Elliott Abrams to Council on Foreign Relations

-

abrams cheney.jpg
Jim Lobe has just confirmed that outgoing Special Assistant to President George W. Bush and Senior Director for Near East and North African Affairs and Deputy National Security Adviser for Global Democracy Strategy Elliott Abrams will be joining the Council on Foreign Relations team in February.
Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, reportedly considered and declined a possible role as one of several Obama administration envoys to the Middle East.
Now, it is vital to keep Haass exactly where he is — because the only thing worse than hearing that Elliott Abrams will be joining Max Boot and some others on the CFR payroll is learning that he might have become President of the organization as well.
We look forward to some good, principled foreign policy debates with Ambassador Abrams after he lands.
To Abrams’ credit, I hear that he throws a great Passover seder and does invite others with whom he doesn’t necessarily agree on Middle East issues and national security policy overall. I think that this kind of reaching out is important — and credit where credit is due.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

30 comments on “Elliott Abrams to Council on Foreign Relations

  1. Roman Brackman says:

    February14, 2009
    Hello Mr. Abrams:
    John Dean and the Watergate scandal were recently brought back to life in the New York Times articles when the 1996 transcript of Watergate tapes was found incomplete and misleading. David Scull in his February 1, 2009 NYT article identified number of misinterpretations in Stanley Kutler’s widely accepted transcript of Watergate tapes published in 1996. Patricia Cohen in her January 31, 2009 NYT article “John Dean’s Role at Issue in Nixon Tapes Feud” stated that Kutler in his book left out the 35-minute conversation in March 17, 1973 between John Dean and President Nixon during which they discussed possible involvement of White House officials in the cover-up when Dean suddenly mentioned himself. Nixon asked: “You? Why?” to which Dean answered: “Well, because I’ve been all over this thing like a blanket.” This was the first and the last time Dean told the truth.
    In 1974 I published an article “John Dean Behind the Mask of Sanity.” (I will send you this article if you express an interest.) My perception of Dean was influence by the book “THE MASK OF SANITY” (1955) by Hervey Cleckley, M.D., who sited dozens of cases of seemingly normal people, some of them successful businessmen, lawyers, doctors and other professionals, who were afflicted by moral blindness and habitually committed various crimes, but often wiggled out of punishment by projecting their guilt on other people and blaming others for the crimes they themselves had committed. After having kept silent for more than a quarter century, Gordon Liddy in January 2001 finally revealed in his sworn testimony in Philadelphia court that it was John Dean who ordered the Watergate break-in. (The New York Times, January 30, 2001, p. A-19) This important information was moved to page 19 and was probably dismissed by people who did not want to admit even to themselves that they were duped by, as General Alexander Haig put it to Leon Jaworski, “The tapes after March 21 show Dean to be a subtle but clever liar.” (Leon Jaworski, (The Right and the Power, pp. 151-152). Actually it was John Dean who ordered Gordon Liddy to organize the Watergate break-in and then, to avoid punishment, projected his guilt on other people, including President Nixon. Not long ago Mark Felt, a senile 91–year-old former FBI official, was paraded by the mainstream media as the “real Deep Throat.” Now Mark Felt is dead. But in 1979, when Felt was alive and not senile, he published his book “The FBI Pyramid from Inside” in which he stated emphatically:
    I never leaked information to Woodward and Bernstein or anyone else.
    In the Chapter 8 – “Watergate and the Yom Kippur War” of my book “Israel at High Noon” (2006) I stated that the “Deep Throat,” the mysterious source of Watergate “revelations,” was John Dean, who, at the time of the break-in, was the Counsel to the President in the Nixon White House and who became the “star witness” against President Nixon during the Watergate hearings. I would be happy to send you this book if you indicate an interest. It has a lot of factual information about John Dean and his true role in the Watergate scandal. Now I want to publish a book entirely focused on Watergate to reveal that the Watergate scandal was a hoax and a ruse by the anti-Vietnam War left-wing liberals who used John Dean to reverse Nixon’s 1972 landslide victory to satisfy their camouflaged wish for American defeat in Vietnam. Leonard Garment, who became Counsel in the Nixon White House after Nixon had fired John Dean, wrote:
    Watergate grew out of a dispute about Richard Nixon prosecution of the Vietnam War. This dispute was, in political terms virtually irresolvable. (The New York Times, Nov. 19, 2000, WK 15)
    This was not the first time in history when anti-war movements caused upheavals. Leaders who failed to deliver on a silver platter a quick and glorious victory inspired hatred of their people who wanted a change. After the protracted WW1 the German Emperor was exiled while the Russian Tsar and his entire family were murdered. Dissatisfied with protracted wars and taxation, the Paris mob on July 14 1789 stormed Bastille prison, freeing 7 common criminals, among them Marquis de Sade, the infamous sadist, who shouted to the enraged crowd, “They are killing the prisoners here!” which caused a riot. King Louis XVI was guillotined and his wife Marie-Antoinette, who was accused of changing her dresses every day, met the same fate. Their son, the Dauphin, suffered a terrible death in prison. People got more of a change than they bargained for in Hitler the Fuhrer, Stalin the Vozhd and Napoleon the Emperor, all of them having popped up from nowhere.
    Harry Truman had even lower rating during the long Korean War than George W. Bush had during the Iraq War. Bob Herbert in his Op-Ed article wrote, “Anger at George W. Bush is white-hot.” (NYT, August 26, p.19) There is a link between the “white-hot” hatred of Nixon and Bush because of their quest for American victory in the unpopular at the time wars in Vietnam and Iraq. It has been not easy to publish anything if the subject has contradicted with the prevailing point of view. Bernard Goldberg’s book “A Slobbering Love Affair Starring Barack Obama-The True (and Pathetic) Story of the Torrid Romance between Barack Obama and the Mainstream Media” was a great joy to read. This book brought back my memory of twenty years of futile attempts to publish in the U.S. my book “The Secret File of Joseph Stalin – A Hidden life.” American scholars did not recommend publication of this book because it contradicted their version of Soviet history which they had been teaching generations of students and required their students to read published Stalin biographies. My book was published after US Army Colonel David M. Glantz sent his comments to a British publisher, stating:
    Brackman’s approach synthesizes the vast amount of fragmentary information on Stalin, “the man“to form an imposing and unprecedented psychological portrait. Indeed, Stalin comes to life and emerges “real” in the book. No other existing work has accomplished this feat. There are many published biographies and portraits of Stalin. None, however, places a proper face on the man or explains why he acted as he did. This book does both.
    Christopher Andrew in The Sunday Times review stated:
    There is much in The Secret File of Joseph Stalin that challenges conventional interpretations of Stalin’s dictatorship… Brackman’s claim that Stalin had been an Okhrana agent also deserves to be taken seriously.
    Nikolai Yamskoy reviewed my book in a two page article in the Russian newspaper Russkiy Kurier, stating:
    The history of the file is one of the most captivating scenes in R. Brackman’s book. In essence, this is the real “History of KPSU” instead of the falsified one, which was fed to us for decades and in part still continues to be fed to us in ‘politcorrect’ text books in schools and universities (Nicolai Yamskoy, “Our History-The Hidden Life of the Kremlin Boss” Russkiy Kurier, December 2, 2004, pp. 26-27)
    Francois Kersaudy, a Sorbonne University Professor, published a 10 page review of my Stalin book in the February 2003 issue of the Paris magazine Historia with the cover title Staline – Agent du Tsar. There were many reviews of my Stalin book in the Russian, Israeli, British and American press.
    My published books are listed on amazon.com, but I have never had an agent. Recently I received a letter of rejection from a literary agent who wrote: “I don’t think the book is something I can sell. I’m someone who’s heard too much of Watergate. I am sure another agent will be more enthusiastic, as there is a sizable audience still fascinated by it.”
    I hope you might suggest an agent or a publisher for my book on John Dean and Watergate. This is the reason I burdened you with this communication. Below is my published letter to the New York Times Editor about Nixon and the Watergate scandal:
    Sincerely,
    Roman Brackman Ph.D.
    700 Fort Washington Ave. apt. 5-D
    New York City, NY 10040
    Tel. (212) 740-8744
    Tel. (845) 292-6534
    E-mail: nadrom@nyc.rr.com
    Website: romanbrackman.com
    The New York Times, FRIDAY, APRIL 12. 1974
    Letters to the Editor
    ‘If the President Withdrew. . .’
    To the Editor:
    Senator Buckley in his much pub¬licized statement said “If the Presi¬dent withdrew, this crisis would be resolved.” It would not. On the con¬trary, the real crisis would only begin. The President’s resignation would deal a devastating blow to the legitimacy of our form of government, and not only to the office of the President, .but also to the very genesis of our country-its Constitution.
    It would deal a deadly blow to the foundation of our system of justice – the presumption of innocence before proven guilty. The President’s resigna¬tion would be widely interpreted as acknowledgment of guilt. The Senator went so far as to imply the President’s guilt by association only because some of the people in the White House night have committed a crime. ”
    The Senator’s statement that his call for the President’s resignation does not imply any belief on his part in the President’s guilt or innocence is puzzling. If the President is inno¬cent of any crime, why should he re¬sign? If the President were to resign, he would set a. frightening precedent.
    Any future President could be removed from office only because some fantastic charges gained wide publicity. The next logical step would be to remove the legally elected head of State by public opinion poll, or by par¬tisan cabal, which chooses to ignore the only constitutional procedure, that of impeachment by the House and conviction by the Senate.
    It is not the agony of the perfectly legal impeachment proceedings which would tear the country apart, as the Senator suggests, but the agony and the pervasive sense of guilt stemming from the destruction of an innocent man which would result in endless recriminations, strife, bitterness, and quite possibly in a civil war. Removal of a head of state by illegal means or pressure had precisely such results, as history shows so clearly.
    President Nixon will stand tall in history for his courage and statesman¬ship in his foreign policy initiatives, for his courageous, if unpopular at that time, decisions on Vietnam and Cambodia, in September 1970 during the Jordanian crisis, in last October’s Mideast war, and not the least in im¬portance, for his remarkable endur¬ance to stay in office and to uphold our Constitution despite pressure from his opponents and his friends.
    The President will not resign be¬cause by following the Senator’s ad-vice he would place the future of this country and indeed of the world in jeopardy.
    ROMAN BRACKMAN
    Chappaqua, N.Y. Mar. 29, 1974.

    Reply

  2. rich says:

    Hmmm. A few points here worth attending to. There has been too much eliding of the issue at hand, DavidT, to believe this all turns on the subtlety you identify (i.e., the diff btw “Why should they get away with ..” vs. “yeah they may have believed .. but that doesn’t matter since…it violated American law..” Both are valid.
    It’s the euphemisms that’ve enabled and compounded the damage. So forgive me, but when PBS producers forbid NewsHour guests to utter the word “torture” in the denotative sense, something’s wrong.
    “I think you would have a hard time developing a consensus in this country that some of these policies which did not explicitly violate US law should be prosecuted.”
    These policies DID explicitly violate US law. Where’s the consensus? Even the Constitution’s clear about who declares war, sophistry notwithstanding.
    Most important: Elliot Abrams is a big fish. There’s no benefit to stopping with Rumsfeld.
    There are two crucial points: when there’s no legal cost, and no social cost, but only professional reward–what’s to stop the next guy from from going much much further? Ostracize, confront or simply, frankly let Abrams know precisely where you stand at each personal interaction. But something, something — is necessary.
    George Washington overthrew British rule because the Crown tortured English citizens. They taxed, they ignored the needs of citizens, etc., but the crucial fact is this: when people objected to the injustice, they were jailed and tortured. Those subjected to torture joined Washington’s army–and we got a new country out of it.
    It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that adopting torture will put America on the wrong side of a losing battle. I just don’t agree it’s plausible to say “they believed … almost anything would be okay to lift that peril.” It doesn’t work that way. When–IF–Guantanamo ‘detainees’ join al Qaeda, it’ll be on Rumsfeld, Abrams and those who tortured and abused–not the security-conscious and humane among us. An ‘honest mistake’ doesn’t jibe with basic American history, both in previous use of torture, as well as the plain ineffectiveness in achieving our supposed aims.
    For all the above reasons, I come to a slightly different conclusion. Ultimately, those who assist Elliot Abrams in maintaining his position, and what’s left of his reputation, have just as much to answer for as he does.
    There is service to honor and be proud of–that is certainly true. But putting our soldiers in always-already-untenable circumstances, on the wrong side of a just cause, using methods that ensure their eventual and inevitable defeat, simply because our policymakers don’t have the common sense to live up to a few, basic, commonly known principles, is not among them.

    Reply

  3. DavidT says:

    Rich,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts in your sobering fashion. I appreciate your efforts at trying to see my point of view rather than dismissing me out of hand and I’ve tried to the best of my ability to do likewise.
    Sounds like your biggest beef is with the system of ours. I agree with you, though I would frame things differently, that if you seek information by torturing people at a bare minimum you need to weigh the value of the information you are seeking against the harm done by the torture. I personally am against torture. However, just because I am against torture doesn’t mean that I can’t frame the approach of policymakers as one where they believed the country was in peril and almost anything would be okay to lift that peril. Thus the question, as monstrous and inhumane and awful (and inexcusable in my mind) as torture is, its not a fair evaluation to ask, “Why should they get away with torturing … people.” The right question in my mind if we feel such action is illegal is to say, yeah they may have believed it was merited given the circumstances but that doesn’t matter since it violated American law and the values we supposedly embrace and our country has embodied during its existence. I think you would have a hard time developing a consensus in this country that some of these policies which did not explicitly violate US law should be prosecuted. Those that did should be prosecuted.
    But I am uncomfortable doing too much vilifying (as it sounds like you are as well)since the policies of the current administration may be reviled by a certain portion of our electorate though the policymakers are presumably doing the best they can given their worldview.
    I think of people getting blame on the worst policies of this administration, rightly or wrongly, Secretary Rumsfeld took with him the lion’s share along with vice president Cheney and President Bush. I believe that is as it should be. If they are prosecuted for war crimes or for violations of the Constitution Abrams can be linked and gone after as well. If not, I’m not sure why he should be hung out to dry with the bigger guys were ultimately responsible for the harm committed. Thanks again. DavidT

    Reply

  4. rich says:

    DavidT,
    Your thoughts are well-taken, and for the record, I also firmly subscribe in practice to the method you identify. I operate the same way you do, and it’s gotten me a long way.
    In fact, I’ve constantly been stating why alternative policies are better for American national security; for the effectiveness of our military and safety of our soldiers; for the vitality of our economy; and for the health of our body politic and conserving of our way of life.
    As you state:
    Steve’s and your method of “dealing with policymakers … we revile [by].. focus[ing] on alternative policies that demonstrate a willingness to jump into the same arena … and by showing less why they are wrong than why we are right.”
    By the same token, when our valid, better ideas and civil defense of our presumably shared, inviolable core principles are shut down, shut out in favor of policies that are broken in means and barren in ends–truly outrageous–then outrage is truly called for. Functionally necessary.
    In short, I don’t spend my time demonizing anyone. However:
    1. The nature of those policies has to be stated in factual terms. That’s all I’ve done.
    2. The reasonable reaction of the general public and folks who’ve bothered to stay informed has to be conveyed, whether plain disapproval or plain outrage. It has to register on these matters.
    3. That it hasn’t/hadn’t registered is very telling.
    4. Try to think of it as a two-front war. When both rightful anger and better ideas both register, perhaps it’ll make those up-close in policy making that much more effective.
    Activity out in the world can frame and contextualize in-person relationships. Many of us will put out better ideas, dissect bad policy, truth-squad the propaganda — and express legitimate outrage at the pattern of bloody lawbreaking that borders on treason and has so badly harmed this country. It’s not shrill to say so, no matter who it discomfits.
    Let me underscore one thing: ultimately, even in the halls of power, there has to be some things officialdom and think-tankery is unwilling to reward. Would official wisdom think it goes to far to torture 1 million Latin American peasants, and kill 5 million? How many does it take to sully appearances, violate a clear principle, nudge the conscience, provoke punishment? Not a hypothetical question.
    Abrams may be truly misguided–but why did no alternative view ever reach his ears? Why did he not engage in discussions to find a mutually satisfactory way forward? His portfolio has been secret because they’re ashamed of it; it can’t be defended.
    There has to be a line. There has to be an honest discussion of the facts at hand. We don’t really have either one.
    I appreciate your response. KNOW that we are like-minded and in-sync. On some level, barbarity in the clothing of civility is in no position to look us askance. Try not to mistake our frankness for social miscues.
    And again, thanks for engaging; it’s much appreciated.

    Reply

  5. DavidT says:

    DonS,
    Thanks for the citation. Most responsive of you. I missed that on my last pass but read it initially as just a hypothetical. But then you read it differently. The beauty of different interpretations.
    Rich,
    I appreciate the restraint in your response given the deep sentiment you feel on this topic. Perhaps the responses here were more on the topic of Abrams in general than that he’s going to cfr. I took the topic as being a bit more literally the latter which is why I argued that the fact that he’s going to be a senior fellow at cfr is not such a big deal. I think his neocon views will represent a minority of views at cfr and in the U.S. foreign policy establishment, particularly after Iraq and the the developing more nuanced approach shaping up in the new administration. As Steve has been echoing here, the reaching out to the Muslim world in such a manner and demonstrating that their views are not only important but will be respected even if they will not always agree with American policy will bear so much more fruit for all in addition to it being more palatable to many of us on basic humanitarian grounds. If this approach can demonstrate its effectiveness along will real progress in nudging the various parties together to work towards a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian divide, which I think it can, then we can put behind us the Manichean, us versus them, approach that has at times animated the neoconservative perspective.
    My disposition tends to lead me to believe the most effective approach to dealing with policymakers and policy making we revile is to focus on alternative policies that demonstrate a willingness to jump into the same arena as those who propose what we dislike by showing less why they are wrong than why we are right. Its admittedly less satisfying than demonizing those whose views we so loathe. But I feel that the more one focuses on them instead of the alternative to those policies, the more one becomes the mirror image of those policymakers and doesn’t really solve the problem at the foundation of the policy making dividing line.
    My best. DavidT

    Reply

  6. DonS says:

    David!!!
    ” . . . is learning that he might have become . . .”
    It’s all there. Someone told him!!!

    Reply

  7. rich says:

    DavidT,
    I don’t find the CRF hiring of Abrams even slightly shocking: it’s standard operating procedure. No one said CFR is responsible for punishing Abrams, so again your criticism seems off-base. That legal punishment “is not up to CFR,” however, hardly relieves them of any responsibility for encouraging policies & officials that’ve egregiously damaged this country, nor does it relieve them of the responsibility for discouraging those people and policies. I’m sure someone’ll counter they believe they’ve been responsible; there’s no data point to support that whatsoever. You’ve said their voice shouldn’t be shut out; problem is, their voice is the only one that’s been heard–and theirs is the voice that’s been shutting out every other common sense, proven perspective that’s merely hoping to be heard.
    I’m saying that by any objective measure, the revolving door is performative: the hire itself metastasizes a cancer that perversely believes that foundational law can routinely be betrayed for bureaucratic expedience, that some operatives are above the law, that there is no accountability before the law–or to one’s fellow citizens.
    I’m hardly an Ornstein critic. I already said he does great work. But Ornstein learned the hard way that the meaning of the AEI’s role had seeped into the public consciousness–and that among those unfamiliar with his work, his reputation did in fact take a tumble with the widespread realization of AEI’s extraordinarily damaging role in poisoning America’s public debate, manipulating the process, and pushing patently counterproductive policies. I still think he’s a decent guy who does good work. Objectively, though, this turn of events is no surprise, and he’s earned no sympathy. He could’ve spoken up. He could’ve moved from one comfortable chair to the comfortable chair at another think tank. He didn’t deem that worth the effort–or necessary.
    So I’m of two minds on this: working at AEI hasn’t changed the quality of Ornstein’s work and he’s still the same apparently affable guy; still, you’ve got to wonder what the hell he’s thinking and how much he’ll turn a blind eye to.
    I understand why CFR would hire Abrams and GWU would hire Feith. Invest in a diversified portfolio, and the well-heeled supporters of every agenda will give cash to your think tank, instead of just one side or the other. Multipolar political hirings assures access no matter who’s in power. This is not rocket science. And it obviously hasn’t been in America’s national interest.
    But as Ornstein learned, the complicity of the comfortable has come back to haunt them. My point is twofold, such hires ensure there is no consequence where it matters most, and such hires do in fact determine the public reputations of the think tanks. People see the kind of crap spouted on the NewsHour by different faces of the AEI or Heritage or CFR and they can do the math. You or Norman Ornstein or Jim Lehrer may not be aware of it. But when people’ve become that generally aware of the AEI’s role, the cat’s already out of the bag. It’s not just the attentive and well-read or specialized who’ve cottoned to the sophistry and incestuousness. It’s everybody.

    Reply

  8. DavidT says:

    DonS,
    I don’t see what you seem to see in Steve’s comments. He hints at the presidency but doesn’t explain what hiring Abrams has to do with Abrams becoming the organization’s president. He doesn’t say anywhere that he has it on good authority or anything of the sort that Abrams was up for the presidency (which would indeed merit the outrage expressed in this comments section and I find rather unlikely).
    Rich,
    I don’t defend Abrams. Nor do I think that criticism of him is unwarranted. I just don’t find the CFR hiring so shocking. Abrams, like it or not, represents a particular view of American foreign policy which neither of us like. Whether he is or is not a senior fellow at CFR does not eliminate this perspective. Whether he should pay for his role or not is not up to CFR (and of course CFR hiring him is hardly a criticism though I suspect that Richard Haas is no great fan of the neoconservatives). CFR also has, besides Haas who was George W.’s first director of policy planning in the State Department, Michael Gerson who penned many of Bush’s speeches and has been an apologist for much of the Bush presidency. I guess I just don’t find that so shocking though if I were CFR’s hiring manager I wouldn’t have brought him on board.
    As for Norman Ornstein and AEI I have never completely understood AEI’ political analysis operation and where it fits in with the rest of the operation. Not long ago Bill Schneider was there as well and he is not a particularly partisan or ideological person either. However, I don’t feel that Ornstein has been so sullied with the AEI mantle as he has been unusually critical of the Republican Congress for an AEI senior fellow. I think his credentials and track record speak for themselves wherever he is stationed.

    Reply

  9. rich says:

    DavidT,
    You seem to be quibbling around the edges here, which allows you to mischaracterize legitimate and reasonable responses as “a bit of an overreaction.” [Most] everyone knows CFR is not controlled by our Przdt., and it’s Steve’s concern about Abrams succeeding Haas. That entire para I quoted @ 12:18PM is riddled with supporting links (visible at my link), supplied by Matthews.
    Are you really asserting that Elliot Abrams is open to new ideas and opposing perspectives?? Steve is certainly trying to wedge open that door, and may “[have heard] that [Abrams] does invite others with whom he doesn’t necessarily agree.”
    Yet the record says he’s never moderated his views, nor resisted or moderated the policies of HW Bush, Cheney or Rumsfeld. Abrams is an extremist who eagerly and actively implemented the neocon agenda.
    If this is a matter of “credit where credit is due,” then we have to give honest and due credit to Elliot Abrams’ substantive record. Abrams has a lot to answer for.
    This is hardly an ‘overreaction.’ Asking us to look the other way is beyond the pale. Comparing our honesty to Bush’s close-mindedness is dishonest and execrable. We want more voices heard from—and I’ll assert flat-out that Abrams unresponsiveness to the American public says he does not hear other voices or respond to reason or humanity.
    However, I agree on one point. The “continued Maureen Dowd/party-going references are a bit unfair” — to Maureed Dowd. Whereas Dowd served pigs-in-a-blanket to ironize her own lack of cooking skills (and perhaps simultaneously mock those who can cook & have self-regarding ‘taste’ and those who can’t cook and don’t have taste), Elliot Abrams serves [war] pigs-in-a-blanket, for real, at the office and presumably in the social realm. Dowd may ridicule officials, foibles and bloody policies, Elliot Abrams carried out those bloody decisions. He is more than complicit and is not remotely untainted, and pretending does not make it so. There is more than a little to be embarrassed about here.
    I wasn’t that impressed with the venom aimed at Dowd, but this is another story.
    Given Steve’s wonderment/dismay at Norm Ornstein’s flagging reputation simply because he works at AEI, you’ve got to concede that the Council on Foreign Relations has garnered an increasingly soiled reputation by virtue of who it takes on. Separate the man from the policy, by all means, and respect the man. But that can’t involve overlooking the policy, pretending there doesn’t need to be accountability, and proceeding with business as usual. Same with Feith at GWU. Tell me, would 1 million tortured and dead at Abrams’ hands be enough to sway you? 2 million? At what point do you recognize that it’s the policy that’s the issue; and the wider complicity that’s the problem? We’ve passed the point at which each player has an obligation to speak up and pointedly to the person carrying out the policy. “I see nothing.” “It’s not my department.” “I did as I was told.” History’s already rendered judgment on that kind of excuse, and it won’t look kindly on official Washington, nor on its courtiers or supporting social structures.
    I don’t criticize the blog. I don’t critize the social functions. Steve conveyed his dismay with Abrams’ joining the Council on Foreign Relations.
    I’m happy as hell Steve has friends, parties, and that elected officials, journalists and policy guys all have somebody to talk to at the end of the day. Everbody needs reassurance and a different perspective. But at the end of the day, there’s just not enough of those new perspectives or constructive and reasoning voices. Not when Abrams as the ‘neocon’s neocon’ gets a free pass. Sorry, but there it is. There are some things that can’t be erased by averting your eyes and trading polite repartee as though nothings amiss.

    Reply

  10. DonS says:

    David, “Secondly I don’t understand the basis for fears that hiring him means he is in line to become CFR’s president.”
    Steve would have to reveal sources and methods, and that might put you in danger ; ) Read the post, tense, context; Steve says it himself. Additionally, Steve might have been engaging in some high snark, or maybe not. We all know he might consort with the devil for a chance to advance policy work.
    Your point on being open to other perspectives, ideological or otherwise, sounds right of course. But Abrams has too much blood on his hands to be just noted without comment. Just my .02.
    Ser

    Reply

  11. Nancy says:

    I think Eliot Abrams should be referred to as “felon Abrams” at all times – and not Ambassador. He should be ashamed of himself.

    Reply

  12. DavidT says:

    I’m no bigger a fan of Elliott Abrams than anyone else here. However I think there’s a bit of an overreaction to his becoming a senior fellow on the Council on Foreign Relations. Though CFR is the ultimate foreign policy establishment destination, its not controlled by our president, Kathleen G. Secondly I don’t understand the basis for fears that hiring him means he is in line to become CFR’s president. How are the two related? CFR is a kind of think tank like New America, though exclusively focused on foreign policy and again the ultimate establishment organization. When New America hires a Senior Fellow does that mean if the presidency of New America were vacant she would have been hired to be president there instead? If the answer is yes I would find New America a mighty odd organization.
    I also feel, with due respect, that the continued Maureen Dowd/party-going references are a bit unfair. One of the things most troubling about the W Administration was its lack of openness to criticism and alternative perpectives (i.e. those who oppose its efforts are somehow not patriots). Steve’s point, as I read it, is that Abrams, whatever his ideological inclinations has a different approach. I might add that this lack of openness to other perspectives is not a model that those who reviled so much about Bush’s foreign policy should wish to mimic. If we can’t be persuasive with Abrams in our midst we have much bigger problems than Abrams being part of the CFR brain trust (even if he is one of the few DC based he will still be only one of 50+ “experts” that I counted from their website).

    Reply

  13. Jay Schiavone says:

    Throws great parties? If Maureen Dowd is the standard, Abrams
    can boost his blog profile if he remembers to include Steve
    Clemons

    Reply

  14. Jeff says:

    Well, at least he throws good parties and invites lots of different people. That at least partially compensates for his war crimes.

    Reply

  15. Kathleen G says:

    Paul Northern completely agree.
    This is what we get for working our asses off for Obama. Elliot Abrams is CHANGE? So for the next four years we can expect more of the same in regard to the Israeli Palestinian conflict, Iran etc.
    More chaos more conflict.

    Reply

  16. rich says:

    DonS,
    Atrios links to a sweet post by Dylan Matthews at Ezra Klein (whom I don’t get much out of):
    HOW IT WORKS.
    It’s instructive for people my age who are thinking of careers in foreign policy to know that you can back death squads in Central America, deny mass atrocities, brazenly defy Congressional dictates, get convicted of withholding information from Congress, back a covert coup d’état, actively undermine the peace process in Israel, and be in charge of implementing the Bush administration’s “freedom agenda” and end up with a senior fellowship at the Council on Foreign Relations and an offer to be CFR’s president should Richard Haass leave. I believe the term for this is “perverse incentive”.
    Sums it up. Anything goes, if you’re on the wrong side of history, effective policy, or the country’s best interest.
    http://www.prospect.org/csnc/blogs/ezraklein_archive?month=01&year=2009&base_name=how_it_works_1#112456

    Reply

  17. DonS says:

    As quite often, Atrios (not even a foreign policy wonk for god’s sake) captures the absurdity and scale in a few words
    “CFR – It’s like clown school for mass murderers”
    http://www.eschatonblog.com/2009_01_25_archive.html#3905038197342831895

    Reply

  18. historian says:

    You know, sometimes it’s almost as if the CFR wants people to believe all those conspiracy theories about it.

    Reply

  19. camipco says:

    Criminal and traitor. Should be in jail.

    Reply

  20. alan says:

    This appointment to the CFR says a great deal: unapologetic neocons are welcome. Being an insider means never having to account for your misdeeds. The welcome mat will always be laid out.

    Reply

  21. rich says:

    I guess it pays to offer up a few civil gestures to even the most unapologetic of neocons. The social niceties cost you nothing, elicit returns from those who appreciate your approach and viewpoint, and avoid incurring the blowback costs of irritating very powerful, vindictive, vain operators.
    On the other hand, many thousands of American churches and their parishioners view Elliot Abrams as one of the most bloodiest bureaucrats in the country–one who abetted the murder of American nuns, El Salvadoran bishops and Nicaraguan priests. Abrams ably executed policies that presided over torturing and killing hundreds of thousands Latin American citizens, few if any of whom had committed any crime.
    Abrams was never held accountable before the law; not for violating the Boland Amendment and not for lying to Congress.
    Social disapproval isn’t a luxury; it’s an absolute imperative. Nothing else gets the message across to guys like this.
    I guess the operant thinking is ‘You guys can carp about his neocon record, but I have to work with the guy every day. So what if Abrams’ work is a stain on the country and a series of bloody treasons running from Nicaragua to Iraq, he throws a helluva seder!’
    I’m reminded of Norm Ornstein’s incomprehensible surprise that his reputation & social reception was taking it on the chin because he worked at the American Enterprise Institute. But where was the shock? For decades the AEI acted not as a font of thoughtful effective policy, but as an incubator of shills for obvious ideology and outright propoganda. I never heard Norm Ornstein say a single word to push back on those lies, nor point out the plainly corrosive impact of that dogma on the body politic and our economic health, nor demand even a scintilla of integrity from his fellow fellows at the AEI.
    I’d always admired Norm Ornstein: great scholar, nice guy. Yet his complaint that he’d begun to run into cranky people who know what the AEI does and associate him with that record is worse than self-indulgent. The lack of responsiblity reeks of the taint he’s soaked in lo these several decades. What’s happened to this country is on him as well; his complicity is also responsible for the implosion of responsiblity, of governance, of our economic and national security. If the average citizen with a TV can figure this sh!t out, so can he; so can Matt Cooper.
    The Dowd thread’s comments came down hard on Steve (though their critique wasn’t off-base).
    But this is another level. H.W. Bush’s pardon of Elliot Abrams and his criminal conspirators enabled abuse of power by Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bush. Pardoning Nixon enabled Reagan and H.W. Bush (& significantly, their many advisors) to break the law, to torture and kill directly and indirectly, and presume that Presidential power makes that ok.
    At some point, audibly objecting to the free pass Abrams gets, legally and socially, is an obligation of every civil person, and anyone possessing any social graces. You can’t complain when those that DO have civility, social grace and honor are frank with you, or confrontational or irate about the failure to provide an honest social sphere that has the integrity to be factual and enough openness that citizens of conscience can speak freely. Just sayin’.
    Elliot Abrams, sooner or later, will appear as a guest on PBS’s NewsHour — and here’s the thing: Lehrer won’t mention Abrams record. The fact that millions do know what Abrams’s done, that Abrams is so widely reviled, will go unmentioned. He’ll be presented as a respected figure, when he’s neither reasonable nor respectable. And that’ll further damage the public discourse in America; enabling and extending a policymaking methodology that’s hamstrung the country and eviscerated everything we’re about. We more effective methods and better things to spend our money on.
    This stuff doesn’t go away, it accumulates.

    Reply

  22. Mr.Murder says:

    I’ve seen bulletins on church boards for missing persons and memorials to slain priests from Central America. They are still up to this day.
    The collateral damage from that will never be undone.

    Reply

  23. PissedOffAmerican says:

    It seems that to get anywhere in a far right think tank, you have to qualify to stand in front of a firing squad.

    Reply

  24. pauline says:

    Published on Wednesday, February 9, 2005 by CommonDreams.org
    Bush’s New Freedom Fighter
    Elliott Abrams: The Neocon’s Neocon
    by Tom Barry
    President Bush’s Inaugural Address was the sound of the second shoe dropping. Three years ago the president shocked the world with the announcement of the U.S. government’s new doctrine of preventive war and global military engagement. Last month he proclaimed that U.S. power and influence had a soft side. Along with use of our military might, the U.S. government was committing the American people to an international campaign to promote freedom and democracy.
    Minutes before his State of the Union Address, in which he repeated the promise to answer the call of freedom worldwide, the White House announced that Elliott Abrams would direct the new global democracy campaign as well as overseeing Middle East policy from his perch in the National Security Council.
    Elliott Abrams embodies neoconservatism. Perhaps more than any other neoconservative, Abrams has integrated the various influences that have shaped today’s neoconservative agenda. A creature of the neoconservative incubator, Abrams is a political intellectual and operative who has advanced the neoconservative agenda with chutzpah and considerable success.
    As a government official, Abrams organized front groups to provide private and clandestine official support for the Nicaraguan Contras; served as the president of an ethics institute despite his own record of lying to Congress and managing illegal operations; rose to high positions in the National Security Council to oversee U.S. foreign policy in regions where he had no professional experience, only ideological positions; proved himself as a political intellectual in books and essays that explore the interface between orthodox Judaism, American culture, and political philosophy; and demonstrated his considerable talents in public diplomacy as a political art in the use of misinformation and propaganda to ensure public and policy support for foreign relations agendas that would otherwise be soundly rejected.
    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 the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). Abrams has 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.
    His family ties have helped propel Abrams into the center of neoconservatism’s inner circles over the past few decades. In 1980 he joined one of the two reigning families of neoconservatism through his marriage to Rachel Decter, one of Midge Decter’s two daughters from her first marriage. As a member of the Podhoretz-Decter clan, Abrams became a frequent contributor to Commentary and Norman Podhoretz’s choice to direct the magazine’s symposiums on foreign policy. As one of the leading neocons in the Reagan administration, Abrams also served as a liaison between government and the right wing’s network, as exemplified by his appearances at the forums organized by Midge Decter’s Committee for the Free World in the 1980s.
    Emblematic of Abrams’ visceral right-wing politics was his statement following the murder of John Lennon in December 1980. Setting the tone for the cultural and political backlash that would soon dominate U.S. politics, Abrams complained publicly about all the media attention given the famous singer: “I’m sorry, but John Lennon was not that important a figure in our times…Why is his death getting more attention than Elvis Presley’s? Because Lennon is perceived as a left-wing figure politically, anti-establishment, a man of social conscience with concern for the poor. And, therefore, he is being made into a great figure. Too much has been made of his life. It does not deserve a full day’s television and radio coverage. I’m sick of it.”
    Abrams as Anti-Communist Gladiator
    As an aide to Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson in the 1970s, Abrams began his political career mixing the soft and hard sides of the neoconservative agenda­as both a proponent of Jackson’s strategically driven human rights policies and as an advocate of his proposals to boost the military-industrial complex. Through Jackson, Abrams became involved in a group of Cold Warriors called the Coalition for a Democratic Majority, which was associated with the Democratic Party and led by the neoconservatives.
    Among former members of Jackson’s staff to find positions in the Reagan administration’s foreign policy team were such neoconservative operatives as Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Frank Gaffney, Charles Horner, and Ben Wattenberg. Other Jackson Democrats who secured appointments in the Reagan administration included Jeane Kirkpatrick, as UN ambassador, and neoconservatives on her staff, such as Joshua Muravchik, Steven Munson (like Abrams a Podhoretz-Decter son-in-law), Carl Gershman, and Kenneth Adelman.
    Abrams joined the neocon exodus from the Democratic Party in the late 1970s led by members of the Committee on the Present Danger and the Coalition for a Democratic Majority. His first position in the Reagan administration was director of the State Department’s Office for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs. But he was appointed only after Reagan’s first choice came under fire in the Senate.
    During the Reagan years, the neocon human rights program was a velvet glove tailored for the iron fist side of foreign and military policy. During the Reagan administration, Abrams was at once a human rights advocate, a manager of clandestine operations, and a bagman for the Nicaraguan contras­calling himself “a gladiator” in the cause of freedom.
    Crimes and Misdemeanors
    Although he entered the Reagan administration scandal-free, he left as a convicted criminal. Abrams, who entered the administration as its human rights chief and in 1985 became 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.
    The U.S.-backed and organized Contras were spearheading a counterrevolution against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Congress had prohibited U.S. government military support for the Contras because of their pattern of human rights abuses. Abrams pleaded guilty to two lesser offenses (including withholding information from Congress) to avoid a trial and a possible jail term.
    Abrams 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. By pardoning Abrams, John Poindexter, and other former Reagan officials, Bush was in effect protecting himself. At that time media and congressional investigations of Iran-Contra scandal were threatening to expose the role of Bush himself, who was Reagan’s vice president during the executive branch’s program of illegal support to the Nicaraguan Contras.
    During the Reagan administration, Abrams was the government’s nexus between the militarists in the National Security Council and the public-diplomacy operatives in the State Department, White House, and National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Abrams worked closely with Otto Reich, who directed the White House’s Office of Public Diplomacy, which was in charge of disseminating “white propaganda” to the U.S. public, media, and policymakers to build support for the Reagan administration’s interventionist policies in Latin America and elsewhere.
    Abrams in the 1990s
    After Reagan left office in 1989, Abrams, like a number of other prominent neoconservatives, was not invited to serve in the Bush Sr. administration. Instead, he worked for a number of think tanks and in 1996 became president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. With EPPC as his new base, Abrams wrote widely on foreign policy issues, especially on Middle East policy, and on cultural issues, including about the threats posed by U.S. secular society to Jewish identity.
    Created in 1976, EPPC was the first neocon institute to break ground in the frontal attack on the secular humanists. For nearly three decades, EPPC has functioned as the cutting edge of the neoconservative-driven culture war against progressive theology and secularism, and the associated effort to ensure right-wing control of the Republican Party. It explicitly sought to unify the Christian right with the neoconservative religious right, which was mostly made up of agnostics back then. A central part of its political project was to “clarify and reinforce the bond between the Judeo-Christian moral tradition and the public debate over domestic and foreign policy.” Directed by Elliott Abrams from 1996-2001, EPPC counts among its board members well connected figures in the neocon matrix including Jeane Kirkpatrick, Richard Neuhaus, and Mary Ann Glendon.
    Abrams remained an integral part of the tight-knit neoconservative foreign policy community in Washington that revolved around the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Abrams was also a charter member of the Project for the New American Century, which issued its statement of principles about the need for a “neo-Reaganite” foreign policy in 1997.
    Elliott Abrams, when serving as EPPC president, said that human rights should be a “policy tool” of the U.S. government. Working closely with Newt Gingrich and the Republican Congress, EPPC together with the Christian Coalition and Family Research Council lobbied for the creation of a new permanent commission that focused on religious persecution. The main countries of concern listed in the congressional deliberations were China, Sudan, North Korea, Cuba, Laos, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia, as well as general condemnation of Muslim nations. Abrams became a founding member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and served as its chairman until mid-2001, when he joined the Bush administration.
    Regarding Abrams’s biased stance on Middle East affairs, Dr. Laila al-Marayati, a former member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, wrote: “From the vantage point of the [U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom], 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. …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. …Bypassing Israel was not the only way Abrams undermined the Commission’s visit to the Middle East. …Abrams managed to snub the leading Islamic cleric in Egypt… which nearly created a diplomatic nightmare that was only narrowly averted by the intervention of the U.S. ambassador.”
    The New Freedom Fighter
    Since Bush’s reelection in early November, Abrams has become one of the administration’s most high-profile officials. He has acted as Bush’s envoy to Europe and Israel as part of the administration’s new attention to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. 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, the author of The Case for Democracy, subsequently met with Rice. Both Bush and Rice have repeatedly referred to Sharansky’s book in their pronouncements about the U.S. government’s new commitment to ending tyranny and spreading democracy, frequently using the same phrasing as Abransky.
    Also in November, Abrams arranged conference calls with the leaders of the major national Jewish American organizations in advance of formal meetings with Rice. Last week, Abrams traveled to Israel and met with Ariel Sharon’s top adviser Dov Weisglass to smooth the way for Secretary of State’s visit with Prime Minister Sharon.
    After the scandals involving neoconservatives in the late 1980s and the end of the cold war, many foreign policy observers wrote off the neoconservatives as a spent force. The same dismissal of the enduring influence of the neoconservative camp became widespread among pundits and analysts when the Iraq invasion proved a quagmire rather than a liberation “cakewalk.”
    It’s likely that Elliott Abrams, who has established a close working relationship with Condoleezza Rice, will become the leading administration architect of Middle East policy during the second Bush administration. Like the Middle East policy of the first administration, the regional initiatives of the new administration will continue to be guided by neocon notions about the centrality of Israel, the U.S. mission to restructure the Arab world, and the use of public diplomacy gloss of spreading freedom and democracy to advance U.S. national security strategy.
    Tom Barry is policy director of the International Relations Center, online at http://www.irc-online.org, and author of numerous books on international relations. He directs the IRC’s Right Web program.

    Reply

  25. DonS says:

    Paul, ’tis sad, ’tis true.
    The insiders know no shame.

    Reply

  26. Paul Norheim says:

    Condi Rice waited long enough for Israel to “finish the job in
    Lebanon” in 2006 before she went to the ME to demand a
    ceasefire. But Abrams stopped here (on behalf of Cheney), so the
    IDF got more time to finish the slaughter.
    We`ll probably see the same in the future.
    Or perhaps not, when you think about it. I would guess that
    Hillary Clinton has an “inner Abrams” stopping her every time she
    thinks the Israelis are going too far. And so does several others in
    Obama´s Middle East team. The real Abrams just serves as a
    reminder of the Obama`s administration`s inner Abrams.

    Reply

  27. JohnH says:

    Why bring back Feith, Perle and Wolfowitz? Why not just appoint Netanyahu and be done with it?

    Reply

  28. Paul Norheim says:

    I`m just waiting for them to announce that they`ll bringing back
    Feith, Perle, and Wolfowitz as well…
    Well, if Netanyahu wins in the coming israeli elections, I guess
    that with Abrams on board, there will be no frictions between the
    Israeli and the US government in the next few years.
    This is very depressing news.

    Reply

  29. JohnH says:

    Nothing would justify my use of the phrase “foreign policy mob” more than having a convicted criminal serve as head of CFR. Having one serve as Special Assistant to the President or as part of the CFR team ain’t bad however!
    America’s brand will continue to be loathed as long as convicted criminals and their allies are running the show.

    Reply

  30. DonS says:

    “principled . . . debates”
    I’m sorry, just sorry, but I can’t associate anything positive to do with this creep. From Iran-Contra to the present. The man needs to be excoriated, not respected. It’s more than just bad principles; it’s corrupt, corrosive ideology.

    Reply

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *