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.
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.
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.
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

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

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.

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)

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
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.”

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.
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.”

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.

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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