July 12, 2022 Editor

Commentary on: John Bolton Casually Admits to CNN That He’s Planned Coups

“As somebody who has helped plan coups d’état—not here, but other places—it takes a lot of work,” the former Trump adviser boasted while on-air.

But, personally, I think a lot of the policing around the word “coup”—and whether Trump’s exceedingly dumb actions fit the definition—belie the fact that something can be both evil and lacking prestige. That a coup does not have to be planned by Harvard graduates and McKinsey consultants, even if that’s how America usually does these sorts of things. Hey, expanding our definition might even allow us to see the ways we are headed for illiberalism now.

Later in the interview, Bolton clarified that he was referring to the 2019 American-led attempt to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. (At the time, as the Washington Post points out, Bolton denied that overthrowing Maduro was a coup, telling reporters, “This is clearly not a coup.”)

Still, Bolton’s admission begs the obvious question: What other coups do you think Bolton helped plan?

After all, Bolton has been within the orbit of Republican politics, and generally the apparatus of our state’s foreign policy missions, since the 1980s. He has served in the administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush.

I think a simple test will suffice to look into this: When did America do (or help do) a coup? And where was John Bolton during said coup?

(An admin note: I am also leaving plenty out of coups the United States has aided in. There are simply too many: Just between 1947 and 1989, according to one analysis, the US attempted 72 times to change another nation’s government, which included 66 covert operations. That number doesn’t include pre-Cold War interventions, notably in Hawaii, Costa Rica, and Cuba. And I’ve broadly thought of “coup” here as an attempt at regime change—in part because during Bolton’s heyday the US went from secret CIA plot to assassinate leaders to just straight up war. And it’s worth including those interventions.)

Did I say this before?: Ah, the noble United States of America . . . So what if they engineered a few dozen coups here and there around the world, where multiplied hundreds of thousands were tortured–the lucky ones–and “disappeared”–tortured beforehand, then murdered–under the watchful eye of those Ultimate Western Good Guys😇: The United States of Mass Murder and Mayhem. But hey!–they’re the good guys, and only do what’s best for Wall Streetoops–to make the world safe for Wall Street–oops, slipped in again–“democracy” (for those in the eye of the storming), and the greater good . . . of Wall Street (heck–let it be, since it is!) oligarchs’ pocketbooks. See on this, for example:

Danielle Letenyei - Author

MAR. 14 2022,

Does America Have Oligarchs? Yes, It Does — Here Are the Top Names.

See as well, by Andrea Bernstein: American Oligarchs: The Kushners, the Trumps, and the Marriage of Money and Power.

Of it one reads:

An absorbing, novelistic, and powerfully affecting work of history and investigative journalism that tracks the unraveling of American democracy.

In American Oligarchs, award-winning investigative journalist Andrea Bernstein tells the story of the Trump and Kushner families like never before. Building on her landmark reporting for the acclaimed podcast Trump, Inc. and The New Yorker, Bernstein brings to light new information about the families’ arrival as immigrants to America, their paths to success, and the business and personal lives of the president and his closest family members. Drawing on hundreds of interviews and more than one hundred thousand pages of documents, American Oligarchs details how the Trump and Kushner dynasties encouraged and profited from a system of corruption, dark money, and influence trading, and reveals the historical turning points and decisions on taxation, regulation, white-collar crime, and campaign finance laws that have brought us to where we are today. A new afterword examines how the two families’ transactional politics left America particularly vulnerable to the crises of 2020.

See too, by CHUCK CHURCHILL, March 22, 2022: It’s All Oligarchs All the Way Down. We read:

Today’s US propaganda barrage seeks to demonize the Russians as thoroughly and completely as possible, which now ironically includes attacks on Russia’s oligarchy.  This could, and hopefully will, open a can of worms for US oligarchic orchestrators of such propaganda, whose hypocrisy is apparently bottomless.  If the Russian oligarchs are monsters, what about our own plutocrats?  Today we are offered a typical capitalist “choice.” Which national set of oligarchs do we want to “support” and die for?

In Great Britain they occupy Russian oligarchs’ houses and “take over” their yachts (what the hell are they going to do with them?).  Here in the US a large majority, especially those who have to sell their labor to survive, know we have “our own” oligarchs, the infamous 1%.  This class fragment of the hyper-wealthy, led by financiers, military contractors and oil corporations, easily surpasses their Russian rivals, as Jeffrey St. Clair points out in his most recent Roaming Charges column in CounterPunch.

US corporations have, over a century of capitalist competition, concentrated in their hands ownership of means of production and control of institutions (including the Pentagon), politics (both big-business-run parties) as well as mass media, “education,” and (mis)information dissemination. Now they are taking advantage of fomenting another world conflict, arguably the most dangerous one since the last confrontation with Russia over missiles in Cuba, to continue selling weapons, oil, and looting the world’s working class and the world environment.

Then see, by and Ana Vanessa Herrero, July 13, 2022: John Bolton said he planned foreign coups. The global outcry was swift. Some excerpts:

It was a passing reference, apparently meant as a stinging criticism of the former president rather than a bombshell admission of responsibility.

But clips of the remarks went viral online, drawing 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 U.S. 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 Wednesday that the remarks showed that the United States was “the worst enemy of democracy and life.”

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

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

Was Bolton serious? Though some in the United States had their doubts, far-flung rivals suggested this was just further confirmation of what they already knew.

“This is no surprise,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a daily news conference on Thursday. “The admission simply shows that interfering in other countries’ internal affairs and overthrowing their governments have become the standard practice of the U.S. government.”

“This is very much part of the U.S. rule book,” Wang said.

Some international affairs experts said Bolton’s comments could be a setback for well-intentioned U.S. policies.

“It’s damaging to our efforts to advance and support democracy,” Stanford University-Hoover Institution scholar Larry Diamond said. “We have enough trouble already countering Russian and Chinese propaganda.”

Bolton could not be reached for immediate comment.

For America’s foreign critics and foes, Bolton often plays the role of a boogeyman, representing the worst of U.S. foreign policy and neoconservative interventionism.

Bolton has been supportive of coups in the past.

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

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

But despite the speculation, a number of former U.S. intelligence operatives on Tuesday responded with derision to Bolton’s remarks.

See as well:

Several posts on this website deal with the U.S. And Empire/American Empire.  See also An Open Letter to Michelle Obama. My Home page is dedicated to the Gospel as Counter-Narrative to Empire. On it you may read:

American Empire has always and supremely been about “plundering, butchering, and stealing”, “the sack of cities, the rape of populations, pyramids of bones, acres of desolation”, leaving “desolation”, “destruction and misery and death” in its wake (while calling it “peace and freedom”), and long since has been in voracious bid for worldwide domination, in order to extract maximum wealth from all peoples and the Planet. Our call is simply to practise insurrection against Empire in all its avaricious, brutal and horribly destructive ways. (No small order!)

There is much else to consider on that page. One more quote:

In this historical moment that supreme manifestation of Empire is the United States – to which the entire Western world is tied in various supportive ways; under which domination the rest of the world suffers: in the Greater Middle East as only one example, which endures brutal will to domination and oppression at the hands of American Empire. I reflect on this in an introduction to a posting here.

An agonizing in-depth look at one aspect of the horrors of American militarism is arms sales. The New York’s Times exposé “Why Bombs Made in America Have Been Killing Civilians in Yemen” makes one weep in horror and rage. Looking at all those (white) faces behind the obscenely massive U.S. arms sales industry, my mind returned repeatedly–and don’t excuse my french— to the words: “Those God-damned bastards!” And I thought of Bruce Cockburn’s “If I Had a Rocket Launcher:”

But those Huey helicopter pilots targeted in the song were merely the puppets. The puppeteers were and are of course the arms manufacturers, the dealers, the politicians–all of whom oversee those massive death-dealing murderous Industries of Horrors! Such are vile, loathsome, inhuman, evil, disgusting–adjectives pile up–Merchants of Death making billions off literally shredding others’ lives–indiscriminately infants, children, innocent civilians “over there” but so far NIMBY. They are “Sons of Bitches (Cockburn)”, Dr. Deaths à la Nazi Slaughterhouses. They are execrable!

But it does not stop there! Nick Turse wrote The Complex: How the Military Invades our Everyday Lives, a description of which reads:

Now in paperback, a stunning breakdown of the modern military-industrial complex―an omnipresent, hidden-in-plain-sight system of systems that penetrates all our lives.

From iPods to Starbucks to Oakley sunglasses, historian Nick Turse explores the Pentagon’s little-noticed contacts (and contracts) with the products and companies that now form the fabric of America. He investigates the remarkable range of military incursions into the civilian world: the Pentagon’s collaborations with Hollywood filmmakers; its outlandish schemes to weaponize the wild kingdom; its joint ventures with Marvel Comics and NASCAR. Similarly disturbing is the way in which the military, desperate for fresh recruits, has tapped into the “culture of cool” by making “friends” on MySpace.

A striking vision of this brave new world of remote-controlled rats and super-soldiers who need no sleep, The Complex will change our understanding of the militarization of America. We are a long way from Eisenhower’s military-industrial complex: this is the essential book for understanding its twenty-first-century progeny.

Is Canada however any different? This article is about merely one aspect of the lucrative contracts our arms dealers supply to Saudi Arabia–around the world too. This article, “Canada’s checkered history of arms sales to human rights violators” concludes:

In actual fact, if previous debates on arms sales are anything to go by, Canada is less vigilant on human rights than it was in 1946, or even in 1999. It has some way to go before it approaches the standards that once prevailed.

The arc of Canadian arms sales is long, but it seems to bend away from, not towards, human rights.

In reality arms sales alongside human rights is a laughably ludicrous oxymoron!

Bruce Cockburn’s song therefore falls seriously short of targeting the true devils: above all, arms industry leaders, politicians. But in the end: “We have seen the devil–and it is us!” We are God-damned bastards all! Or: tell me it ain’t so!? (But back it up!)

Then see my Book Review of: Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, by William Blum.

In light of overwhelming evidence throughout the book of horrific imperial escapades the world over, the final chapter of the book under review asks:

How do they get away with it? How does the United States orchestrate economies, subvert democracy, overthrow sovereign nations, torture them, chemicalize them, biologize them, radiate them… all the less-than-nice things detailed in this book, often in the full glare of the international media, with the most stunning contradictions between word and deed… without being mercilessly condemned by the world’s masses, by anyone with a social conscience, without being shunned like a leper? Without American leaders being brought before international tribunals, charged with crimes against humanity? (p. 243)

Sheer romantic mystique, and a gargantuan propaganda machine are Blum’s explanation (not least Hollywood–see below).

Enter, for example, the billion-dollar-plus grossing recent movie, Top Gun: Maverick, discussed here:
Right into the political danger zone

July 14, 2022. We read in my post:

An All-American hit

Box-office information does not contradict conservatives’ case. About 55 percent of the opening weekend sales, an unusually high proportion, came from ticket-buyers over 35, according to Paramount.

And — atypically for big box-office hits in this era — “Top Gun: Maverick” has made more money in the United States and Canada than in the rest of the world, according to Box Office Mojo.

Which is itself a point of pride for some of the film’s conservative backers: “‘Top Gun: Maverick’ Reaches $1 Billion Worldwide — Without China,” read a Breitbart headline last month. (The film was not released in China; earlier, a Chinese company withdrew its share of financing for the film because of its pro-American message, according to a Wall Street Journal report.)

Ben Shapiro, a popular conservative pundit who co-founded the website The Daily Wire, had predicted in his rave review that the movie would do better domestically than abroad. “The film itself is pretty red, white and blue,” he said. “That’s just assumed as the backdrop. Which is the way movies used to be.”

See on this excellent historical perspective, by : The long, long, twisty affair between the US military and Hollywood: For the Pentagon, films like Top Gun: Maverick are more than just a movie. We read:

The military has written policies on what it approves and disapproves. It disapproves depictions of failures and crimes, which eliminates much of reality. It rejects films about veteran suicide, racism in the military, sexual harassment and assault in the military. But it pretends to refuse to collaborate on films because they’re not “realistic.”

Hollywood knows how to sell the life of a soldier. Top Gun paints the life of an elite pilot as mostly a real-life video game, with young men competing to top the charts at the academy. (The rankings were a fiction invented for the film, though the school is real.) In a sort of coda to the story, the pilots do engage in real combat — but we never know who the enemy is, barely get an explanation as to the mission, and mostly see them pulling off daring maneuvers to great acclaim. And in 1986, the US wasn’t engaged in a real-life war. Vietnam was becoming a more distant memory for young people. Who wouldn’t want to be a hero?

So Top Gun was more than a gangbusters earner for Paramount; it was a coup for the Pentagon. In exchange for the enlistment bounce and a sexy, exciting perspective on the pilot’s life being presented to the general public, the military lent considerable aid to the production, from locations and equipment to personnel. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer has said that Top Gun would not have been made without the military’s assistance.

This is far from an anomaly.

See also The Pentagon and CIA Have Shaped Thousands of Hollywood Movies into Super Effective Propaganda,  , January 10, 2022. In it:

Propaganda is most impactful when people don’t think it’s propaganda, and most decisive when it’s censorship you never knew happened. When we imagine that the U.S. military only occasionally and slightly influences U.S. movies, we are extremely badly deceived. The actual impact is on thousands of movies made, and thousands of others never made. And television shows of every variety. The military guests and celebrations of the U.S. military on game shows and cooking shows are no more spontaneous or civilian in origin than the ceremonies glorifying members of the U.S. military at professional sports games — ceremonies that have been paid for and choreographed by U.S. tax dollars and the U.S. military. The “entertainment” content carefully shaped by the “entertainment” offices of the Pentagon and the CIA doesn’t just insidiously prepare people to react differently to news about war and peace in the world. To a huge extent it substitutes a different reality for people who learn very little actual news about the world at all.

Yet, actual U.S. military veterans are often shut out and not consulted They often find movies rejected by the Pentagon as “unrealistic” to be very realistic, and those created with Pentagon collaboration to be highly unrealistic.

The U.S. military knows that few people watch boring and non-credible news programs, much less read boring and non-credible newspapers, but that great masses will eagerly watch long movies and TV shows without too much worrying about whether anything makes sense. We know that the Pentagon knows this, and what military officials scheme and plot as a result of knowing this, because of the work of relentless researchers making use of the Freedom of Information Act. These researchers have obtained many thousands of pages of memos, notes, and script re-writes. I don’t know whether they’ve put all of these documents online — I certainly hope they do and that they make the link widely available. I wish such a link were in giant font at the end of a fantastic new film. The film is called Theaters of War: How the Pentagon and CIA Took Hollywood. The Director, Editor, and Narrator is Roger Stahl. The Co-Producers are Matthew Alford, Tom Secker, Sebastian Kaempf. They’ve provided an important public service.

See the trailer below.

The alliance between the military and Hollywood is the main reason that we have lots of big blockbuster movies on certain topics and few if any on others. Studios have written scripts and hired top actors for movies on things like Iran-Contra that have never seen the light of day because of a Pentagon rejection. So, nobody watches Iran-Contra movies for fun the way they might watch a Watergate movie for fun. So, very few people have any notions about Iran-Contra.

But with the reality of what the U.S. military does being so awful, what, you might wonder, are the good topics that do get lots of movies made about them? A lot are fantasy or distortion. Black Hawk Down turned reality (and a book it was “based on”) on its head, as did Clear and Present Danger. Some, like Argo, hunt for small stories within large ones. Scripts explicitly tell audiences that it doesn’t matter who started a war for what, that the only thing that matters is the heroism of troops trying to survive or to rescue a soldier.

Yet, actual U.S. military veterans are often shut out and not consulted They often find movies rejected by the Pentagon as “unrealistic” to be very realistic, and those created with Pentagon collaboration to be highly unrealistic. Of course, a huge number of military-influenced films are made about the U.S. military fighting space aliens and magical creatures — not, clearly, because it’s believable but because it avoids reality. On the other hand, other military-influenced films shape people’s views of targeted nations and dehumanize the humans living in certain places.

Don’t Look Up is not mentioned in Theaters of War, and presumably had no military involvement (who knows?, certainly not the movie-watching public), yet it uses a standard military-culture idea (the need to blow up something coming from outerspace, which in reality the U.S. government would simply love to do and you could hardly stop them) as an analogy for the need to stop destroying the planet’s climate (which you cannot easily get the U.S. government to remotely consider) and not one reviewer notices that the film is an equally good or bad analogy for the need to stop building nuclear weapons — because U.S. culture has had that need effectively excised.

The military has written policies on what it approves and disapproves. It disapproves depictions of failures and crimes, which eliminates much of reality. It rejects films about veteran suicide, racism in the military, sexual harassment and assault in the military. But it pretends to refuse to collaborate on films because they’re not “realistic.”

Theaters of War ends with a recommendation, that movies be required to disclose at the start any military or CIA collaboration. 

In the original script for the first Iron Man movie, the hero went up against the evil weapons dealers. The U.S. military rewrote it so that he was a heroic weapons dealer who explicitly argued for more military funding. Sequels stuck with that theme. The U.S. military advertised its weapons of choice in Hulk, Superman, Fast and Furious, and Transformers, the U.S. public effectively paying to push itself to support paying thousands of times more — for weapons it would otherwise have no interest in.

“Documentaries” on the Discovery, History, and National Geographic channels are military-made commercials for weapons. “Inside Combat Rescue” on National Geographic is recruitment propaganda. Captain Marvel exists to sell the Air Force to women. Actress Jennifer Garner has made recruitment ads to accompany movies she’s made that are themselves more effective recruitment ads. A movie called The Recruit was largely written by the head of the CIA’s entertainment office. Shows like NCIS push out the military’s line. But so do shows you wouldn’t expect: “reality” TV shows, game shows, talk shows (with endless reunifications of family members), cooking shows, competition shows, etc.

On the other hand, other military-influenced films shape people’s views of targeted nations and dehumanize the humans living in certain places.

I’ve written before about how Eye in the Sky was openly and proudly both completely unrealistic nonsense and influenced by the U.S. military to shape people’s ideas about drone murders. A lot of people have some small idea of what goes on. But Theaters of War: How the Pentagon and CIA Took Hollywood helps us to grasp the scale of it. And once we’ve done that, we may gain some possible insights into why polling finds much of the world fearing the U.S. military as a threat to peace, but much of the U.S. public believing that U.S. wars benefit people who are grateful for them.1

We may begin to form some guesses as to how it is that people in the United States tolerate and even glorify endless mass-killing and destruction, support threatening to use or even using nuclear weapons, and suppose the U.S. to have major enemies out there threatening its “freedoms.” Viewers of Theaters of War may not all immediately react with “Holy shit! The world must think we’re lunatics!” But a few may ask themselves whether it’s possible that wars don’t look like they do in movies — and that would be a great start.

To learn more about this film, view it, or host a screening of it, go here.

David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is executive director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio.He is a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and was awarded the 2018 Peace Prize by the U.S. Peace Memorial Foundation. Longer bio and photos and videos here. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.


Former Trump national security adviser John Bolton on Tuesday afternoon just casually claimed that he has helped plan coups in other countries.

“It takes a lot of work” to overthrow a foreign government and seize power, the lifelong foreign-policy hawk declared.

An admin note: I am also leaving plenty out of coups the United States has aided in. There are simply too many: Just between 1947 and 1989, according to one analysis, the US attempted 72 times to change another nation’s government, which included 66 covert operations.

Moments after Tuesday’s explosive Jan. 6 hearing detailed former President Donald Trump’s coordination with far-right extremist groups in the lead-up to the violent Capitol attack, Bolton appeared on CNN to provide analysis of the committee’s latest revelations.

Disagreeing with the former ambassador to the United Nations, [Jake] Tapper noted that “one doesn’t have to be brilliant to attempt a coup,” prompting the architect of the Iraq War to humblebrag about his past coup-planning efforts.

“I disagree with that,” Bolton declared. “As somebody who has helped plan coups d’état—not here, but other places—it takes a lot of work. And that’s not what he did. It was just stumbling around from one idea to another.”

The unapologetic war hawk went on to note that he wrote about Venezuela in his latest book, adding that it “turned out not to be successful.” During his time as Trump’s national security adviser, Bolton backed an unsuccessful attempt to oust Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro in 2019, which featured a “ridiculous” failed coup that was quickly foiled.

Please click on: John Bolton Casually Admits to CNN That He’s Planned Coups



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  1. American public intellectual Edward Said wrote in the Preface of Orientalism (1978):

    Every single empire in its official discourse has said that it is not like all the others, that its circumstances are special, that it has a mission to enlighten, civilize, bring order and democracy, and that it uses force only as a last resort. And, sadder still, there always is a chorus of willing intellectuals to say calming words about benign or altruistic empires, as if one shouldn’t trust the evidence of one’s eyes watching the destruction and the misery and death brought by the latest ‘mission civilisatrice.’[]


Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.

Always appreciate constructive feedback! Thanks.