Friday, June 1, 2007

A Reagan redux--the Bush Administration's Iran-Contra Scandal

This is a cautionary tale of governance from behind the curtain of secrecy. Presidents since Jimmy Carter have worked for peace between Israel and Palestine. Until this one. This one believes in the biblical smiting of one’s enemies.

This is a cautionary tale of governance from behind the curtain of secrecy. Presidents since Jimmy Carter have worked for peace between Israel and Palestine. Until this one. This one believes in the biblical smiting of one’s enemies.
Perleabrams The George Bush administration appears to be coming undone in it’s last years in precisely the same way that the Reagan administration came unglued—and for similar reasons—murky operatives, prescribing illegalities to a distracted president. This time it’s Elliott Abrams whose shoes show just below the Oval Office draperies, a man mentored by the infamous Richard Perle. Abrams won his spurs as a convicted Iran-Contra conspirator.
The story reeks of Henry Kissinger redux and Colonel Oliver North’s misleading of the Reagan Congress. Congresses are more easily mislead, it would seem, than a feeble aunt in a nursing home. They are consistently late to the party. Makes a person wonder about checks and balances in a seemingly unchecked and unbalanced government.
Bush-the-father pardoned Abrams, along with a number of other Iran-Contra defendants, shortly before leaving office in 1992. But old family ties are hard to break and Abrams now holds down the job of Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy. Translated, that means he is responsible for Bush's strategy of advancing democracy abroad.
Cheneybush If the selection of a thug, convicted in 1991 on two misdemeanor counts of unlawfully withholding information from Congress during the Iran-Contra Affair investigation, seems a strange choice for the advocacy of democracy, read on. Abrams is one of many holdover dark-side operatives collected from past administrations (all the way back to Nixon) and residing comfortably within the purview of that master of dark sides, Dick Cheney.
The president and Abrams have a weird (at least to me) idea of what advancing democracy means. Abrams argues in favor of what he calls a ‘hard coup’ against the newly-elected Hamas government in Palestine— the violent overthrow of their democratically elected leadership, with arms supplied by the United States.
Advancing democracy, now in Palestine as it was then in Nicaragua, is not so much a matter of democratic election as it is whether we approve of those who are elected. The plot thickens.
Elliottabrams1 Look back a few years to get a sense of Abrams and where he is coming from. In his first term, Bush appointed Abrams to the post of Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Democracy, Human Rights, and International Operations at the National Security Council. Since then, Abrams assisted in;
  • preemptively attacking Iraq, thereby turning a dictatorship into a failed democracy,
  • supporting human rights by means of abu-Ghraib
  • and illegal renditions to countries other than the United States for the purpose of torture
Those missteps, which might have gotten a man banished from more thoughtful inner circles, got Eliot promoted, allowing even closer access to his president. Such are the ways of Washington. But the immediate question is, “Has the Bush administration violated the law in an effort to provoke a Palestinian civil war?” and is Eliot Abrams the Oliver North du jour?
Alistair Crooke and Mark Perry at Conflicts Forum, write
Deputy National Security Advisor, Elliott Abrams — who Newsweek recently described as “the last neocon standing” — has had it about for some months now that the U.S. is not only not interested in dealing with Hamas, it is working to ensure its failure.

Over the last twelve months, the United States has supplied guns, ammunition and training to Palestinian Fatah activists to take on Hamas in the streets of Gaza and the West Bank. A large number of Fatah activists have been trained and “graduated” from two camps — one in Ramallah and one in Jericho. The supplies of rifles and ammunition, which started as a mere trickle, has now become a torrent (Haaretz reports the U.S. has designated an astounding $86.4 million for Abu Mazen’s security detail), and while the program has gone largely without notice in the American press, it is openly talked about and commented on in the Arab media — and in Israel.
Iraqiwoundedhospital2 Civil war in Iraq has been such a resounding success that Eliot Abrams, Dick Cheney and (Cheney’s attack dog) David Addington couldn’t wait to give it a try in Palestine. It is, after all, a hell of a lot more tidy than inviting all those scruffy Arabs to Camp David, with their broken-English and avoidance of alcohol.
Officials thought that the additional weapons would easily cow Hamas operatives, who would meekly surrender the offices they had only recently so dearly won. (see ‘In their last throes’ for further reference)
No matter. The beat goes on and the weaponry and training have been delivered by the man behind the draperies. If recent history is any precedent, American soldiers will eventually face those trained and armed by loose cannons like Abrams. Eliot, as does Dick Cheney, operates entirely outside the ‘checks and balances’ of Congress.
A Pentagon official was even more adamant, cataloging official Washington’s nearly open disdain for Abrams’ program. “This is not going to work and everyone knows it won’t work. It is too clever. We’re just not very good at this. This is typical Abrams stuff.” This official went on to note that “it is unlikely that either Jordan or Egypt will place their future in the hands of the White House. Who the hell outside of Washington wants to see a civil war among Palestinians? Do we really think that the Jordanians think that’s a good idea. The minute it gets underway, (King) Abdullah is finished. Hell, fifty percent of his country is Palestinian.”
One can but hope Israel, having watched our pain in Iraq and felt their own in Lebanon, will be unwilling to follow Cheney's bait into an attack on Iran, promising our support.
Bobgatessecydefense One can but hope that Bob Gates, the Secretary of Defense, would resign over such a move, but then that’s only a hope and this has not been a hopeful six years.
. . . the program ran into problems almost from the beginning. “The CIA didn’t like it and didn’t think it would work,” we were told in October. “The Pentagon hated it, the US embassy in Israel hated it, and even the Israelis hated it.” A prominent American military official serving in Israel called the program “stupid” and “counter-productive.”

U.S. government officials refused to comment on a report that the program is now a part of the State Department’s “Middle East Partnership Initiative,” established to promote democracy in the region. If it is, diverting appropriated funds from the program for the purchase of weapons may be a violation of Congressional intent — and U.S. law.
Which exactly mirrors Reagan’s Iran-Contra disaster, implemented by the same man, Eliot Abrams. Condoleeza Rice was busy at Stanford University during those heady years, but she might do well to check the history of that period.
Condi stands to get considerably muddied by Eliot Abrams’ can of worms.
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