If like attracts like, there should be no surprise that President Donald Trump would choose John Bolton as his next national security advisor -- both men are abrasive, happily shirk convention and suffer little to no remorse in threatening others to achieve their ends.
José Bustani, the former head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, can attest personally to Bolton's willingness to throw aside diplomacy in favor of menacing threats and ultimatums.
In 2002, ahead of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Bustani came face-to-face with Bolton in a meeting that left the retired Brazilian diplomat shaken though undeterred.
[T]he Bush administration was putting intense pressure on Bustani to quit as director-general of the OPCW — despite the fact that he had been unanimously re-elected to head the 145-nation body just two years earlier. His transgression? Negotiating with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to allow OPCW weapons inspectors to make unannounced visits to that country — thereby undermining Washington’s rationale for regime change.
In 2001, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell had penned a letter to Bustani, thanking him for his “very impressive” work. By March 2002, however, Bolton — then serving as under secretary of state for Arms Control and International Security Affairs — arrived in person at the OPCW headquarters in the Hague to issue a warning to the organization’s chief. And, according to Bustani, Bolton didn’t mince words. “Cheney wants you out,” Bustani recalled Bolton saying, referring to the then-vice president of the United States. “We can’t accept your management style.”
What came next was a thuggish threat, more the kind one might expect from the mafia rather than a sanctioned government official:
“You have 24 hours to leave the organization, and if you don’t comply with this decision by Washington, we have ways to retaliate against you.”
There was a pause.
“We know where your kids live. You have two sons in New York.”
Per The Intercept, Bustani's account is confirmed by several individuals who were present or made aware at the time, including Bustani's son-in-law and two colleagues from the OPCW.
The White House did not comment other than to point to Bolton's memoir:
[A] press spokesperson that referred me to a section of his 2008 memoir, “Surrender is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations,” which deals with Bustani and the OPCW. In the book, Bolton said the U.S. viewed Bustani as a “management disaster” (without mentioning Powell’s praise), but claims to have offered him “a gracious and dignified exit” — if, that is, he went quietly.
The former OPCW head was perplexed that anyone could work with Bolton:
“The problem with this man is that he’s so ideological, so brutal; he doesn’t open the door to dialogue.”
Bustani's is but one story in the history of Bolton's intimidation tactics and outbursts.