That the neo-cons hate Chuck Hagel's nomination to be Secretary of Defense and are doing all they can to scuttle his nomination is no revelation. We've had all the usual suspects from the neo-con rogue's gallery hurling attacks against Hagel, from the Emperor of Wrongheaded Smugnuss Bill Kristol to this bitter old man and his ranting closet-case sidekick. But there's one key player in the neo-con ranks who might have been overlooked and he shouldn't, because he may be the driving force behind the opposition. The suspect? The neo-con version of herpes, because he never seems to go away, Elliot Abrams.
The neo-con stalwart (and, of course, convicted Iran-Contra felon) has been perhaps Hagel's most vociferous critic. Indeed, he went where other neo-cons wouldn't and accused Hagel of anti-Semistism - not once, but twice, accusations ridiculous enough to get him publically rebuked by Council on Foreign Relations (where Abrams is currently a senior fellow) head Richard Haass. (When your fellow neo-cons say you've gone too far, you really have gone off the deep end.)
But that hasn't seemed to slow Abrams down. After all, the ability of this man to not only survive but but thrive in neo-con and Republican circles is simply Rasputin-like. As former Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral William J. Crowe, who publically feuded with Abrams over Panama policy back in the 1980s, said of Abrams in 1989:
"This snake's hard to kill."No kidding, as this recent Salon profile shows what a long road he's trod:
Abrams seems cooked from a neoconservative recipe. Born to a Jewish New York home, he was once a reliable Democrat. He opposed the Vietnam War and criticized police handling of student protesters in the 1960s. But he rejected the counterculture and began writing for Commentary and the Public Interest, magazines themselves alienated from the New Left and on a trajectory from left to right. He joined the staff of hawkish Washington Sen. Henry "Scoop" Jackson, a key influence on so many neocons, from Abrams to Paul Wolfowitz to Richard Perle, and later went to work in New York Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan's office.But in the end, just like Rumsfeld, Abrams' arrogance and lies caught up with him, as he was nailed for his lies about Iran-Contra and paid for it:
1980 was a big year for Abrams. He married the daughter of Norman Podhoretz, the longtime Commentary editor before his son succeeded him. And he joined Democrats for Reagan, having been disgusted by Jimmy Carter's foreign policy and personally offended for being shut out of Carter's government. "Carter's never had a human rights philosophy except that the U.S. was generally a bad place going around the world doing bad things," he complained to a reporter. Abrams was tapped for the innocuous-sounding post of assistant secretary of state for international organization - but there was nothing innocuous about Abrams.
He became perhaps the most controversial member of the Reagan administration. Abrams was the face of Reagan's anti-Communist offensive in Central America. In his own words, he "supervised U.S. policy in Latin America and the Carribbean." Those policiees involved indisputed human-rights violations that brought minimal strategic benefits. The International Court of Justice found the Reagan administration guilty of violating international law in its support of the anitcommunist rebels in their campaign against Nicaragua, and of mining the country's harbors. Guatamala and El Salvador saw similar abuses, with the U.S. providing assistance to organizations and individuals responsible for blatant war crimes.
Abrams was often the public face of Reagan policy in Central America: He was combative and arrogant, and would bait his critics, a proto-Donald Rumsfeld. Years later, he was unapologetic about his central role in assisting dictatorships, writing later that, The violence is ending now in part because of the collapse of Communism throughout the world, but more because Communist efforts to take power by force were resisted and defeated. In this small corner of the Cold War, American policy was right, and it was successful."
But it wasn't his lies about mass murder that got Abrams into trouble. After a contra resupply plane was shot down in 1986, Abrams, one of the coordinators of Reagan's pro-contra policy (along with the NSC's Oliver North and the CIA's Alan Fiers), appeared several times before Congressional committees and withheld informtion on the Administration's connection to the secret and private contra-supply network. He also hid from Congress the fact that he had flown to London (using the name "Mr. Kenilworth) to solict a $10 million contribution for the contras from the Sultan of Brunei. At a subsequent closed-door hearing, Democratic Senator Thomas Eagleton blasted Abrams for having misled legislators, noting that Abrams's misrepresentations culd lead to "slammer time". Abrams disagreed, saying, "You've heard my testimony." Eagleton cut in: "I've heard it and I want to puke." On another occasion, Republican Senator Dave Durenberger complained, "I wouldn't trust Elliot any further than I could throw Ollie North." Even after Abrams copped a plea with Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh, he refused to concede that he'd done anything untoward. Abram's Foggy Bottom services were not retained by the First Bush, but he did include Abrams in his lame-duck pardons of several Iran/contra wrongdoers.Indeed, not even after pleading guilty to two counts and being sentenced to two years probation caused Abrams to feel any remorse or humility. Like Rumseld (indeed, like most neo-cons), regret or apology was not in his nature.
Abrams was as nasty a policy warrior as Washington had seen in decades. He called foes "vipers." He said that lawmakers who blocked contra aid would have "blood on their hands" - while he defended US support for a human rights-abusing government in Guatemala. When Oliver North was campaigning for the Senate in 1994 and was accused of having ignored contra ties to drug dealers, Abrams backed North and claimed "all of us who ran that program...were absolutely dedicated to keeping it completely clean and free of any involvement by drug traffickers." Yet in 1998 the CIA's own inspector general issued a thick report noting that the Reagan Adminstraton had cllaborated with suspected drug traffickers while managing the secret contra war.So hypocrisy, lying, nastiness, inability to admit he was ever wrong - yep, Abrams was (and is) the neo-con id in the flesh. And he wasn't done, as George W. Bush proceded to appoint him to the National Security Council in 2001 and he made the most of it. Back to Salon again:
Abrams was soon given policy power over Iran and Iraq - "I have two-thirds of the Axis of Evil!" he told a friend. He made the most - one might say the worst - of the situation. He weakened Bush's "Road Map for Peace" in the Middle East, permitting Israeli leader Ariel Sharon to expand settlements to the Palestinian territories. According to Vanity Fair, Abrams was instrumental in formenting a civil war between Hamas and Fatah in 2007. The plan was "to give Fatah the muscle it needed to remove the democratically elected Hamas-led government from power," read the report. Of course things did not go quite according to plan: "The secret plan backfired, resulting in a further setback for American foreign policy under Bush. Instead of driving its enemies out of power, the U.S.-backed Fatah fighters inadvertently provoked Hamas to seize total control of Gaza."With a laundry list of failures like this, you might think Abrams might finally be discarded or at least decide it might be time to keep quiet. But no. After Bush left office, he went to the Council on Foreign Relations and has kept it up, being a high-profile Obama critic on foreign policy and serving as Paul Ryan's top foreign policy advisor. (Yep, Romney got John Bolton and Dan Senor, but he was nice enough to let Ryan have his own whacky neo-con advisor too.) And he's got a new book out about the Bush administration's handling (or rather bungling) of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, blurbed by his good buddy Dick Cheney. Oh joy.
Yep, Admiral Crowe was right. This snake is hard to kill. And even though he seems highly unlike to prevent Hagel's ascention to SOD (especially since Hagel has picked up more GOP support despite his less than steller hearing performance), his failure won't deter him. After all, he's had nothing but failures and disgrace his whole career and he keeps coming back for more. And will, as long as he's still held in good regard in GOP and neo-con circles.
Neo-cons. Just when you think you're done, they keep coming back. The Hydra should be this resilient.