Skip to main content

US: Trump's former national security adviser says he 'helped plan coups' in other places

Bolton's comments on coups sparks outrage over US history of foreign interventions
By in
Washington

Former White House national security adviser John Bolton said he has firsthand experience in planning coup d'etats around the world, in a rare admission that was quickly condemned by an ex-CIA official as false, while also sparking outrage over the US's history of foreign interventions.

In an interview by CNN journalist Jake Tapper on Tuesday to discuss the events of the 6 January 2021 attack on the US Capitol, Tapper argued "one doesn't have to be brilliant to attempt a coup".

John Bolton's memoir makes him look far more dangerous than Trump
Read More »

Bolton responded by saying that "as somebody who has helped plan coups d'etat - not here, but, you know, other places - it takes a lot of work, and that's not what [Trump] did," Bolton told CNN's Jake Tapper.

The comments, which were seen as unusual given that Washington has often refrained from using the word "coup" in its foreign policy, went viral by early Wednesday, with a clip posted on Twitter garnering millions of views.

Tapper followed up with Bolton, asking him to elaborate on his "expertise having planned coups", asking whether he conducted any "successful coups". The former national security adviser alluded to US support for an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in 2019.

"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.

Tapper said he felt as if there was "other stuff you're not telling me", to which Bolton laughingly responded, "I'm sure there is."

Bolton, a Republican hawk who has served in multiple US administrations, was Trump's national security adviser for 17 months before being removed by the former president in 2019.

Prior to this, he held a major role in arms control during the George W Bush administration and served as the ambassador to the United Nations in 2005 and 2006.

Bolton was a champion of Bush's 2003 invasion of Iraq and has also advocated for military action or regime change in Libya, Syria, and Iran.

US history of foreign interventions

Bolton's comments were quickly condemned by a former CIA official, who said the ex-US official has had no experience in planning coups.

"My point is that Bolton's comment is dangerous because it sends a false signal to the American people that senior officials sit in the White House and choreograph coups. Nonsense," said John Sipher, who is now a fellow at the Atlantic Council.

Yet Sipher's comments, to which he elaborated that the US learned from its previous engagements in coups that they "don't work", raised further questions about the role that Washington has played in toppling foreign governments.

Last year, the Pentagon said a number of Colombian nationals detained over the killing of Haitian President Jovenel Moise were trained by US forces and "had participated in past US military training and education programs".

Washington has a history of foreign interventions and has played roles in: the 1953 overthrow of then-Iranian nationalist prime minister Mohammad Mosaddegh; the 1954 removal of Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz; and the 1960 coup that overthrew Congolese President Patrice Lumumba, among others.

"The United States has indeed sponsored and participated in lots of coups and foreign government overthrows, dating back to the turn of the 20th century [and] Bolton was personally involved in many of the recent efforts - in Nicaragua, Iraq, Haiti and others," Jonathan Katz, author of the book Gangsters of Capitalism, said on Wednesday in his newsletter The Racket.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.