Elliott Abrams (born January 24, 1948) is a well known neoconservative American diplomat who served in foreign policy positions for both U.S. Presidents, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. While serving under Reagan, Abrams, Paul Wolfowitz, and retired U.S. Marine Corps officer Oliver North were integral players in the Iran-Contra affair.
He is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations Additionally, Abrams holds positions on the Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf (CPSG), Center for Security Policy & National Security Advisory Council, Committee for a Free Lebanon, and the Project for the New American Century. He also was the president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington in 1996. Abrams is a current member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council and teaches foreign policy at Georgetown University as well as maintaining a CFR blog called “Pressure Points” about the U.S. foreign policy and human rights.
During the Reagan administration, Abrams gained notoriety for his involvement in controversial foreign policy decisions regarding Nicaragua and El Salvador. During Bush’s first term, he served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director on the National Security Council for Near East and North African Affairs. At the start of Bush’s second term, Abrams was promoted to be his Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy, in charge of promoting Bush’s strategy of advancing democracy abroad. His appointment by Bush was controversial due to his conviction in 1991 on two misdemeanor counts of unlawfully withholding information from Congress during the Iran-Contra Affair investigation.
Abrams was born into a Jewish family in New York in 1948. His father was an immigration lawyer. He attended Harvard College in the late 1960s and was a roommate of Steven Kelman, founder of the Young People’s Socialist League campus chapter. Together they penned an article on the 1969 Harvard strike for The New Leader, “The Contented Revolutionists.”. Abrams received his Bachelor of Arts from Harvard College in 1969, a master’s degree in international relations from the London School of Economics in 1970, and his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1973. He practiced law in New York in the summers for his father, and then at Breed, Abbott and Morgan from 1973 to 1975 and with Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard and McPherson from 1979 to 1981.
Abrams worked as an assistant counsel on the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in 1975, then worked as a staffer on Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson’s brief campaign for the 1976 Democratic Party presidential nomination. From 1977 through 1979, he served as special counsel and ultimately as chief of staff for the then-new senator Daniel Moynihan. Through Senator Moynihan, Abrams was introduced to Rachel Decter, the stepdaughter of Moynihan’s friend Norman Podhoretz, editor of Commentary. They were married in 1980. The couple has three children: Jacob, Sarah, and Joseph.
Assistant Secretary of State, 1980s
Abrams first came to national prominence when he served as Reagan’s Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs in the early 1980s and later as Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs. His nomination to Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs was unanimously approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on November 17, 1981. Abrams was Reagan’s second choice for the position; his first nominee, Ernest W. Lefever, had been rejected by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on June 5, 1981.
During this time, Abrams clashed regularly with church groups and human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, over the Reagan administration’s foreign policies. They accused him of covering up atrocities committed by the military forces of US-backed governments, such as those in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, and the rebel Contras in Nicaragua.
In early 1982, when reports of the El Mozote massacre of civilians by the military in El Salvador began appearing in U.S. media, Abrams told a Senate committee that the reports of hundreds of deaths at El Mozote “were not credible,” and that “it appears to be an incident that is at least being significantly misused, at the very best, by the guerrillas.” The massacre had come at a time when the Reagan administration was attempting to bolster the human rights image of the Salvadoran military. Abrams implied that reports of a massacre were simply FMLN propaganda and denounced U.S. investigative reports of the massacre as misleading. In March 1993, the Salvadoran Truth Commission reported that 5,000 civilians were “deliberately and systematically” executed in El Mozote in December 1981 by forces affiliated with the Salvadoran government, supported by the US.
Also in 1993, documentation emerged suggesting that some Reagan administration officials could have known about El Mozote and other human rights violations from the beginning. However, in July 1993, an investigation commissioned by Clinton secretary of state Warren Christopher into the State department’s “activities and conduct” with regard to human rights in El Salvador during the Reagan years found that, despite US funding of the Salvadoran government which led to the massacre at El Mozote, individual US personnel “performed creditably and occasionally with personal bravery in advancing human rights in El Salvador.” Unrepentant Reaganite Abrams claimed that Washington’s policy in El Salvador was a ”fabulous achievement.”
When Congress shut down funding for the Contras’ efforts to overthrow Nicaragua’s Sandinista government with the 1982 Boland Amendment, members of the Reagan administration began looking for other avenues for funding the group.Congress opened a couple of such avenues when it modified the Boland Amendment for fiscal year 1986 by approving $27 million in direct aid to the Contras and allowing the administration to legally solicit funds for the Contras from foreign governments. Neither the direct aid, nor any foreign contributions, could be used to purchase weapons.Guided by the new provisions of the modified Boland Amendment, Abrams flew to London in August 1986 and met secretly with Bruneian defense minister General Ibnu to solicit a $10-million contribution from the Sultan of Brunei. Ultimately, the Contras never received this money because a clerical error in Oliver North’s office (a mistyped account number) sent the Bruneian money to the wrong Swiss bank account.
Read more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elliott_Abrams