Former Trump adviser John Bolton admits to planning foreign coups

Observers criticise John Bolton for ‘casually boasting’ about how he helped plan coups in other countries.

NSA John Bolton
In 2019, John Bolton as national security adviser publicly supported Venezuelan opposition calls for the military to remove socialist President Nicolas Maduro [File: Jessica Hill/AP Photo]

John Bolton, a former United States ambassador to the United Nations and ex-White House national security adviser, has admitted in an interview he had helped plan coups in foreign countries.

Bolton made the remarks to CNN on Tuesday after the day’s congressional hearing into the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol. Former President Donald Trump has faced accusations of inciting the violence in a last-ditch bid to remain in power after losing the 2020 election.

Speaking to CNN anchor Jake Tapper, however, Bolton suggested Trump was not competent enough to pull off a “carefully planned coup d’etat”, later adding: “As somebody who has helped plan coups d’etat – not here but, you know, [in] other places – it takes a lot of work. And that’s not what he [Trump] did.”

Tapper asked Bolton which attempts he was referring to.

“I’m not going to get into the specifics,” Bolton said, before mentioning Venezuela. “It turned out not to be successful. Not that we had all that much to do with it but I saw what it took for an opposition to try and overturn an illegally elected president and they failed,” he said.

In 2019, Bolton as NSA publicly supported Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido’s call for the military to back his effort to remove socialist President Nicolas Maduro, arguing that Maduro’s re-election was illegitimate. Ultimately Maduro remained in power.

“I feel like there’s other stuff you’re not telling me [beyond Venezuela],” the CNN anchor said, prompting a reply from Bolton: “I’m sure there is.”

Many foreign policy experts have over the years criticised Washington’s history of interventions in other countries, from its role in the 1953 overthrow of then-Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh and the Vietnam war, to its invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan this century.

But it is highly unusual for US officials to openly acknowledge their roles in stoking unrest in foreign countries.

Bolton’s comments prompted a lot of reactions online.

“John Bolton, who’s served in highest positions in the US government, including UN ambassador, casually boasting about he’s helped plan coups in other countries,” Dickens Olewe, a BBC journalist from Kenya, wrote on Twitter.

Marc Owen Jones, assistant professor of Middle East Studies and Digital Humanities at Hamad bin Khalifa University, said: “Every news outlet needs to cover this, not because it’s surprising in and of itself (although the candour is), but because it needs to be part of everyone’s political vocabulary in how the US (and other large powers) operate.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies