It may seem small in the saga of President Trump’s first two weeks, but according to The Washington Post, there’s a good chance he’ll appoint an actual war criminal to be the second-ranking US diplomat.
I don’t mean someone that we on the left like to call a “war criminal,” such as Henry Kissinger or Dick Cheney. These people might actually qualify, but the cases are at best arguable, and no one in authority has ever been asked to rule on them. Not so for Trump’s potential pick, the onetime neocon golden boy (and son-in-law to Norman Podhoretz and Midge Decter) Elliott Abrams.
Like Trump himself, Abrams has behaved so badly in so many different arenas, it actually works in his favor: No one can keep up. The Post piece—which notes that the Trump administration has decided not to appoint a deputy secretary of state for management, giving the sole remaining deputy an enormous amount of influence over both policy and management issues—observes that Abrams was forced to plead guilty to deliberately misleading Congress regarding his nefarious role in the Iran-contra scandal. (He was also disbarred in the District of Columbia.)
However, this is just the tip of a colossal iceberg. As a member of George W. Bush’s National Security Council staff, Abrams encouraged, according to credible reports, a (briefly successful) military coup against the democratically elected government of Venezuela in 2002, poisoning the US relationship with that government once it returned to power. He also worked to subvert the results of the 2006 elections in the Palestinian territories, a move that ended up strengthening the most radical elements of Hamas and undermining—perhaps forever—the possibility of a democratic peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
But these are still relative misdemeanors in the Abrams dossier, paling in comparison with the role he played in the Reagan administration. As assistant secretary of state for human rights, Abrams sought to ensure that General Efraín Ríos Montt, Guatemala’s then-dictator, could carry out “acts of genocide”—those are the legally binding words of Guatemala’s United Nations–backed Commission for Historical Clarification—against the indigenous people in the Ixil region of the department of Quiché, without any pesky interference from human-rights organizations, much less the US government.
As the mass killings were taking place, Abrams fought in Congress for military aid to Ríos Montt’s bloody regime. He credited the murderous dictator with having “brought considerable progress” on human-rights issues. Abrams even went so far as to insist that “the amount of killing of innocent civilians is being reduced step by step” before demanding that Congress provide the regime with advanced arms because its alleged “progress need[ed] to be rewarded and encouraged.”