It is not exactly new news anymore that the talk titled, “Iran and the Contemporary Middle East” by former Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, sparked controversy on campus. Last week both Katelyn Billings ’16 and Sarah Kader ’16 wrote articles about Ambassador Bolton’s visit.
It is important to declare that my issues with Ambassador John R. Bolton’s visit have nothing to do with politics or with freedom of speech, but rather with the truth. Along with the unsupported allegations he made, his arguments were illogical, fitting for a past that is filled with controversy.
Even before Bolton arrived on campus, deception was utilized to shield the true purpose of the lecture; its goal was to warn our campus and community about the threat that Iran’s nuclear weapons program poses. However, nowhere on the poster did the words ‘nuclear weapons,’ ‘terrorism’ or ‘threat’ appear. There was not even a hint at his thesis: Bombing Iran is the only viable solution for the “conflict.”
He utilized three strategies: scare tactics, weak comparisons and the forgetfulness of the media and public. He made assertions in his speech here at Union that Iran is “within two to four months from being able to construct a nuclear weapon.”
Bolton has made these unsupported and vague comments several times before, and as result his credibility is almost at the “boy who cried wolf” level. The allegations keep him relevant in the media. In 2007, in an interview with The Telegraph, Bolton stated that Iran’s progress on developing nuclear weapons is “not stopping…and our time is limited.” In 2012, on Fox News, he claimed that Iran could have a nuclear weapon in under a year.
These proclamations have been made even after a 2007 NIE (National intelligence Estimate) by all 16 United States intelligence agencies. The NIE stated, “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.”
The February 2015 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency concluded similar findings, recently declaring: “Since 20 January 2014, Iran has not produced UF6 (uranium hexafluoride) enriched above 5% U-235 (uranium-235) and all of its stock of UF6 enriched up to 20% U-235 has been further processed through down-blending or conversion into uranium oxide. All of the enrichment related activities at Iran’s declared facilities are under agency safeguards…containment and surveillance.”
Bolton argues against with our own national intelligence agencies and the IAEA which reports to the United Nations and the UN Security Council. Where does his evidence come from?
Bolton’s interchangeable use of the phrases ‘nuclear program’ and ‘nuclear weapons program’ highlights a key point. Previous negotiations have terminated because we have demanded that Iran shut down all of their nuclear power plants. As a member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran has the right to use nuclear power peacefully and it stands by this. Until credible evidence suggests otherwise, no one can state, as if a fact, that Iran is going to start a “nuclear holocaust” as Bolton has.
In his lecture here at Union, he was trying to incite and scare the audience. He told us that a terrorist state could build a nuclear weapon, “put it in a pickup truck…take into any city in America…and cause untold destruction” without ever being detected. When a student asked what he wanted us to learn from the talk, he told them “fear nuclear proliferation, fear it!”
Bolton also made a comparison between North Korea and Iran. He stated that “if a state like North Korea, desperately poor, isolated and impoverished, can build deliverable nuclear weapons, it shouldn’t come to any surprise that we’re worried about a country like Iran.” So the more civilized, educated and wealthy a country is, the more likely they are to carry out a terrorist attack?
Bolton was a big supporter of the Iraq war. MSNBC reported that in 1998, he first signed a letter drafted by the neoconservative think tank, urging Bill Clinton to attack Saddam Hussein. As the State Department’s top arms-control official during Bush’s first term, he also advocated the war. Never were there any weapons of mass destruction found. The Iraq war was largely seen as a disaster; it both failed to reach its initial goals and tarnished the United States’ reputation.
Yet, in a piece he wrote for The Guardian in 2013, Bolton remains proud of the coalition that overthrew Saddam Hussein. He said that the coalition “accomplished its military mission with low casualties and great speed.” Bolton is failing to understand that removing Saddam was only the tip of the iceberg.
When asked how his persistence to go to war with Iran is different than his push for a war with Iraq? Bolton dodged the question, and said that the questioner didn’t understand that overthrowing Hussein in Iraq didn’t cause every event following it. The issues is that we invaded in the first place. None of the events below would have occurred had without our intervention.
The United States spent $758 billion on the Iraq war. More importantly, a conservative estimate of the death toll by the Iraq Body Count had civilian deaths between 138,566 and 157,160, and the American led coalition deaths at 4,804.
It is ironic that Bolton has no problem sacrificing young Americans to fight when he himself dodged the Vietnam War.
The Yale Daily News stated that Bolton was a supporter of the Vietnam War but joined the National Guard to avoid combat because he “had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy.”
Even if we were to accept his accusations and logic, waging war with Iran would be no piece of yellow cake. Iran has three times as much land as Iraq and a population that is 2.5 times larger. Iran is significantly wealthier than Iraq. How can he expect a war in Iran to go any differently?
Even Bolton assessed that bombing Iran would only set them back 3-5 years. There would also need to be a regime change. With all of the anger and resistance likely, as result of the bombing, a regime change could be very costly, in both dollars and deaths.
As an advertised expert on Middle Eastern affairs and U.N. representative Bolton should be held accountable for his statements. His push for a preemptive strike would cause deaths, more debt, and tarnish our reputation among other countries. His cries about the intentions of Iran’s nuclear power program come despite constant observation and safeguards by our government, and worldwide agencies. I will leave you with the last sentence of his speech.
“We are in a very dangerous time, the clock is ticking, and there’s no sign of a happy ending.”- Ambassador John R. Bolton
Bolton’s speech can be accessed online at concordy.com.