[OPE] Neocon Elliott Abrams claims Egyptian uprising as vindication for Bush administration...

From: Jurriaan Bendien <jurriaanbendien@online.nl>
Date: Fri Feb 11 2011 - 16:03:04 EST

So you say you want a revolution?
Clifford Schecter
Al Jazeera 11 Feb 2011

It was only a matter of time. Once the uprisings spread from Tunisia to
Egypt to protests of differing sizes everywhere from Yemen to Syria to
Jordan - and even Italy - some semi-delusional retreaded tyre was going to
emerge from the shadows to proclaim President Bush was responsible for the
sudden flowering of revolution and democratic potential across the Middle
East. Enter Elliot Abrams. Yes, the same Elliot Abrams that was convicted of
unlawfully withholding information from the Congressional Investigation into
the Iran-Contra affair.

Abrams, who you might think would be disqualified from publicly addressing
all matters pertaining to "democracy-building" - after undermining the will
of the representatives of the United States people with his involvement in
arguably the biggest political scandal of President Reagan's
administration - took to the pages of the Washington Post to share his
nostalgic blend of freedom-fries optimism and historical revisionism:

  "This spirit did not always animate US diplomacy in the Bush
administration; plenty of officials found it unrealistic and had to be
prodded or overruled to follow the president's lead. But the revolt in
Tunisia, the gigantic wave of demonstrations in Egypt and the more recent
marches in Yemen all make clear that Bush had it right - and that the Obama
administration's abandonment of this mind-set is nothing short of a

(...) What I find most interesting about what Abrams has to say is that it
is not just wrong - but the polar opposite of the truth. The undemocratic
actions by President Bush both at home and abroad, from rendition and
torture to preemptive war in Iraq, are the very antithesis of the promotion
of freedom. (...)

Here's a bit on Elliott Abrams which I pieced together from online newspaper
reports (not wikileaks) one night in September 2003:

"Take Elliott Abrams, for example, who was in charge of Middle East affairs
in the Bush administration. Abrams, who is identified with the
neo-conservative right, made an important contribution to legitimizing a
good many dubious Israeli acts. He was an excellent salesman for the "no
partner" theory, and the guiding spirit behind the indulgent policy toward
the flourishing of settlements. He recently publicly criticized the
two-state vision of the president who had hired him, among other things, to
promote that vision." http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1101415.html


The popular hymn "Amazing Grace" was written in
repentance by John Newton of London (1725-1807),
a captain of a slave ship, plying the slave trade. The "Amazing
Grace" of Elliot Abrams is a different, deadlier story.


Iran remains controversial in the Bush administration, which is divided
over whether to force "regime change" in Teheran, or cultivate reformist
elements. The hawks promote covert intelligence operations to foment
discontent in Iran and mobilise young people. They have also mooted a
pre-emptive strike against nuclear facilities, if Iran does not submit to
weapons inspections. Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas has argued for a
congressional mandate for regime change in Iran similar to the 1998 Iraq
Liberation Act. "We'll never have true stability in the region as long as
the Iranian regime remains in power," he said recently at the American
Enterprise Institute. "We're riding a horse and we're in the middle of the
stream. We've got to press on to the other side."

Nevertheless, the chiefs are not advocating a new war for now, and
"regime change" in Iran is still not official US policy. While Bush is keen
 to liberate Iran from alleged "muslim tyranny" (rather ridiculous in view
of the murderous policies Americans have supported and funded in Iran
in the past), the Iran government has also assisted the American
campaign against al-Qa'eda; active intervention by America would
antagonise the population and therefore strengthen rather than weaken
the regime they want to topple. Powell's diplomats think is a question
of time: if the Iraqis have success with a representative government,
this will stimulate the movement for civil liberties in Iran. If on the
other hand the Iraqi conflict deepens, and costs go up to high, they
will have to think again.

Meanwhile the Bush administration has rejected all diplomatic overtures
 from Iranian UN ambassador Mohammad Javad Zarif to resolve the
 notion of direct talks about Iran's nuclear programme. The hawks hope that
Elliot Abrams will somehow resist moves from State Department diplomats
and the CIA to make deals with the Teheran government, of the type
which would lead to a policy stance more acceptable to the USA.


Abrams, a native New Yorker, graduated BA from Harvard College in 1969
and gained an MSc in economics (international relations) from the London
School of Economics in 1970. He criticized the Vietnam War and the
Cambridge police for using force to end a 1969 student revolt, but opposed
militant tactics employed by Students for a Democratic Society. 'He was
culturally straight and had short hair,' recalls a former roommate, Steven
Kelman, now a professor of public policy at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School
of Government. 'Elliott was the only person I knew who threw his blue jeans
out when they started to fade.' Kelman thinks that Abrams, as a bright
young kid from the Hollis Hills neighborhood of Queens, reared in the
progressive Jewish tradition, was 'traumatized' by his experiences of campus
politics at Harvard. 'There is a part of him that is still fighting the
student radicals of the '60s,' he said. 'He doesn't like people whom he sees
as anti-American, or down on the United States.' After Harvard, Abrams
followed a classic neo-conservative trajectory, taking a job with Sen. Henry
M. Jackson, a hawkish Washington Democrat. 'They hit it off more or less
immediately,' said Richard N. Perle, himself a Pentagon official during the
Reagan administration who introduced Abrams to Jackson.

Abrams got his Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School in 1973, and worked
as attorney in New York and Washington, D.C. and for four years for the US
Senate, including as assistant counsel to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee
on Investigations in 1975; special counsel to the hawkish democrat Sen.
Henry M. 'Scoop' Jackson in 1975-76, who favoured tough foreign policy and a
liberal domestic policy. Next, he was a special counsel to Sen. Daniel P.
Moynihan in 1977; and Moynihan's Chief of Staff from January 1979 through
May 1979. Abrams joined the neo-conservative aristocracy in March 1980
through his marriage to Rachel Decter, daughter of conservative pundits
Norman Podhoretz and Midge Decter (They have three children). By the
time Ronald Reagan was elected president later that year, Abrams had become
a Republican.


>From 1981 until 1989 Abrams served as Assistant Secretary of State, in the
US Department of State for human rights and humanitarian affairs, and he
supervised United States participation in the United Nations. His job was
to implement the Reagan doctrine of 'rolling back communism' in Central
America. For Abrams, fighting communism and promoting human rights were
identical. Although he criticized Pinochet's regime, he played down or
ignored human rights violations by pro-American governments in Central
America. Talking to human rights activist Aryeh Neier on ABC's 'Nightline'
in 1984, Abrams insisted that widely reported massacres by right-wing death
squads in El Salvador 'never happened.' "Elliott was willing to distort and
misrepresent the truth in order to promote the policy adopted by the
administration," Neier said. "His approach was that the ends justified the
means.' Abrams has replied to past criticism by Neier by describing his
human rights work as 'garbage' and 'completely politicized." Right-wingers
hailed Abrams as a hero for his championship of the Nicaraguan contras.
"Arbitrary deprivation of life" was a 1984 term designated for use in the
US. State Department reports to describe friendly governments such as those
in El Salvador and Chile, because, as Assistant Secretary of State Elliot
Abrams put it, "we found the term 'killing' too broad."


In July 1985 President Reagan appointed him as assistant secretary of state
for inter-American affairs, with an unanimous vote by the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee and the United States Senate. In the role, in his own
words, Abrams, in his own words, "supervised U.SO. policy in Latin America
and the Caribbean.". With Oliver North, Abrams helped evade congressional
restrictions on aid to the contras through the Nicaraguan Humanitarian
Assistance Office, and he delivered subsidies to firms like Serco and
Frigorific de Puntarenas which CIA admits were dealing drugs. He worked
with Albert Caroni who was North's, Casey's and Bush's paymaster and bagman
with the Mafia. He played a key role in the US relationship to Manuel
Noriega, and then lied about the whole deal to the US Congress. Foreign
policy at that time included backing the contras - a surrogate army
dedicated to overthrowing the democratically elected Sandinista government
of Nicaragua. It also involved funding the military theocracy of El
Salvador and supervising its war against a popular leftist rebellion. Abrams
provided cover for the genocidal policies of the Guatemalan government and
embraced the government of Honduras while it perpetrated serial human rights
abuses through Battalion 3-16, a U.S.-trained "intelligence unit" turned
death squad. He provided assistance for Unita in Angola.

Abrams at this time billed himself as a "gladiator" for the Reagan Doctrine
in Central America. His speciality was massacre denial, and he called his
enemies "vipers". During a Nightline appearance in 1985, he was asked about
reports that the US-funded Salvadoran military had slaughtered civilians at
two sites the previous summer. Abrams insisted that no such events had
occurred. And had the US Embassy and the State Department conducted an
investigation? "My memory," he said, "is that we did, but I don't want to
swear to it, because I'd have to go back and look at the cables." There was
no State Department inquiry; Abrams, in his lawyerly fashion, was being


In 1981, when two American journalists reported that an elite, US-trained
military unit had massacred hundreds of villagers in El Mozote, Abrams told
told Congress that the reports carried in the New York; Times and Washington
Post were "Communist propaganda", as he fought for more US aid to El
Salvador's military. The massacre was real. A thousand unarmed Salvadoran
peasants, including 139 children, were killed by U.S.-trained contra troops.
In 1993 a UN truth commission examined 22,000 atrocities that occurred
during the twelve-year civil war in El Salvador, and attributed 85 percent
of the abuses to the Reagan-assisted right-wing military and its death-squad
allies. Abrams declared, "The Administration's record on El Salvador is one
of fabulous achievement." Tell that to the survivors of El Mozote.
According to congressional records, under Abram's supervision, the Contras
"raped, tortured, and killed unarmed civilians, including children," and
that "groups of civilians, including women and children, were burned,
dismembered, blinded and beheaded."

The Salvadoran Truth commission testified about the massacre in a
congressional hearing of the House Western Hemisphere subcommittee. Chairman
Robert G. Torricelli (D-New Jersey) vowed to review for possible perjury
"every word uttered by every Reagan administration official" in
congressional testimony on El Salvador. Abrams denounced Torricelli's words
as "McCarthyite crap." The Reagan administration knew about El Mozote and
other human rights violations all along. Abrams, however, carefully denied
knowledge of the assassination of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero,
committed shortly after the cleric denounced government terror. "Anybody who
thinks you're going to find a cable that says that Roberto d'Aubuisson
murdered the archbishop is a fool," Abrams was quoted in a March 21, 1993
article in the Washington Post. But the U.S. embassy in San Salvador
sent at least two such cables to Washington nailing d'Aubuisson, the
right-wing politician who was the chief architect of the plot against
 The December 21, 1981 cable notes: "A meeting, chaired by Maj.
Roberto d'Aubuisson, during which the murder of Archbishop
Romero was planned. During the meeting, some of the participants
drew lots for the privilege of killing the archbishop."


It wasn't lying about mass murder that caused Abrams political problems, but
Iran. With NSC chief North, he hatched a plot to sell weapons illegally to
Iran so that the proceeds could be channeled to the Contras in secret. After
a contra resupply plane was shot down in 1986, Abrams, Oliver North and the
CIA's Alan Fiers, were summoned several times before Congressional
committees but Abrams withheld information on the Administration's illegal
connection to a secret and private contra-support network. Abrams also hid
from Congress the fact that he had flown to London (using the name "Mr.
Kenilworth") to solicit a $10 million contribution for the contras from the
Sultan of Brunei.

In his testimony to Congress, Abrams made witness history when he declared:
"I never said I had no idea about most of the things you said I had no idea
about." The now 54-year-old Abrams also explained in his autobiography that
he had to inform his young children about the headline announcing his
indictment, so he told them he had to lie to Congress to protect the
national interest. Later at a closed-door hearing, Democratic Senator Thomas
Eagleton blasted Abrams for having misled legislators, threatening that
Abrams's misrepresentations could lead to "slammer time." Abrams disagreed,
saying, "You've heard my testimony." Eagleton cut in: "I've heard it, and I
want to puke." Republican Senator Dave Durenberger complained, "I wouldn't
trust Elliott any further than I could throw Ollie North." Even after Abrams
copped a plea with Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh, he refused to admit
that he'd done anything untoward. Abrams argued that lawmakers who blocked
contra aid would have "blood on their hands" while defending US support for
a human-rights-abusing government in Guatemala. Abrams was formally indicted
by the Iran-Contra special prosecutor for giving false testimony about his
role in illicitly raising money for the Contras but pleaded guilty to two
lesser offenses of withholding information to Congress in order to avoid a
trial and a possible jail term. His credibility for truth-telling was so low
that at one point he was required to take an oath before testifying before
Congressional committees. Abrams pleaded guilty to withholding information
from Congress and received two years probation and 100 hours community work.


 After Reagan left office in 1989, Abrams, like other prominent
neoconservatives, was not invited to serve in the Bush Sr. administration.
Instead, he became senior fellow of and contributing editor at the Hudson
Institute from 1989 to 1996 (publication: National Review). He also became a
member of the boards of the right-wing Media Research Center, an
organization that opposes any traces of liberalism on TV or in films.
Chairman L. Brent Bozell III publishes the newsletter TV, ETC., with an
advisory board that includes Abrams, Mona Charen, Pete DuPont, and Rush
Limbaugh. Finally, he joined the Center for Security Policy, a right-wing
think tank described as "the nerve center of the Star Wars lobby." CSP
founder Frank Gaffney said his aim in setting this Center up was to "be the
Domino's Pizza of the policy business" and helped formulate the Strategic
Defense Initiative while assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan
administration. Gaffney described CSP's goal to "be the Domino's Pizza of
the policy business." Abrams kept in touch with Dick Cheney, now Bush's vice
president and was part of the tight-knit neo-conservative foreign-policy
community around one of his early mentors, Richard Perle and former UN
Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).
Abrams wrote numerous essays and book reviews that have appeared in
Commentary, The Public Interest, The American Spectator, Policy Review and
other journals. In 1989 Adm. William Crowe Jr. said of Abrams, "This snake's
hard to kill."

Abrams had problems with Congress over the Iran-contra scandal, starring
Oliver North. Abrams was indicted by the Iran-Contra special prosecutor for
giving false testimony about his role in illicitly raising money for the
Contras, but pleaded guilty to two lesser offenses of withholding
information to Congress in order to avoid a trial and a possible jail term.

In 1991, Abrams was forced to admit in court that he had not disclosed his
knowledge of a secret contra supply network, and his solicitation of a $10
million contribution for the contras from the sultan of Brunei. His
credibility for truth-telling was so low, that at one point he was required
to take an oath before testifying before congressional committees. National
Public Radio quotes Abrams as saying: "I take full responsibility for my
actions and for my failure to make full disclosure to Congress in 1986. I am
proud to have given 12 years serving the United States government and of the
contribution I made in those years, and very happy to have this entire
matter, at long last, behind me." William Kristol (The Weekly Standard) is
quoted as saying by NPR that "Elliott Abrams is a very competent government
official. He's had his own views on the Middle East, which I think are sort
of mainstream Republican, skeptical of Oslo, moderately hawkish, I would
say; really very much like George Bush's, frankly."


President George H.W. Bush pardoned Abrams along with a number of other
Iran-Contra defendants in 1992. In the congressional investigations, Abrams
was never held accountable for the human rights violations backed, hidden
and funded by the Reagan administration. Instead Abrams was accused of
withholding information from Congress, a Washington euphemism for bald-face
lying. He copped just two counts of withholding information from Congress
(and was granted a Christmas Eve pardon a year later by President George
Bush). Abrams was not pleased with this slap on the wrist. According to a
May 30, 1994 article in Legal Times, he called his prosecutors "filthy
bastards," the proceedings against him "Kafkaesque," and members of the
Senate Intelligence Committee "pious clowns" whose raison d'etre was to ask
him "abysmally stupid" questions. When Oliver North was campaigning for the
Senate in 1994 and was accused of having ignored contra ties to drug
dealers, Abrams backed North and claimed "all of us who ran that program
(...) were absolutely dedicated to keeping it completely clean and free of
any involvement by drug traffickers." Yet in 1998 the CIA's own inspector
general issued a thick report noting that the Reagan Administration had
collaborated with suspected drug traffickers while managing the secret
contra war.


In his book "Undue Process : A Story of How Political Differences Are Turned
into Crimes" (1992), Abrams defended his actions more systematically,
describing the legal proceedings against him as 'Kafkaesque' and his
prosecutors as 'filthy bastards.' As president of the Center for Ethics and
Public Policy, Abrams called for reconciliation between Jews and
conservative Christians, even although he opposed the Oslo Accords and
called for Washington to "stand by Israel," rather than act as neutral
mediator between Israel and the Palestinians. He also published about the
threats to the Jewish identity in the United States because of assimilation
and intermarriage, arguing that it is important for Jews to understand that
'tomorrow's lobby for Israel has got to be conservative Christians, because
there aren't going to be enough Jews to do it.' His prodigious output
includes "Security and Sacrifice : Isolation, Intervention, and American
Foreign Policy" (1995), "Faith or Fear : How Jews Can Survive in a Christian
America" (1997), "The Godless American Jew : Why American Jews Fear Religion
and Why Only Religion Can Save Them" (1997), "Close Calls : Intervention,
Terrorism, Missile Defense, and 'Just War' Today" (1998), and "Honor Among
Nations : Intangible Interests and Foreign Policy" (1998). In "Faith or
Fear" he bemoans the fact that American Jews are being assimilated into the
larger society and recommends a variant of Jewish separatism.

In his essay in a book, "Present Dangers," published in 2000, lack of
enthusiasm for resuming the "peace process" is clear. According to Abrams,
American interests "do not lie in strengthening Palestinians at the expense
of Israelis, abandoning our overall policy of supporting the expansion of
democracy and human rights, or subordinating all other political and
security goals to the 'success' of the Arab-Israel 'peace process.'" This
view pits him against Powell's State Department which favours a strategy for
peaceful negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Abrams's
view--and Rice's and Bush's--is that since September 11, 2001, the war on
terror has a higher priority. But September 11 has also reinforced Bush's
view of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat as essentially a terrorist. Abrams
published some more ideological works: "Democracy How Direct? : Views from
the Founding Era and the Polling Era" (2001), "The Influence of Faith :
Religious Groups and U.S. Foreign Policy" (2001), and "Secularism,
Spirituality, and the Future of American Jewry" (1999). Under the Bush
administration, evangelical Christians are an important source of political
support for Israel, and Abrams addresses their concens. In some cases, they
are more fanatical than Jews are themselves in their backing for a Greater
Israel on the basis of Biblical sanctification and holy war against the


In 1997, Abrams was a co-founder of PNAC, the lynchpin of fundamentalist
ideology, which aims to wipe out all political debate with a clear
christian-fundamentalist jihad for God and against "evil". In "Present
Dangers," his first book written under the auspices of PNAC in 2000, Abrams
outlined the new U.S. Mideast policy that called for "regime change" in Iraq
and for cracking down on the Palestinian Authority. PNAC recommended
policies for preserving and expanding U.S. dominance in world affairs.
Foreshadowing the current U.S. policy based on superior military power,
Abrams thought that in the Middle East "our military strength and
willingness to use it" should be the "key factor in our ability to promote
peace." PNAC focuses on fear and vulnerability to cataclysmic attack and
perceived "threats" and recommends strength and faith as an antidote. The
scenarios may vary, but the emphasis is on tough, masculine pre-emptive
action to destroy any possible threats. The neo-conservatives feel they won
the Cold War and this invigorates their fundamentalist zeal. There is no
patience with dissent. There is simply good and evil, and evil must be

Referring to the Persian Gulf region, the 2000 PNAC report said, "Indeed,
the United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in
Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the
immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence
in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein." The
report wanted more money for the military so it can be "able to rapidly
deploy and win multiple simultaneous large-scale wars." It thought southern
Europe, the Middle East, Central- and East Asia were targets for increased
military deployments. Gary Schmitt, one of the report's project co-chairmen
and a former Reagan policy adviser, commented that a U.S. invasion of Iraq
was inevitable. "We will definitely be involved in Iraq for two reasons,"
said Schmitt. "One is because of issues myself, the administration and
others have laid out for a number of years, and two, there isn't a
snowball's chance in hell Saddam will allow inspections that matter." The
PNAC report was based upon a 1992 draft of the Pentagon's Defense Planning
Guidance, which was prepared for then-Defense Secretary Cheney, Wolfowitz
and Libby. At the time Libby and Wolfowitz were part of Cheney's policy
staff. Thomas Donnelly, the main author of the 2000 report, holds a Masters
degree from the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies
(SAIS), where Wolfowitz was dean and professor. SAIS is also home to foreign
Zbigniew Brzezinski, the author of a 1997 book foretelling current U.S.
conflicts with Iraq and terrorists called "The Grand Chessboard."
Brzezinski, a trustee of the Trilateral Commission, and a member the Center
for Strategic and International Studies think tank, is billed by SAIS as a
Robert E. Osgood professor of American foreign policy.


The new military approach of Bush, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz was originally
inspired by hardliner Wohlstetter and friends at the Rand Institute in the
1970s, and the neo-conservatives waited in the wings ever since, biding
their time, waiting for their chance. The two Gulf wars, Venezuela and
Afghanistan should be seen as tests of the 'new' strategy. The UN, NATO,
strategic alliances and military assets must all be reshaped to advance US

This occurs against a background of two decades of deregulation and
privatisation, which dismantled social democratic, communist and nationalist
institutions, created gigantic social inequalities and poverty, which sparks
outrage, resistance and chaos. At the same time, it also also provides
great fortunes and lucrative business opportunities for financial capital.
Neoconservatives capitalise politically on the disorder, opposition, risks
and dangers of casino capitalism. Private enterprise, free markets and more
money for rich people is seen as progressive and civilising.
Multiculturalism is hated and feared. Multilateral policy-making,
compromises and tolerance of disorder and dysfunction are regarded as
weakness and a disease. The USA must take control, and opponents or rivals
smashed. The collapse of the USSR, EU disorganisation and incipient Chinese
capitalism provide an opportunity to assert American power and American
values, 'before it is too late'. Thus, strength of purpose, economic primacy
and military strength is essential and can be used to secure the good, while
containing or smashing evil.

PNAC manipulates a political climate in which Americans are worried and
scared, and look for a strong, secure leadership from the rich. They are
scared about the export of good jobs, immigrant hordes, reduced wages and
political instability. The US middle class is being squeezed. Real incomes
for ordinary people are falling, debts are rising, and many people feel
insecure personally, professionally and financially. New technology and
the stock market did not provide great wealth people hoped for. The economy
stays sluggish, and the 2000 presidential election was an absurdity.
Corporate corruption and scandals are endemic, and give big business a bad
image. 9/11 and subsequent arrests, rumours and threats terrify people. The
wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Israel, and rising unemployment keep the fear
levels high. Many Americans are also worried by increased police power and
the removal of civil liberties. PNAC jumps into the breach here, and wants
to assure and remake the world with strong, tough policies based on


Newt Gingrich furthered Abrams public rehabilitation by appointing him to
the new U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in 1999 for which
he also served as chairman until 2001. Muslim groups complained
about his refusal to criticise Israeli practices in the occupied territories
and Jerusalem, such as sealing off Muslim holy sites, as violations of
religious freedom. He became President of the Ethics and Public Policy
Center (EPPC) in 1996-2001 where he wrote widely on foreign policy issues,
including the Middle East, and the threats posed by U.S. secular society to
Jewish identity. The EPPC was established in 1976 to "clarify and reinforce
the bond between the Judeo-Christian moral tradition and the public debate
over domestic and foreign policy issues". Abrams remained an integral part
of the tight-knit neoconservative foreign policy community in Washington
that revolved around one of his early mentors, Richard Perle, and former UN
Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).
This makes it abundantly clear that he is, in his own words, a
'neo-conservative and neo-Reaganite' with strong ties to Zionists and
evangelical Christians, who combines ideological zeal and bureaucratic

In fact, he is a fundamentalist christian fanatic who believes in
creationism, objects to intermarriage, and relentlessly pursues his
political objectives. This is why he is called a Likudite by liberals. His
view, as stated in mid-1998, is that "Judaism must be put back at the center
of American Jewish life, in place of the "civil" elements such as fighting
anti-Semitism or pushing political agendas" and he claims to know "how to
get from here to there". Before joining the Bush administration, Abrams was
skeptical about past U.S. peacemaking efforts in the Middle East and has
praised Sharon for his 'strength' and 'firmness' toward the Palestinians in
contrast to the 'weakness' displayed by Ehud Barak. Khalil Jahshan, director
of government affairs for the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee
says Abrams's appointment raised a 'red flag for me and my community'.
William Kristol said 'Much of the criticism of Elliott misses the fact that
he is an extremely intelligent, competent guy - Bush is more committed to
seeing whether he can push ahead with the Middle East peace process than
most people believe, and that is true of Elliott as well.'


Reviewing "A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights" by Mary Ann Glendon
in June 2001, Elliot Abrams wrote: "The larger problem is the Declaration
itself. Mrs. Roosevelt may indeed have been central to its adoption, but is
this a claim of which anyone should be proud? There have been two main
criticisms of the Declaration, one from the left or Third World, and the
other from the right, especially the American right. The criticism from the
Third World has most often described the UDHR as a Western product, a form
of intellectual and political colonialism imposed just after the Second
World War by Western delegates at a UN composed of the United States, the
USSR, and a few declining colonial powers. Glendon disposes of this fantasy.
(...) More attention is correctly dedicated in Glendon's book to the
conservative critique: that the Declaration equates economic and social with
civil and political rights, and has thereby given generations of dictators a
weapon. Equating the right to housing or to employment with the right to
free speech or freedom of religion, goes the argument, allowed the Soviets
and now allows the Chinese to say, "Well, you have your favorites and we
have ours." Worse yet, by using rights language for such social goals as
good housing and good medical care, goals that are simply incapable of
achievement in many places right now, the Declaration undercuts our ability
to insist that rights are things that must be granted immediately and
everywhere, independently of a nation's wealth or stage of development.
(...) [Glendon] explains the Declaration's main achievement: removing the
individual from the total control of the state. (...) Second, she argues
that the Declaration has been invaluable as a set of goals. A specific
example: "The last sentence of Article 25-on children born outside
marriage-was . . . one of the earliest acknowledgments of a principle that
would eventually transform national legislation nearly everywhere" regarding
the rights of illegitimate children. More broadly, Mrs. Roosevelt saw and
Prof. Glendon sees the UDHR as an educational effort and a "moral beacon"
rather than a "vague proclamation." (...) Glendon argues that the
Declaration's insistence on economic and social as well as political rights
is in fact correct. (...) The mere recitation of political and civil rights
without reference to how they exist in their cultural setting would, to
Glendon, be no improvement on the Declaration. This is the best defense the
Declaration has ever had or is likely to get. I would emphasize somewhat
more than Prof Glendon does the price paid for that error of using the
single term "rights" to cover all the goals of the Declaration. And I cannot
fully share her sense of its achievements. To take a prime example, she
discusses in some detail the debate on religious freedom in the Human Rights
Commission when the Declaration was being drafted. Was there a right to
change one's religion? Could Islam tolerate this supposition? Not according
to the Saudis, who abstained on the final vote for adoption due to their
disagreement here. (...) The world's most populous nation, China, accepts
the Declaration in principle-but the Chinese signer in 1948 represented a
country striving for freedom, not the Communist dictatorship that has for
fifty years striven to prevent Chinese from building freedom on the moral,
religious, and political traditions of Confucianism.


Abrams's years in the political wilderness ended in June 2001 when Rice
surprised many people by chosing him to lead the National Security Council
office for democracy, human rights and international operations. Abrams was
previously regarded as one of the fiercest ideological pugilists of the
1980s, a "bad-boy diplomat" wildly out of sync with Bush's
gonna-change-the-tone rhetoric. At the same time, however, Rice formally
announced the appointment of Flynt Leverett as Senior Director for Middle
East Initiatives at the NSC. Leverett would deal with Arab-Israeli issues
for Near East and North African Affairs, working under Abrams. Leverett
holds a Ph.D. in politics from Princeton University, and was senior Middle
East analyst with the CIA. He joined the NSC in February, after serving on
the State Department's Policy Planning staff, and had been acting Senior
Director for Middle East Affairs since July. On December 2, 2002, Rice
however announced the appointment of Abrams as Special Assistant to the
President and Senior Director for Near East and North African Affairs,
including Arab/Israel relations and U.S. efforts to promote peace and
security in the region. This meant he became President Bush's senior adviser
on the Middle East. For the first time, somebody who has publicly attacked
the "land-for-peace" formula that has guided U.S. policy in the Arab-Israeli
conflict since the 1967 war, was appointed to a top spot in Middle East


Abrams barely knew Rice when he was hired. But he knew Wolfowitz
 (PNAC) and Rice's deputy Steve Hadley. Wolfowitz also helped Abrams
 get his job. WH Spokesman Fleischer said of Abrams' past transgressions
President Bush "thinks that's a matter of the past and was dealt with at the
time." More importantly, Rice and Bush did not want to cede control of
East policy to Colin Powell. In the past, a foreign service bureaucrat had
held the NSC post and more or less followed the State Department. Until late
2001, a holdover from the Clinton White House, Bruce Reidel, had the post. A
fight broke out over who would replace Reidel. One candidate after another
was blocked. Rice was urged to name someone from inside the system, either
from State or the CIA. But she insisted on Abrams, who comes from outside
the system and whose pro-democracy, pro-Israel, and anti-peace process views
on the Middle East are anathema to the State Department and the CIA
establishment. The Washington Post headlined Abrams appointment,
"Iran-Contra Figure Named To Senior Post In White House." The Newsday
headline said, "Iran-contra figure Elliott Abrams, who received a pardon
from the first President Bush for his role in the scandal . . . has been
promoted to a key post among the current President Bush's national security
aides." Neither newspaper mentioned the precise policy significance of
Abrams's appointment. Meanwhile EPPC chair Ambassador Kirkpatrick said:
"During his years as [EPPC] president, Elliott has enhanced the
institutional strength and public influence of the Ethics and Public Policy
Center in advancing the goal of a free and just society as informed by the
Judeo-Christian moral tradition. We are grateful for his leadership, and
confident that the National Security Council will benefit from his
commitment and wisdom in seeking to secure human rights and democracy in the
international arena."


Some also argue that any other job for Abrams would have required official
Senate confirmation, and that Abrams has good management skills. Possibly
there is some truth in this. Abrams would never have survived a Senate
confirmation hearing for a deputy or assistant secretary position at either
the Department of Defense or State Department. At the time of Abrams's
appointment, Middle East policymaking at the White House was a shambles.
Responsibility for shaping policy now lay with three 'senior
directors.' The original National Security Council department chief, Zalmay
Khalilzad, focused mainly on dealings with the Iraqi opposition and was
reputed to be a poor administrator and more moderate about the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Khalilzad had succeeded Reidel, but was
quickly consumed with his native-born Afghanistan, after being named special
envoy to the interim president, Hamid Karzai. Khalilzad became
"ambassador-at-large for free Iraqis" concerned with sorting out conflicts
among the Iraqi opposition. Khalilzad was actually a co-founder of PNAC in
1997. But Abrams clashed with Leverett and Assistant Secretary of State
William J. Burns, the State Department's top Middle East expert, over the
final shape of the final Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement, seeking more
limited Israeli concessions. Abrams was frustrated by the lack of a clear
chain of command on Middle East issues. Leverett then left the NSC staff,
after refusing an offer by national security adviser Condoleezza
Rice to work on the "road map" under Abrams. Two other officials also left
the NSC staff as part of a shake-up in the Near East office related to
Abrams's arrival.

Abrams worked secretly to rewrite the road map, based on
the basis of critiques drawn up by the American Israel Public Affairs
Committee. He fired off frequent e-mails to Condoleeza Rice and Stephen
Hadley, aiming to reduce the role of any international mediators in the
peace process. Elliott had strong reservations about any input from the UN
and the EU. In general, Abrams's appointment must reflect Bush's preference
to use the "Reagan style of government" and assemble a team of
philosophically like-minded individuals regardless of background or public
perception, which ensures consensus, which allows for quick and decisive
action, right or wrong.


In addition to regular responsibilities, Abrams drafted a tough new policy
toward Cuba and "brainstormed" with Rice and other NSC officials to consider
new approaches to Middle East peace. For the first time ever, the Bush
administration voted against a U.N. General Assembly resolution that called
on Israel to repeal the Jerusalem law that declares that "Jerusalem,
complete and united, is the capital of Israel." In the past, Washington has
abstained on the issue, insisting that the the status of Jerusalem must be
determined by negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. Abrams has in
the past attacked that vote, as well as Washington's refusal to recogize
Jerusalem as Israel's capital, on the grounds that that such a position
"tantalizes the Palestinians with the prospect of forcing the Jews to
abandon Jerusalem."

'Elliott could always be relied upon to give clear expression of the Israeli
line, and whether or not it would fly with the Jewish community,' another
participant in the brainstorming sessions recalled. Abrams made a secret
visit to Israel with Hadley, the deputy national security adviser, to meet
Sharon. The prime minister took his guests up in a helicopter for a
bird's-eye view of the Jewish settlements on the West Bank which Israel
could be forced to abandon under a peace deal with the Palestinians. The
helicopter tour has become a standard feature on the itinerary of U.S.
officials visiting Sharon, said Martin Indyk, a former US ambassador to
Israel, in May 2003. 'You look down at all these settlements in the hills
below you, and you get the distinct impression that they will not be moving
anywhere in the lifetime of your administration,' he said. 'If anyone in the
Bush administration is going to push Israel on the settlements, it would be
Abrams, because he has credibility with the Israeli government,' said Aluf
Benn, diplomatic reporter for Ha'aretz. 'But so far we have not seen the
political will on the part of the White House to seriously press the issue.'

"Yet another American Likudnik is moving to a position where they control
Washington's agenda in the Mideast," commented Rashid Khalidi, a Mideast
historian at the University of Chicago. "This is a tragedy for the Israeli
and American people." As the NSC staff chief, Abrams is Special Assistant to
the President and Senior Director for Near East and North African Affairs.
As such, he is in charge of presenting policy papers and options for
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, whose own opinions are decisive
in cases where the president receives conflicting views from Rumsfeld,
Cheney, and Powell, who has support from the CIA and the soldiers. Rice has
no experience with Mideast issues prior to her current job. Khalidi
recognised Abrams fundamentalism and believes Abrams "will be yet another
filter blocking reality from reaching the president".


Abrams is not an expert on Arab-Israeli relations, anymore than Rice, but he
is pro-Likud and attacked Netanyahu for caving in to U.S. pressure to
respect the Oslo peace process. Shortly after the outbreak of the al-Aqsa
intifida at the end of September 2000, he criticized mainstream Jewish
groups for calling for a resumption of peace talks between the Palestinian
Authority and Israel, as well as a halt to the violence. Writing during the
2000 presidential campaign, Abrams said that the coming decade "will present
enormous opportunities to advance American interests in the Middle East."
But these opportunities will be realized "not for the most part through
painstaking negotiations of documents." Abram's policy is one of "boldly
asserting our support of our friends and opposing with equal boldness our

Like Perle, as well as Rumsfeld's civilian advisers like Undersecretary of
Defense for Policy Douglas Feith and Cheney's top deputy, I. Lewis Libby,
Abrams favours the PNAC Mideast strategy based on the overwhelming military
superiority of both the USA and Israel, and on a military alliance between
Israel and Turkey against hostile Arab states, particularly Syria and Iraq,
in order to create a "broader strategic context" that would ensure whatever
state might emerge on Palestinian territory would be friendly to U.S. and
Israeli interests, and that could force Syria to withdraw from Lebanon. He
is hostile to Arafat as an untrustworthy partner under the Oslo process, and
used his NSC position to push out Arafat out of power as part of a thorough
reform process. That view, supported by Rumsfeld and Cheney, was accepted by
Bush, despite strenuous objections by the State Department and senior aides
for Bush's father, including former national security adviser, Brent


On Friday 12th of April, when Venezuelan army generals had seized elected
President Hugo Chavez and closed down parliament, White House's official
spokesman Ari Fleischer, said "Now the situation will be one of tranquillity
and democracy". For several months, the coup plotters had made secret trips
to the White House to meet with Elliot Abrams at the NSC, and Otto Reich,
the key policy maker for Latin America. OAS sources told the Observer (21
April 2002) that, "the coup was discussed in some detail, right down to its
timing and chances of success, which were deemed to be excellent." White
House visitors included coup leader Pedro Carmona, who was installed as head
of the junta, and General Lucas Romero Rincon, head of the Venezuelan
military, who met with Pentagon official Rogelio Pardo-Maurer, a former
close associate of the US sponsored Contra forces in Nicaragua. Opposition
legislators were also brought to Washington in recent months, including at
least one delegation sponsored by the International Republican Institute, an
integral part of the National Endowment for Democracy, which is used by the
CIA for covert operations abroad. By the time of the Senate hearing in
February, the decision to sponsor the coup had almost certainly already been
taken. In early November 2001, the National Security Agency, the Pentagon
and the U.S. State Department held a two-day meeting on U.S. policy toward
Venezuela. Similar such meetings took place in 1953, 1963, and 1973, as well
as before coups in Guatemala, Brazil and Argentina. On his release from
captivity, Hugo Chavez said a plane with US registration numbers was at an
army airstrip on Venezuela's Orchila Island, one of five places he was held
during the coup. When asked about this, Ari Fleicher's bizarre response was
that he "did not know" whether Washington had provided a plane to fly the
Venezuelan President into exile. After the coup failed, US National Security
Adviser Condoleezza Rice warned Chavez in the most patronising way: "We do
hope that Chavez recognises that the whole world is watching and that he
takes advantage of this opportunity to right his own ship, which has been
moving, frankly, in the wrong direction for quite a long time."


Dr. Laila Al-Marayati, an appointed member of the nine-person US Commission
on International Religious Freedom 1999-2001 has stated: "although President
Bush repeatedly says that the US is not biased against Islam, the recent
appointment of Elliot Abrams to head the National Security Council's Near
East and North African office delivers exactly the opposite message to the
regions 250 million plus Muslims. Putting Abrams in charge of the office
that oversees Arab-Israeli relations and peace promoting efforts in the
region all but eliminates any possibility for Bush to portray himself as an
advocate for peace, justice and reconciliation between Israelis,
Palestinians and the neighboring countries. Like several of the other
neo-conservatives populating Bush's staff, he is a strong supporter of the
ultra-right wing in Israel. For two years, I worked with Abrams on the US
Commission on International Religious Freedom. From the vantage point of the
Commission, as an American and as a Muslim, I had the unfortunate
opportunity of witnessing -- clearly and unequivocally -- the deep bias that
Abrams brings to his new position. Perhaps the most telling experience was a
disastrous trip to the Middle East, where Abrams provoked a diplomatic flap
and alienated the kind of people whose support we now need if we are to be
effective in fighting terrorism. (...) As Chairman of the Commission at the
time, Abrams led the delegation to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, but did not go to
Jerusalem with three of us as he was of the opinion that there are no
problems with religious freedom in Israel that would warrant the attention
of the Commission. (..) By failing to adjust his schedule, Abrams managed to
snub the leading Islamic cleric in Egypt, Sheikh Tantawi of al-Azhar, which
nearly created a diplomatic nightmare that was only narrowly averted by the
intervention of the US Ambassador. Ultimately, under the leadership of
Abrams, the Commission published reports on over a dozen countries,
including those visited throughout the year, except for Israel. (...) As
such, it doesn't take a brain surgeon to understand why hostility towards
the US is increasing in the Middle East as Palestinians suffer more each
day. Since this Administration is willing to sacrifice human rights for
other strategic interests, it must be prepared to pay the price in decreased
popularity around the world. The only problem is that average Americans who
are affected by our foreign policy (...) By appointing Abrams to this post,
the President has failed to show to the world's one billion Muslims that he
is sincerely interested in peace, ending terrorism, and promoting peaceful
cooperation with our country. Instead, while the United States says that its
actions are directed against terrorists and not Islam, Abrams' appointment
makes those words appear as hollow as a Trent Lott apology".

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