee the nomination of John Bolton as ambassador to the UN.

In the late summer of 1994, I worked as the subcontracted leader of a US AID project in Kyrgyzstan officially awarded to a HUB primary contractor. My own employer was Black, Manafort, Stone & Kelly, and I reported directly to Republican leader Charlie Black.

After months of incompetence, poor contract performance, inadequate in-country funding, and a general lack of interest or support in our work from the prime contractor, I was forced to make US AID officials aware of the prime contractor's poor performance.

I flew from Kyrgyzstan to Moscow to meet with other Black Manafort employees who were leading or subcontracted to other US AID projects. While there, I met with US AID officials and expressed my concerns about the project -- chief among them, the prime contractor's inability to keep enough cash in country to allow us to pay bills, which directly resulted in armed threats by Kyrgyz contractors to me and my staff.

Within hours of sending a letter to US AID officials outlining my concerns, I met John Bolton, whom the prime contractor hired as legal counsel to represent them to US AID. And, so, within hours of dispatching that letter, my hell began.

Mr. Bolton proceeded to chase me through the halls of a Russian hotel -- throwing things at me, shoving threatening letters under my door and, generally, behaving like a madman. For nearly two weeks, while I awaited fresh direction from my company and from US AID, John Bolton hounded me in such an appalling way that I eventually retreated to my hotel room and stayed there. Mr. Bolton, of course, then routinely visited me there to pound on the door and shout threats.

When US AID asked me to return to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in advance of assuming leadership of a project in Kazakstan, I returned to my project to find that John Bolton had proceeded me by two days. Why? To meet with every other AID team leader as well as US foreign-service officials in Bishkek, claiming that I was under investigation for misuse of funds and likely was facing jail time. As US AID can confirm, nothing was further from the truth.

He indicated to key employees of or contractors to State that, based on his discussions with investigatory officials, I was headed for federal prison and, if they refused to cooperate with either him or the prime contractor's replacement team leader, they, too, would find themselves the subjects of federal investigation. As a further aside, he made unconscionable comments about my weight, my wardrobe and, with a couple of team leaders, my sexuality, hinting that I was a lesbian (for the record, I'm not).

When I resurfaced in Kyrgyzstan, I learned that he had done such a convincing job of smearing me that it took me weeks -- with the direct intervention of US AID officials -- to limit the damage. In fact, it was only US AID's appoinment of me as a project leader in Almaty, Kazakstan that largely put paid to the rumors Mr. Bolton maliciously circulated.

As a maligned whistleblower, I've learned firsthand the lengths Mr. Bolton will go to accomplish any goal he sets for himself. Truth flew out the window. Decency flew out the window. In his bid to smear me and promote the interests of his client, he went straight for the low road and stayed there.

John Bolton put me through hell -- and he did everything he could to intimidate, malign and threaten not just me, but anybody unwilling to go along with his version of events. His behavior back in 1994 wasn't just unforgivable, it was pathological.

I cannot believe that this is a man being seriously considered for any diplomatic position, let alone such a critical posting to the UN. Others you may call before your committee will be able to speak better to his stated dislike for and objection to stated UN goals. I write you to speak about the very character of the man.

It took me years to get over Mr. Bolton's actions in that Moscow hotel in 1994, his intensely personal attacks and his shocking attempts to malign my character. I urge you from the bottom of my heart to use your ability to block Mr. Bolton's nomination in committee.

Respectfully yours,

Melody Townsel
Dallas, TX 75208

Friday, April 15, 2005

Sokolski on NPT

When I worked on missile non-proliferation issues at State over ten years ago, Henry Sokolski was my opposite number at the Pentagon. We were almost always at loggerheads. It was my impression that he, like most conservatives working on arms control issues, wanted absolute security from any arms control agreement. That is not going to happen. There are many laws against murder -- local, state, federal -- but murders occur every day. Many innocent people are killed simply because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Similarly, arms control agreements are no guarantee that the things they are supposed to prevent will not occur. But, it's better to have laws against murder than not to have them, and it's better to have arms control agreements than not to have them.

The other principle is that countries will usually only agree to things that are in their self interest. They are not going to agree to something that will disadvantage them militarily vis-a-vis neighboring countries, for example. So, if you want Iran to give up something that it believes is in its self interest, uranium enrichment for example, you have to make Iran see that it is in its self interest to do so. For example, if Iran were assured that it would be guaranteed a supply of fuel for nuclear reactors at a lower price than it could produce that fuel itself. But, at the same time, it would have to be sure that neighboring countries, Israel for example, could not threaten it will nuclear destruction. It might also mean that current nuclear countries, other than Israel, would have to renounce nuclear weapons, the US for example.

Sokolski glosses over this major problem of nations not agreeing to things not in their self interest, when he says:

The first view was reflected in the original intent for the negotiations announced by Fred Aiken, the Irish foreign minister in 1959, when he laid down the first resolution for a nonproliferation treaty. He basically was concerned that the spread of nuclear weapons to additional states would make disarmament less likely, because it would make war, either inadvertent or deliberate, more likely.

Now that set of concerns produced the first three articles of the treaty, and they basically said, "If you have nuclear weapons, don't give them to anyone else; if you don't have any, don't try to get any; and everyone should submit themselves to inspections to make sure there's no diversion." That was, I think, a very sound view. What happened in the mid-1960s was [the result of] impatience in getting the superpowers to agree with this treaty, compounded by a new theory of what the worry of the world was, which was that there would be an arms race between superpowers that would start the next war, and there would be what they call vertical proliferation, and that had to be blocked. And that what we really needed to do was to get countries to make sure that if they had nuclear weapons, they didn't get many more of them, and that they didn't try to proliferate and make them better and quicker, or more accurate. And that what we really needed to do then was to make sure that there were only finite deterrent forces, if there were nuclear weapons. Now, that theory gave rise to things like mutual assured destruction and the like. (Italics supplied)

You can't have a treaty unless people (nuclear weapons states and non-nuclear states) agree to it. My problem with Sokolski and other DOD types was that they always wanted one-sided, restrictive agreements that no one else would accept. Their favored agreements were dead on arrival.

If they rewrite the NPT in the same manner, the NPT will cease to be an agreement which almost every country in the world has accepted. Granted there are important exceptions -- North Korea, India, Pakistan, Israel -- but by refusing to accept the NPT they brand themselves as outlaw regimes. The problem is not only what to do about countries like Iran that adhere to the NPT but might withdraw at some future time, but what we do about those countries like North Korea and India, who simply thumb their noses at the treaty.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

American Connections to Revolutions in Former Soviet Republics

The NYT reported on Saturday that Kateryna Chumachenko, the American wife of new Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko will renounce her American citizenship in order to take on Ukrainian citizenship. The article says she worked at the State Department, the Treasury and the White House before going to the Ukraine after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Could one or more of those jobs be CIA cover? In addition, the Washington Post reported that a US medical team assisted in treating Yushchenko's dioxin poisoning, although the US has been reluctant to admit it for fear of offending Russia. The article said:

The team's role in Yushchenko's recovery from an apparently deliberate case of massive dioxin poisoning has been undisclosed until now, largely because U.S. officials and the doctors did not want to appear to interfere in the political drama of the Ukrainian elections. Yushchenko, whose once-youthful face was mysteriously transformed into a blotch of lesions after the poisoning, visited the private Rudolfinerhaus clinic between the election that was declared fraudulent and the election that resulted in his presidential victory. Yushchenko's election was a bitter blow to the Russian government, and even today U.S. officials are reluctant to officially say they assisted the medical team. Gregory Saathoff, the lead doctor and executive director of U-Va.'s Critical Incident Analysis Group in Charlottesville, would confirm only broad details after saying he received permission from the family to discuss it "on a very limited basis." He said the U.S. government was not involved in his team's work. "It was clear that the U.S. government had no interest or ability in being involved in this situation because this would be interference in the election of another country," Saathoff said. "The U.S. government was notably hands-off." But a senior U.S. official directly involved in the operation said it began with a request from Yushchenko's family for assistance, via an official in the Pentagon, and the State Department provided logistical support during the doctors' overseas trip. He said Saathoff kept in touch with the State Department in Washington, at one point informing officials they suspected they were being followed -- by police or even Russian intelligence agents -- and would cut their stay in Vienna short by a day.
In Georgia, the new president Saakashvilli studied, lived and worked in the United States for years before returning to Georgia to become president.

The NYT today says the revolution in Kyrgyzstan did not move Kyrgyzstan any closer to the Western orbit. It was probably just a coup in which one corrupt group took power from the corrupt group already in office.

Ironically so far the revolutions have taken place in the former Soviet republics that are the most democratic (relatively) compared to the other former Soviet republics. What is the lesson from this? For current despots to crack down harder, maybe including Putin?

What does Russia think about this? As usual, the NYT is on top of this, and says Russia might not be too happy about what's going on in its neighborhood and might be preparing to block similar activities in mother Russia.