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Context of 'Between January 20, 2001 and June 2001: Bush Administration Becomes Agitated with OPCW Efforts to Work with Saddam Hussein'

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Undersecretary of State John Bolton and others in the US State Department’s arms-control bureau grow increasingly irritated with Jose Bustani, head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Bustani is attempting to convince Saddam Hussein to sign the chemical weapons convention with hopes of eventually sending chemical weapons inspectors to Baghdad. But the Bush administration is opposed to these efforts, insisting that Iraq’s alleged arsenal of chemical weapons is an issue that needs to be addressed by the UN Security Council, not the OPCW. [Associated Press, 6/5/2005 Sources: A unnamed State Department official who served as a deputy under Bolton, Jose M. Bustani] At some point, someone in the Bush administration suggests removing Bustani. Bolton reportedly “leap[s] on it enthusiastically” and subsequently becomes “very much in charge of the whole campaign” to oust him. [Associated Press, 6/5/2005 Sources: Avis Bohlen] Bustani will later tell the Guardian that he believes the Bush administration does not want Iraq to become a member of the OPCW because it might interfere with the administration’s plan to secure a UN resolution authorizing the use of military force against Iraq. [Guardian, 4/16/2002] Bustani’s view is supported by others. Retired Swiss diplomat Heinrich Reimann tells the Associated Press in 2005: “Many believed the US delegation didn’t want meddling from outside in the Iraq business—that could be the case.” Similarly, former Bustani aide Bob Rigg, a New Zealander, says in no uncertain terms: “Why did they not want OPCW involved in Iraq? They felt they couldn’t rely on OPCW to come up with the findings the US wanted.” A different perpective is offered by Ralph Earle, a veteran US arms negotiator who was part of Bolton’s arms-control bureau. According to Earle, his group was unhappy with what they considered Bustani’s mismanagement. Bustani “had a big ego,” Earle claims in an interview with the Associated Press. “He did things on his own,” and did not consider the interests of other countries like the US. [Associated Press, 6/5/2005]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Jose M. Bustani, John R. Bolton

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

John Bolton allegedly telephones Jose Bustani, head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and, according to Bustani, tries “to interfere, in a menacing tone, in decisions that are the exclusive responsibility of the director-general.” Bolton “tried to order me around,” Bustani later explains in an interview with the Le Monde newspaper of France. [Associated Press, 6/5/2005] Bolton and others in the State Department’s arms-control bureau are upset that Bustani is attempting to convince Saddam Hussein to sign the chemical weapons convention with hopes of eventually sending chemical weapons inspectors to Baghdad (see Between January 20, 2001 and June 2001).

Entity Tags: John R. Bolton, Jose M. Bustani

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

The US State Department asks the government of Brazil to remove Jose Bustani from his position as director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), because the US is uncomfortable with his “management style” and his plan to convince Iraq to join the OPCW (see Between January 20, 2001 and June 2001). Brazil refuses. George Monbiot of the Guardian will note that the request is in violation of the chemical weapons convention, which states: “The director-general… shall not seek or receive instructions from any government.” [Guardian, 4/16/2002]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Jose M. Bustani

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

John Bolton and other US officials fly to Europe and meet with Jose Bustani, head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). They demand that Bustani quietly resign from his position. Bustani refuses. He later explains to the New York Times, “They said they did not like my management style, but they said they were not prepared to elaborate.” [Guardian, 4/16/2002; Associated Press, 6/5/2005]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), John R. Bolton, Jose M. Bustani

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

After Jose Bustani, head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), refuses to give in to US demands (see February 28, 2002) that he resign from his post, the Bush administration mounts a campaign aimed at sacking Bustani. The US sends envoys to the member-states of the OPCW in order to secure votes for his dismissal. The Bush administration accuses Bustani of a number of allegations including “financial mismanagement,” “demoralization of his staff,” “bias,” and “ill-considered initiatives.” The US argues that Bustani should resign if he wishes to avoid damage to his reputation. [Guardian, 4/16/2002] But supporters of Bustani say the accusations are baseless. The US allegation of financial mismanagement is contradicted by the fact that the organization’s books were recently audited and found to be perfectly sound. The OPCW’s only financial problem, in fact, is that the US has restricted the OPCW’s budget and is withholding its dues. Regarding the charge of “demoralization,” George Monbiot of the Guardian writes that “staff morale is reportedly higher [at the OPCW] than at any other similar international organization.” Nor is there much evidence that Bustani is guilty of “bias.” According to Monbiot, this charge stems from Bustani’s insistence that the OPCW be permitted to examine chemical-industry facilities in the United States with the same rigor it examines facilities in other countries. [Guardian, 4/16/2002] The last claim, that Bustani has embarked on “ill-considered initiatives,” is a reference to his effort to convince Saddam Hussein to sign the chemical weapons convention. The US is opposed to OPCW involvement in Iraq (see Between January 20, 2001 and June 2001). [Guardian, 4/16/2002; New York Times, 7/26/2002]

Entity Tags: Jose M. Bustani, Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Jose Bustani is removed from his position as director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons during an unusual special session that had been called by the US. Bolton and others in the State Department’s arms-control bureau have been pressuring Bustani to resign since February (see March 2002; February 28, 2002; January 2002). They are upset about the OPCW chief’s efforts to involve the organization in the evolving dispute between the US and Iraq over the latter’s alleged arsenal of illicit weapons (see Between January 20, 2001 and June 2001). Only 113 nations of the organization’s 145 members are represented at the meeting. Of those, 15 are not eligible to vote because of outstanding membership fees. [New York Times, 7/26/2002; Associated Press, 6/5/2005] Some of the delegates, according to the Guardian, may have been paid by the US to attend. And one of the member-states, Micronesia, gave permission to the US to vote on their behalf. [Guardian, 4/23/2002] Before the vote, Bustani denounces the Bush administration’s allegations and tells the delegates that they must decide whether genuine multilateralism “will be replaced by unilateralism in a multilateral disguise.” [Organization on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, 4/21/2002] But the US delegation, intent on seeing that Bustani is removed, threatens to withhold US dues—22 percent of the organization’s $60 million annual budget—if Bustani remains in office. A US refusal to pay its dues would likely force the organization to close. [BBC, 4/22/2002; New York Times, 7/26/2002; Associated Press, 6/5/2005] Bustani told a reporter the week before, “The Europeans are so afraid that the US will abandon the convention that they are prepared to sacrifice my post to keep it on board.” [Guardian, 4/16/2002] Only forty-eight members—less than one-third of the total membership—vote in favor of removing Bustani. But the no-confidence vote is nonetheless successful because 43 of the delegates abstain. Only seven votes are cast in opposition. [US Department of State, 2002; Associated Press, 6/5/2005]

Entity Tags: Jose M. Bustani, Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

The United Nations’ highest administrative tribunal condemns the removal (see April 21-22, 2002) of Jose Bustani from his post as director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) calling the dismissal “unlawful” and an “unacceptable violation” of principles protecting international civil servants. It adds that people in positions such as Bustani’s should not be made “vulnerable to pressures and to political change.” Additionally, the three-member UN tribunal says the Bush administration’s allegations were “extremely vague.” The tribunal awards Bustani his unpaid salary plus an additional 50,000 euros, or $61,500, in damages, which the former OPCW chief says he will donate to an OPCW technical aid fund for poorer countries. [Associated Press, 6/5/2005]

Entity Tags: Jose M. Bustani

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

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