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Context of 'March 2002: Bush Administration Begins Campaign Aimed at Removing Jose Bustani from Office'

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Under the leadership of Jose Bustani, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) oversees the destruction of 2 million chemical weapons and two-thirds of the world’s chemical weapon facilities. The organization also enlists 63 new member-states bringing its total membership to 145. According to George Monbiot of the Guardian of London, OPCW’s surge in membership represents “the fastest growth rate of any multilateral body in recent times.” Bustani also steps up efforts to bring Iraq and other Arab states into the chemical weapons treaty. [Guardian, 4/16/2002; Associated Press, 6/5/2005]

Entity Tags: Jose M. Bustani, Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Jose Bustani is reelected to the position of director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons for the 2001-2005 term by a unanimous vote. [Associated Press, 6/5/2005]

Entity Tags: Jose M. Bustani, Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

US Secretary of State Colin Powell sends a letter of appreciation to Jose Bustani, head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, commending him for his “impressive” work. [Guardian, 4/16/2002; Associated Press, 6/5/2005]

Entity Tags: Colin Powell, Jose M. Bustani

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

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

John Bolton, US ambassador to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), organizes a meeting with American members of the organization’s staff. He arrives late, explaining that he was trying to find a replacement for the organization’s director-general, Jose Bustani. He says during the meeting that the US has encountered “great difficulty finding people of the right caliber” because no one wants “to be associated with a dying organization.” But the staff had previously been told that the removal of Bustani would help revive the OPCW. Bolton then proceeds to explain that if the replacement is “like Bustani we will say ‘screw the organization. We’ll dismantle our [chemical] weapons independently and monitor them ourselves.’” Bolton, referring to the US promise that the directorship would pass to another Latin American, complains that “Latin Americans are so characterized by sheer incompetence that they won’t be able to make up their minds.” He tells the staff that “if any of this gets out of this room, I’ll kill the person responsible.” [Guardian, 4/23/2002]

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

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 145-member Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) chooses Argentinean Rogelio Pfirter, 53, to replace Jose M. Bustani, the Brazilian diplomat who was outed from his position as director-general of the organization on April 22 (see 2003) under pressure from the US. The Bush administration had levied numerous charges against Bustani, chief among them that he was meddling in the United Nations’ efforts to persuade Baghdad to admit international weapons inspectors. Pfirter, a lawyer and Argentina’s former undersecretary for foreign policy, says he will not interfere in the ordeal. While all nations should join, he says in an interview with the New York Times, “we should be very aware that there are United Nations resolutions in effect” and that new members to the OCPW should not be sought “at the expense” of pledges to other international organizations. [New York Times, 7/26/2002]

Entity Tags: Rogelio Pfirter, Jose M. Bustani

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

John Bolton tells the Associated Press that Jose Bustani, the former director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) who was forced from his position under pressure from Washington (see 2003), had no authority to involve the OPCW in the 2002-2003 conflict over Iraq’s alleged arsenal of illicit weapons. Iraq was “completely irrelevant” to Bustani’s responsibilities, he insists. But in an interview with the Associated Press in the spring of 2005, Ralph Earle and Avis Bohlen, both of whom worked under Bolton in the State Department’s arms-control bureau, will say the opposite. They tell the Associated Press that the enlisting of new treaty members was part of the OPCW chief’s job. But they also claim that Bustani should have consulted with Washington beforehand. [Associated Press, 6/5/2005]

Entity Tags: Jose M. Bustani, Ralph Earle, Avis Bohlen, John R. Bolton

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

Jose Padilla being escorted by federal agents in January 2006.Jose Padilla being escorted by federal agents in January 2006. [Source: Alan Diaz / Associated Press]Jose Padilla, a US citizen and “enemy combatant” alleged to be an al-Qaeda terrorist (see May 8, 2002) and held without charges for over three years (see October 9, 2005), is charged with being part of a North American terrorist cell that sent money and recruits overseas to, as the indictment reads, “murder, maim, and kidnap.” The indictment contains none of the sensational allegations that the US government has made against Padilla (see June 10, 2002), including his supposed plan to detonate a “dirty bomb” inside the US (see Early 2002) and his plans to blow up US hotel and apartment buildings (see March 2002). Nor does the indictment accuse Padilla of being a member of al-Qaeda. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says, “The indictment alleges that Padilla traveled overseas to train as a terrorist (see September-October 2000) with the intention of fighting a violent jihad.” He refuses to say why the more serious charges were not filed. Some provisions of the Patriot Act helped the investigation, Gonzales adds: “By tearing down the artificial wall that would have prevented this kind of investigation in the past, we’re able to bring these terrorists to justice,” he says. The Padilla case has become a central part of the dispute over holding prisoners such as Padilla without charge; by charging Padilla with lesser crimes, the Bush administration avoids the possibility of the Supreme Court ruling that he and other “enemy combatants,” particularly American citizens, must either be tried or released. Law professor Eric Freedman says the Padilla indictment is an effort by the administration “to avoid an adverse decision of the Supreme Court.” Law professor Jenny Martinez, who represents Padilla, says: “There’s no guarantee the government won’t do this again to Mr. Padilla or others. The Supreme Court needs to review this case on the merits so the lower court decision is not left lying like a loaded gun for the government to use whenever it wants.” Padilla’s lawyers say the government’s case against their client is based on little more than “double and triple hearsay from secret witnesses, along with information allegedly obtained from Padilla himself during his two years of incommunicado interrogation.” Padilla will be transferred from military custody to the Justice Department, where he will await trial in a federal prison in Miami. He faces life in prison if convicted of conspiracy to murder, maim, and kidnap overseas. The lesser charges—providing material support to terrorists and conspiracy—carry maximum prison terms of 15 years each. [Associated Press, 11/22/2005; Fox News, 11/23/2005]
'Dirty Bomb' Allegations 'Not Credible,' Says Former FBI Agent - Retired FBI agent Jack Cloonan, an expert on al-Qaeda, later says: “The dirty bomb plot was simply not credible. The government would never have given up that case if there was any hint of credibility to it. Padilla didn’t stand trial for it, because there was no evidence to support it.” [Vanity Fair, 12/16/2008]
Issue with CIA Videotapes - In 2002, captured al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida identified Padilla as an al-Qaeda operative (see Mid-April 2002) and the government cited Zubaida as a source of information about Padilla after Padilla’s arrest. Yet, sometime this same month, the CIA destroys the videotapes of Zubaida’s interrogations from the time period where he allegedly identified Padilla (see November 2005). The Nation’s Aziz Huq will later comment: “Given the [Bush] administration’s reliance on Zubaida’s statements as evidence of Padilla’s guilt, tapes of Zubaida’s interrogation were clearly relevant to the Padilla trial.… A federal criminal statute prevents the destruction of any record for a foreseeable proceeding, even if the evidence is not admissible.… [I]t seems almost certain that preservation of the tapes was legally required by the Jose Padilla prosecution.” [Nation, 12/11/2007]

Entity Tags: Jenny Martinez, Jose Padilla, US Supreme Court, Jack Cloonan, Eric Freedman, Alberto R. Gonzales, Bush administration (43), Al-Qaeda, Aziz Huq, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline, Civil Liberties

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