Politics

Bolton Smears ElBaradei As Iran Apologist, Says ‘Even A Stopped Clock Is Right Twice A Day’

Two weeks ago, Mohamed ElBaradei, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said on CNN that an attack on Iran would “lead absolutely to disaster.” He added that there is no evidence of a “concrete, active nuclear weapon program” going on inside Iran.

Today on CNN’s Late Edition, neconservative warhawk John Bolton responded by smearing ElBaradei as “an apologist for Iran” and said the United States is “paying the price” for not opposing him more vociferously.

When host Wolf Blitzer reminded Bolton that ElBaradei correctly warned prior the Iraq war that there was no evidence of a nuclear weapons program, Bolton derisively dismissed his warnings by claiming “even a stopped clock is right twice a day”:

BLITZER: But, you know, in fairness to Mohamed ElBaradei, before the war in Iraq, when Condoleezza Rice and the president were speaking about mushroom clouds of Saddam Hussein and a revived nuclear weapons program that he may be undertaking, he was saying there was absolutely no such evidence. He was poo-pooing it, saying the Bush administration was overly alarming and there was no nuclear weapons program that Hussein had revived. He was right on that one.

BOLTON: Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Watch it:

Bolton insisted that “there was never any real disagreement” between the IAEA and the Bush administration on Saddam’s “physical capacity for a nuclear weapon.”

In fact, in February 2002, ElBaradei insisted that there was “no evidence of ongoing prohibited nuclear or nuclear related activities in Iraq.” Meanwhile, Bush asserted that Saddam was meeting with his “nuclear mujahedeen” and that the United States could not wait “for the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.”

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Transcript:

BOLTON: Mohamed ElBaradei is an apologist for Iran. He has taken positions in flat violation of three Security Council resolutions, and he needs to learn that he works for the member governments of his agency, not the other way around.

BLITZER: But he got a second term. They voted. Despite the Bush administration’s opposition, he was reelected to a second term.

BOLTON: He got a third term, actually, which is even worse.

BLITZER: Third, and so there — he does have the confidence of some people.

BOLTON: I don’t think we were effective in our campaign to oppose him. I don’t think that he did nearly what we should have done, and I think we are paying the price now and will pay it into the future.

BLITZER: But, you know, in fairness to Mohamed ElBaradei, before the war in Iraq, when Condoleezza Rice and the president were speaking about mushroom clouds of Saddam Hussein and a revived nuclear weapons program that he may be undertaking, he was saying there was absolutely no such evidence. He was poo-pooing it, saying the Bush administration was overly alarming and there was no nuclear weapons program that Hussein had revived. He was right on that one.

BOLTON: Even a stopclock is right twice a day. Look, Saddam Hussein kept together over 1,000 nuclear scientists and technicians that he called his nuclear mujahadeen. There may not have been centrifuge cascades spinning, but Saddam had the intellectual capability to put that program right back together.

BLITZER: But that was an important issue, trying to justify the war, the mushroom clouds, the fear, the smoking gun could be a mushroom cloud, and that’s not just a little issue that he was right on. He was right on a major, major justification for going to war.

BOLTON: I’m not aware there was any disagreement with the Bush administration that Saddam did not have the physical capacity in his nuclear program, but he did have the intention and he had the record of having pursued them in the past.

BLITZER: He also said this about the early September Israeli airstrike on some sort of suspicious facility in Syria that reports have suggested was some sort of North Korean nuclear reactor facility that they were building to develop centrifuges in Syria. Listen to what ElBaradei said to me on this program two weeks ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELBARADEI: To bomb first and then ask questions later, I think undermines the system it and doesn’t lead to any solution to any suspicion, because we are the eyes and ears of the international community. It’s only the agencies and the inspectors who can go and verify the information.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He said if the Israelis were concerned, they should have gone to the IAEA and made their case and then the inspectors, presumably, could have gone in since Syria is a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

BOLTON: In you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you. The notion that Israel or the United States would put their national security in the IAEA’s hands is just delusional. And let me make one important point.

Eyes and ears of the international community? Look, the IAEA functionally gets most of its sensitive information from foreign intelligence services including our own, and that’s why it’s more properly called the U.N.’s nuclear watchpuppy.

BLITZER: So you don’t believe, obviously, this guy, anything he’s basically saying?

BOLTON: I think he’s actually undermining the credibility of the IAEA by his overly politicized role in the Iran crisis.