By Medea Benjamin
Donald Trump will soon announce his pick for deputy Secretary of State. The leading contender appears to be Elliott Abrams, despite Abrams having been an outspoken advocate of the #NeverTrump crowd and calling Trump unfit for the office.
Abrams, a neocon hawk, would be one more disastrous addition to Team Trump. In his prior positions under Reagan and George W. Bush, he supported the most thuggish regimes and covered up the human rights violations of US government allies. A crook who was convicted of lying to Congress, his policy decisions have left death, destruction and deceit in their wake.
- Abrams is infamous for his involvement in the nefarious Iran-Contra scandal, the secret and illegal scam in the 1980s to siphon profits from Iranian weapons sales to support the right-wing Contra rebels trying to overthrow the Sandinista government. Despite the fact that supplying weapons to the Contras was expressly prohibited by Congress, Abrams pushed the scheme and when caught, lied to Congress. Abrams pleaded guilty in 1991 to withholding information from Congress. He was later pardoned by President Bush in 1992 in order to prevent further investigation into the scandal, which could potentially have been traced back to the president himself.
- Abrams was a hardline believer in taking “whatever means necessary” to win the Cold War. As Reagan’s Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs from 1981-1985, he loudly condemned Soviet human rights violations while ignoring the violent actions of US allies, such as the apartheid regime in South Africa. This ideological stance, along with his firm support for U.S. military interventions and “nation-building”, later garnered him the position of George W. Bush’s Deputy National Security Adviser in order to “spread democracy” abroad.
- Among the criminal leaders Abrams defended while serving under Reagan was the Guatemalan General Efraín Ríos Montt. Ríos Montt’s violent government crackdown on the indigenous Ixil Mayan people of Guatemala was so brutal it was later called a genocide by the United Nations. At precisely the time that the mass killings were taking place, Abrams pushed Congress to provide more military aid to Ríos Montt’s bloody regime.
- Abrams denied the devastating El Mozote massacre where, in 1981, the US-supported Salvadoran military slaughtered hundreds of villagers, and he pushed for continued US support of the notoriously brutal Salvadoran government. Not only did Abrams deny the brutality of the Salvadoran government, he also claimed in a 1994 interview that “the administration’s record in El Salvador is one of fabulous achievement.”
- As a member of George W. Bush’s National Security Council staff, Abrams encouraged the military coup against the democratically elected government of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela in 2002, poisoning the US relationship with Chavez when the coup was reversed and Chavez returned to power.
- Abrams promoted the disastrous invasion of Iraq, a war that President Trump says he opposed. Abrams was eager for a war with Iraq even before 9/11. In 1998, as a member of the neoconservative think tank Project for a New American Century, Abrams submitted a letter to President Clinton encouraging him to intervene in Iraq in order to depose Saddam Hussein. And as the Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director at the National Security Council under George W. Bush, Abrams was an outspoken supporter of the president’s call to invade Iraq.
- Abrams is vehement supporter of the Israeli government and is anti-Palestinian. As George Bush’s aide on the National Security Council, Abrams did everything he could to thwart peace negotiations. He repeatedly undercut any American pressure on Israel to stop the building of settlements and cited the Holocaust as justification for Israel’s killings of Palestinians (Jews are “a people who had learned from history what happens to Jews without security”). Abrams condemned the U.S. abstention from the UN vote that called for an end to the building of settlements in the West Bank. He is also quick to accuse people of anti-Semitism, including Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, if they voice any criticism of Israeli policies.
- Abrams supported the 2007 Israeli bombing of a nuclear reactor in Syria, citing it as a way of “restoring their credibility after the annus horribilis of 2006 with the Second Lebanon War and then the 2007 Hamas takeover of Gaza.” He said that “there is no substitute for military strength and the will to use it…. Israel was right to bomb that reactor before construction was completed, and President Bush was right to support its decision to do so.”
- Abrams was a champion of the U.S. overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, pressuring President Obama to intervene. Echoing the tactics used by the neocons for intervention in Iraq, Abrams joined in an effort in 2011 calling for the United States to immediately prepare military action to bring down the Gaddafi regime. The call came from a group called the Foreign Policy Initiative, a successor to the infamous Project for the New American Century. The poor Libyan people are today paying the price for yet another disastrous intervention pushed by Abrams and his neocon gang.
- Abrams opposition to the Iran Deal is epitomized by his attempts to encourage Israel to bomb Iran’s nuclear sites before negotiations became too serious. The bomb-enthusiast bemoaned that Israel’s capacity to impede the deal “is already being narrowed considerably by the diplomatic thaw, because it is one thing to bomb Iran when it appears hopelessly recalcitrant and isolated and quite another to bomb it when much of the world -- especially the United States -- is optimistic about the prospect of talks."
Republican Senator Rand Paul is, so far, the only senator who has come out appealing to Trump not to nominate Abrams. More senators, and the public, should quickly pile on. How much more proof do we need that Elliott Abrams is unfit for public office?
Medea Benjamin, cofounder of CODEPINK, is author of the book Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the US-Saudi Connection.