Opinion

New York Times accidentally undermines John Bolton “Bomb Iran” op-ed in own pages

The New York Times recently published an op-ed by the characteristically bellicose John R. Bolton, headlined ‘To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran.’ Bolton, now a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, was U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations during the George W. Bush administration.

In an unusual touch, a link added to the original online edition of Bolton’s op-ed directly undermines Bolton’s case for war:

…Iran will not negotiate away its nuclear program. Nor will sanctions block its building a broad and deep weapons infrastructure. The inconvenient truth is that only military action like Israel’s 1981 attack on Saddam Hussein’s Osirak reactor in Iraq…can accomplish what is required.

U.S. and Israeli politicians often claim that Israel’s bombing of Iraq in 1981 significantly set back an already-existing Iraqi nuclear weapons program. The truth is almost exactly the opposite. Harvard Physics Professor Richard Wilson, who visited the ruins of Osirak in 1982 and followed the issue closely, has said the available evidence “suggests that the bombing did not delay the Iraqi nuclear-weapons program but started it.” This evidence includes the design of the Osirak reactor, which made it unsuitable for weapons production, and statements by Iraqi nuclear scientists that Saddam Hussein ordered them to begin a serious nuclear weapons program in response to the Israeli attack.

This perspective rarely appears in mainstream U.S. media outlets. One time it did, however, was in a 2012 Washington Post op-ed titled ‘An Israeli attack against Iran would backfire — just like Israel’s 1981 strike on Iraq.’

And it was that Post op-ed to which the Times chose to link as backup for Bolton. In other words, anyone looking for additional facts about Bolton’s case were led to an explanation of how what Bolton was saying was factually wrong, and that following the advice of people like Bolton would be disastrous.

Sewell Chan, Deputy Editor of the Times op-ed section, said that the link was “mistakenly added by an editor, not the writer, during the fact-checking process.” The Times said it plans to replace the link with one sending readers to a Times news article.

Bolton helped force out José Bustani, director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, in 2002. According to Bustani and others, Bolton was infuriated that Bustani was making plans for his organization to determine whether Iraq still possessed chemical weapons, since it would undermine the Bush administration’s plans for war. Bolton also appears to have played a key role in the notorious U.S. claims that Iraq was seeking yellowcake uranium from Niger.

Bolton claimed in a 2002 speech that Cuba is making “at least a limited offensive biological warfare research and development effort.” When a government intelligence analyst had disputed stronger language in Bolton’s original draft of his speech, Bolton and his staff berated him and attempted to have him removed from his job.

For its part, the Times famously helped the Bush administration make its case for invading Iraq by providing a conduit for false pre-war claims by government officials. (In addition, the Times’ 2002 story about Bolton’s Cuba speech was written by Judith Miller, the same reporter responsible for much of the Times’ worst coverage of Iraq.) The Intercept

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