by Yonden Lhatoo

It’s time to be afraid, very afraid, with John Bolton as the United States’ new national security adviser. Of all the specimens of unhinged humanity in the purported pool of talent he’s been dipping into, Trump had to pull out the most reviled and discredited one.

While Trump has publicly decried the Iraq invasion of 2003 as “a waste of blood and treasure” – both a reasonable admission of wrongdoing and callous euphemism for mass murder and the systematic destruction of an entire nation – he seems to have conveniently forgotten Bolton was one of the key architects and cheerleaders of that genocide by the George W. Bush administration.

He is the stuff that nightmares are made of, a man so hell bent on waging war to further American interests, that he makes the neoconservative ideologues he is erroneously lumped together with seem benign in comparison, with their trope of “spreading democracy” around the world.

And that’s saying something, given that he was too extreme for even the likes of Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, all of whom would be tried at The Hague for war crimes if there was any real justice in this world.

Bolton is often described as “the most hawkish among hawks”, but he’s more dangerous than a bird – he’s a velociraptor. With a walrus moustache. It’s worth bringing up the facial hair, given that Bolton was once reportedly passed over for a cabinet post because appearance-obsessed Trump was repulsed by his moustache.

His style is ultimatum over diplomacy: “I appreciate the grooming advice from the totally unbiased mainstream media, but I will not be shaving my #mustache,” he tweeted back then.

Well, here he is, still unshaven and unapologetic, and poised to lead the US on the warpath, starting with bombing Iran. His style is ultimatum over diplomacy, and that should set the new tone for the White House, with another anti-Iran hardliner, CIA director Mike Pompeo, in place as secretary of state.

Bolton, a chronic Islamophobia patient like Trump, has been obsessed for many years with attacking Iran, to the extent that he has even suggested Israel should launch a nuclear strike.

Then there’s North Korea. While Trump has offered to hold talks with Kim Jong-un – of course, he could change his mind at the slightest whim – Bolton just wants to bomb the heck out of everyone.

In fact, you can thank him for the current state of affairs with North Korea, which is a result of the collapse of a 1994 agreement that had succeeded in freezing Pyongyang’s nuclear programme for nearly eight years. Bolton’s personal crusade against that accord is on the record.

As the walls close in on Trump with the Russian collusion investigation and the scandal over his alleged affair with a porn star, war would be the ultimate smokescreen. And why not? Former president Bill Clinton bombed Iraq in 1998 and Serbia the next year to distract everyone from the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal.

You would hope that at the end of the day, despite all the alarming omens of war, good sense will prevail in the planet’s most powerful nation. But then again, just look at the schoolyard fight between former vice-president Joe Biden and Trump.

Biden: “If we were in high school, I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him.” Trump: “He doesn’t know me, but he would go down fast and hard, crying all the way. Don’t threaten people, Joe!”

Both are in their 70s and professed leaders of the free world. This is where we are. God help us all.


Yonden Lhatoo is the chief news editor at the South China Morning Post, where this piece was published.

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