John Bolton said he was planning coups abroad. The global outcry was swift.

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When a former White House national security adviser and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations says he was involved in planning coups overseas, the world takes notice.

John Bolton, speaking to Jake Tapper live on CNN’s “The Lead” on Tuesday afternoon, said the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol was not a “carefully planned coup” – and that he would know.

“As someone who has helped plan coups – not here but, you know, elsewhere – that’s a lot of work, and that’s not what [Donald Trump] did,” Bolton, who served as the top national security official in the Trump administration for 17 months before a bitter exit in 2019, told Tapper.

In an interview with CNN, John Bolton says he planned coups abroad

It was a passing reference, apparently meant as a scathing critique of the former president rather than an explosive admission of responsibility.

But snippets of the remarks have gone viral online, attracting millions of views from all corners. Within hours, they had sparked official condemnation and unofficial speculation from foreign observers, especially in parts of the world where decades of US intervention remain fresh memories.

Evo Morales, the former president of Bolivia who was ousted from office in 2019 by the military amid murky election claims, tweeted on Wednesday that the remarks showed the US to be “democracy’s worst enemy and life”.

Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, on Thursday called for an international investigation into Bolton’s remarks.

“It is important to know in which other countries the United States has planned coups,” Zakharova told Radio Sputnik.

Was Bolton serious? Although some in the US had their doubts, distant rivals suggested it was just further confirmation of what they already knew.

“It’s no surprise,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a daily press conference on Thursday. “The admission simply shows that interfering in the internal affairs of other countries and overthrowing their governments has become the standard practice of the US government.”

“It’s part and parcel of American regulations,” Wang said.

Bolton did not specify which coups he had been involved in planning, if any, in the interview. When Tapper pressed him, he pointed to the failed attempt to overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in 2019, but added that the United States had “little to do with it.”

It was a strange example. On the one hand, Bolton had said the attempted ousting of Maduro was “clearly not a coup” in 2019.

Maduro’s government has accused the United States of helping to promote political instability in Venezuela.

Maduro did not offer a response after Bolton’s comments on Tuesday. But Samuel Moncada, Venezuela’s permanent representative to the United Nations, hopped on Twitter to respond that Bolton was right: Coups took a lot of work. “For this reason, he also failed with his local agents in Venezuela,” Moncada wrote.

Some international affairs pundits said Bolon’s comments could be a setback for well-meaning US policies.

“It undermines our efforts to advance and sustain democracy,” said Larry Diamond, a fellow at Stanford University and the Hoover Institution. “We have enough trouble countering Russian and Chinese propaganda.”

Bolton could not be reached for immediate comment.

For foreign critics and enemies of America, Bolton often plays the role of a boogeyman, representing the worst of American foreign policy and neoconservative interventionism.

As a public servant, his uncompromising views won him few friends internationally. But he appeared to enjoy his reputation, writing in a book that being called “human scum” by North Korean state media in 2003 was “the highest honor” he had received.

Bolton has had two stints in senior positions. Under President George W. Bush, he held senior arms control positions before becoming Ambassador to the United Nations in 2005. He was a key supporter of the 2003 invasion of Iraq that overthrew Saddam Hussein.

After the Bushyears, Bolton spent years in the foreign policy wilderness — though he hardly went hungry, taking positions at right-wing think tanks in Washington, working with a global private equity firm and serving as a contributor to Fox News.

He returned to government office in April 2018 as Trump’s White House national security adviser – his third in less than 18 months.

He didn’t last long, leaving the administration in September 2019. Foreign policy appeared to be a major source of disputes, with Trump later tweeting that despite Bolton’s reputation as a hawk, Trump actually had concerns. “stronger” opinions on Cuba and Venezuela.

So what coups could John Bolton have been involved in, exactly?

In Turkey, local media supporting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan linked Bolton’s latest remarks to the failed attempt to overthrow the Turkish government in July 2016. Bolton, who was not then in government, was a critic at the time. of Erdogan.

Takvim, a pro-government tabloid, published an article on Wednesday highlighting statements made by Bolton in 2016 in support of the “treacherous” coup attempt. The newspaper noted that Bolton had spoken out in support of Kurdish groups in Turkey and neighboring countries.

Takvim pointed to a 2016 appearance on Fox News in which Bolton argued that Erdogan had sought to “recreate the Ottoman Caliphate” with an Islamist government. Bolton criticized Erdogan for not supporting the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

“If he falls, I don’t shed tears,” Bolton said. “I don’t think he was a friend of the United States.”

Bolton has supported coups in the past.

In a 2008 interview with Al Jazeera, he said coups can sometimes be “a necessary way to advance American interests” and defended the 1953 overthrow of Iran’s democratically elected leader, Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, orchestrated by the Central Intelligence Agency.

“I think the United States should have that capability,” Bolton said, referring to Iran and North Korea as two areas the United States should focus on to overthrow hostile regimes.

But despite speculation, a number of former US intelligence operatives reacted derisively to Bolton’s remarks on Tuesday.

“Bolton never touched a coup,” wrote Milton Bearden, a former CIA station chief who oversaw US covert operations in Afghanistan in the 1980s, on Twitter. coups is a good idea does not come out enough.”

correction

An earlier version of this article incorrectly said Bolton’s CNN interview aired on Tuesday. It aired on Wednesday. The article has been corrected.

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