Click on the Elliott Abrams page on the website of the Harry Walker speakers’ agency, and you’ll learn a great deal about its subject. He is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of Tested by Zion: The Bush Administration and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, recently published by Cambridge University Press. An ex–congressional staffer, former national security official in the Reagan and Bush II administrations, and a member of more boards and organizations than one can easily count, Abrams is also, according to the “accolades” provided by the agency, a big hit with the Jewish federations, temples and synagogues to which the Walker pitch is unmistakably directed.
Here’s what you won’t learn: in the Reagan State Department, Abrams (who also teaches foreign policy at Georgetown) repeatedly and purposely misled Congress about the government’s involvement with the death-squad-riddled Salvadoran military, the Nicaraguan Contra counter-revolutionaries and other Central American mass murderers. He whitewashed their massacres as well as the abuses of the Argentinean junta (who were kidnapping babies at the time and selling them) and the genocidal Guatemalan regime of Gen. Efrían Ríos Montt (currently on trial for crimes against humanity). Abrams did all this while casting aspersions on the motives of journalists and human rights workers who sought to tell the truth about these crimes. As a result of these offenses, among others, Abrams was forced to plead guilty to unlawfully withholding material information from Congress and to apologize to the Senate Intelligence Committee. He was also disbarred in the District of Columbia.
After biding his time during the Bush I and Clinton administrations, Abrams resumed his previous patterns. According to a report in the London Observer, as a staff member of President George W. Bush’s National Security Council, Abrams enjoyed advance knowledge of, and “gave a nod to,” the (briefly successful) military coup against the democratically elected Hugo Chávez in 2002. Later, when he was promoted by Condoleezza Rice to run the NSC’s Israel/Palestine desk, Abrams apparently sought to subvert the 2006 Palestinian elections. As The New Republic’s John Judis explains (adding to earlier reporting by David Rose in Vanity Fair), when Hamas did much better in that election than Abrams and Rice had expected, Abrams apparently “sought to nullify the results and to block a unity government between Fatah and Hamas, even though such a government might actually have become a credible partner in peace negotiations. And the Bush administration helped arm Fatah’s security forces against Hamas, which stoked the civil war and led to Hamas taking over Gaza. According to this narrative, Hamas was basically right about American intentions,” and it was Abrams’s now familiar combination of arrogance, incompetence and contempt for democracy that helped lead to the collapse of any possible unified Palestinian mandate for peace negotiations as well as Hamas’s subsequent strategic turn toward Iran.