Elliott Abrams, Washington DC, 2012. Photo: Gage Skidmore Elliott Abrams, Washington DC, 2012. Photo: Gage Skidmore

Abrams’ appointment provides further evidence that Trump’s response to Venezuela will repeat previous misadventures in the region, argues Sean Ledwith

Anyone who has not watched Ilhan Omar s lacerating interrogation of Trump’s new special envoy to Venezuela should do so as soon as possible. The newly elected Representative from Minnesota, one of the first two female Muslims to take a place in Congress, launched a scathing attack on Elliot Abrams, drawing attention to his appalling record in previous posts in the US foreign policy apparatus. Abrams was appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last Wednesday to confirm his nomination by Trump.


The appointment comes amid Washington’s transparent attempt to undermine the Chavista government of Nicolas Maduro in Caracas and replace him with CIA stooge, Juan Guaido. Human rights activists and commentators who recall how the US has sponsored repressive regimes in Latin America have expressed disbelief that Abrams has been brought back into a position of influence. Alejandro Velasco, professor of Latin American History at NY University, noted Abrams’ unapologetic stance continues

a pattern he has shown since the 1980s of hubristically rejecting out of hand any suggestion that defeating social justice struggles in the 1980s, through the most brutal means, should in any way be seen as anything other than a resounding victory for the U.S.

Blood on his hands

Omar justifiably confronted Abrams with the question of why anyone should trust a person who has been exposed for lying to Congress in the past. She put it to him:

I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony that you give today to be truthful.

Omar then proceeded to list some of the heinous actions that Abrams coordinated and condoned in his time working for the Republican administrations of Ronald Reagan and the two Bushes. An exhaustive list of Abrams’ blood-soaked crimes and misdemeanours would run for several pages but these are just a few of his ‘highlights’

  • As Assistant Secretary of State under Reagan, Abrams recommended support for Guatemalan dictator, Rioss Montt, who would later be accused of attempted genocide against the native population by Amnesty
  • Abrams described  US policy in El Salvador as a ‘fabulous success’, strangely omitting to mention the 1981 El Mozate massacre of 900 civilians (including almost 200 children; carried out by US trained paramilitary forces
  • He firstly coordinated US support for Panamanian dictator, Manuel Noriega, and then facilitating his removal with an invasion by US troops in 1989 that cost a minimum of 3000 civilian lives
  • Asking the Sultan of Brunei for $10 million to fund the counter-revolutionary Contras waging a terrorist campaign against the left-wing regime in Nicaragua
  • Found guilty of lying to Congress in 1991 over the Iran-Contra affair in which the Reagan administration broke its own embargo of arms sales to the Iranian regime to fund the Contras. Abrams was sentenced to 100 hours community service and a $500 fine! Later pardoned by George Bush Snr
  • Laughing scornfully in a television interview in 1995 when journalist Allan Cairns suggested he should be put on trial for war crimes
  • Facilitating the attempted coup against Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez, in 2002 that was thwarted by mass mobilisation of the working class in Caracas
  • Being one of the leading figures of the ‘Project for a New American Century’ cabal of neocons that pushed for the catastrophic invasion of Iraq in 2003
  • Serving on Bush Jnr’s National Security Council that devised the so-called War on Terror
  • Encouraging Trump to rip up the Iran nuclear deal that that has brought a fragile stability to the region

Even Republican Senator Rand Paul – nobody‘s idea of a moderate – has slammed the notion of Abrams being brought back into the White House. Two years ago when Abrams’ return was first floated, Paul declared that such an appointment would mean

the neocons would scurry in by the hundreds. Neoconservative interventionists have had us at perpetual war for 25 years. While President Trump has repeatedly stated his belief that the Iraq War was a mistake, the neocons (all of them Never-Trumpers) continue to maintain that the Iraq and Libyan Wars were brilliant ideas. These same people think we must blow up half the Middle East, then rebuild it and police it for decades

Abrams’ appointment is a clear indication that Trump is raising the stakes in Venezuela and will not rest until Maduro is toppled. All those who don’t wish to see a return to the dark days of the 1980s with US-backed dictators running amok in Latin America should draw inspiration from Ilhan Omar’s courageous denunciation of the abominable Abrams, and keep the pressure on Western governments to stay out of Venezuela.

Sean Ledwith

Sean Ledwith is a Counterfire member and Lecturer in History at York College, where he is also UCU branch negotiator. Sean is also a regular contributor to Marx and Philosophy Review of Books and Culture Matters

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