Fallen Hawk Soars Again

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Elliott
Abrams, a figure from the Ronald Reagan-era Iran-Contra scandal
who describes himself as a "neoconservative and neo-Reaganite,"
is moving to center stage in U.S. foreign policy as head of President
George W. Bush’s Global Democracy Strategy.

In
his new position, Abrams will oversee the administration’s promotion
of democracy and human rights while continuing to provide oversight
to the National Security Council’s directorate of Near East and
North African affairs – including involvement in the Israeli/Palestinian
conflict.

Although
not known as a regional specialist, Abrams has frequently voiced
his strong support for Israel’s Likud party positions on the Oslo
peace process and "land for peace" negotiations.

After
the launch of the al-Aqsa Intifada in late September 2000, Abrams
lambasted mainstream Jewish groups for their continued support of
peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and for their call
to Israel to halt its attacks.

During
the first George H.W. Bush administration, the White House kept
Abrams out of the public limelight. When he was appointed to the
National Security Council (NSC), first as chief human rights officer
and then as the NSC’s senior director of Near East and North Africa
Affairs, the White House told the media that Abrams was unavailable
for interviews.

There
is less reticence this time around. Even before just-departed Secretary
of State Colin Powell started clearing his desk in Foggy Bottom,
Abrams was hitting the road last November in Europe to promote the
Sharon-Bush plan to resolve what he calls the "Israel-Arab"
conflict.

Also
in November, Abrams participated in an hour-plus meeting in the
Oval Office with the president and Natan Sharansky, Israel’s minister
for Jerusalem and diaspora affairs.

Sharansky’s
book, The
Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and
Terror
, has found favor with both Bush and new Secretary
of State Condoleezza Rice, who have repeatedly referred it in their
pronouncements about the U.S. government’s new commitment to ending
tyranny and spreading democracy.

The
Israeli minister’s connection to Abrams and other neoconservatives
dates back to the mid-1970s when Sharansky worked closely with Sen.
Henry "Scoop" Jackson, a Washington State Democrat and
the Senate’s most vocal supporter of Israel and Soviet Jewry.

Abrams
has long rejected the peace process in the Middle East as a policy
of appeasement. His Likudnik positions on Israeli-Palestinian tensions
and Middle East restructuring are well established in his writings
in the neocon magazine Commentary and his books.

Abrams
authored the chapter on the Middle East in the 2000 blueprint for
U.S. foreign policy by the Project for the New American Century
(PNAC). Edited by PNAC founders William Kristol and Robert Kagan,

Present Dangers: Crisis and Opportunity in American Foreign and
Defense Policy
is a chapter-by-chapter playbook on how to
deal with America’s current and future adversaries.

In
his chapter on the Middle East, Abrams laid out the "peace
through strength" credo that has become the operating principle
of the Bush administration. "Our military strength and willingness
to use it will remain a key factor in our ability to promote peace,"
wrote Abrams.

"Strengthening
Israel, our major ally in the region, should be the central core
of U.S. Middle East policy, and we should not permit the establishment
of a Palestinian state that does not explicitly uphold U.S. policy
in the region," Abrams asserted.

Following
the February 2001 election of the Likud party’s Ariel Sharon as
Israel’s new prime minister, Abrams wrote that Sharon embodied a
new approach "of firmness and resistance to violence or the
threat of violence." He likened the return of Sharon to head
the Israel government as similar to the return of Winston Churchill
to government when Great Britain’s survival was threatened.

Abrams
has moved back and forth between government and the right’s web
of think tanks and policy institutes, holding positions as a senior
fellow at the Hudson Institute, president of the Ethics and Public
Policy Center (EPPC), advisory council member of the American Jewish
Committee, and charter member of PNAC.

He
has also maintained close ties with the Social Democrats/USA, the
network of right-wing social democrats and former Trotskyites who
became the most vocal of the self-described "democratic globalists"
within the neocon camp in the 1990s.

By
the end of the 1970s, he abandoned the Democrats and in 1981 became
the director of State Department’s Office of Human Rights and Humanitarian
Affairs.

During
the Reagan years, the executive branch’s human rights program was
a velvet glove tailored for the iron fist side of foreign and military
policy. In his position as human rights director and later as chief
of Latin America policy, Abrams was at once a human rights advocate,
a manager of clandestine operations, and a bagman for the Nicaraguan
contras – calling himself "a gladiator" in the cause
of freedom.

Although
he entered the Reagan administration scandal-free, he left as a
convicted criminal. Abrams, who in 1985 became the administration’s
assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs, was indicted
by the Iran-Contra special prosecutor for intentionally deceiving
Congress about the administration’s role in supporting the Contras,
including his own central role in the Iran-Contra arms deal.

Abrams
pleaded guilty to two lesser offenses (including withholding information
from Congress) to avoid a trial and a possible jail term. He and
five other Iran-Contra figures were pardoned by President George
H.W. Bush on Christmas Eve 1992, shortly before the senior Bush
left office.

Central
to Abrams’ neoconservative philosophy – and his perspective
on the objectives of U.S. foreign policy – are his own religious
and Zionist convictions.

In
his private writing and nongovernmental policy advocacy work, Abrams
has described radical separatist and segregationist leanings. He
believes, for example, that Jews shouldn’t date or attend school
with non-Jews.

"Outside
the land of Israel," says Abrams, "there can be no doubt
that Jews, faithful to the covenant between God and Abraham, are
to stand apart from the nation in which they live. It is the very
nature of being Jewish to be apart – except in Israel –
from the rest of the population."

Judaism,
according to Abrams, demands "apartness" – not in
the sense of confining oneself to a physical ghetto, but in that
all necessary measures should be taken to prevent "prolonged
and intimate exposure to non-Jewish culture."

Abrams
takes care to note that his positions imply no "disloyalty"
to the United States, but at the same time he insists that Jews
must be loyal to Israel because they "are in a permanent covenant
with God and with the land of Israel and its people. Their commitment
will not weaken if the Israeli government pursues unpopular policies."

Abrams
describes himself as a "somewhat observant Conservative Jew"
in his controversial book, Faith
and Fear: How Jews Can Survive in Christian America
.

Unlike
Condoleezza Rice, Abrams is not commonly regarded as being a Bush
or Republican Party loyalist. Rather, over the past three decades
he has established his credentials as an influential right-wing
ideologue – one who has effectively put his own ideas about
religion, human rights, democracy, and U.S. power to work both as
a leading figure the world of neoconservative policy institutes
and as a skilled foreign policy operative.

Abrams
is equally comfortable in using military intervention, human rights
advocacy, democratization programs, and backdoor illegal channels
as instruments to advance a neoconservative foreign policy agenda.

February
16, 2004

Tom
Barry is policy director of the Interhemispheric
Resource Center
(IRC).

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