A Somali-American From Minnesota Takes On A Neocon From Nightmares Past

I have found the intensively covered natterings of the most vocal of freshman congressfolk, who happen to be Democratic women who rode the Blue Wave to upset victories, to be alternately boring and unhelpful.  Everywhere you turn, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is imparting pearls of her 29-year-old wisdom while Ilhan Omar busily digs holes with ill-advised remarks on Israel, immigration and other hot topics.  But as a weary if longtime observer of too many unnecessary American wars, Omar has earned my sincere thanks for calling out Elliott Abrams, a foreign-policy thug who still trods the halls of the Capitol thinking up new ways to kill young American men and women. 

There will be a special place in Hell for Abrams.  It’s called the Neocon Corner, and other members past and mostly future include Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Pearle, Paul Wolfowitz and Irving Kristol.  

In principle, there was never anything particularly wrong with the political movement known as neoconservatism, which after all was a reaction to failed policies of the 1960s and 1970s.  But neocons are especially dangerous as war hawks go because they labor under the illusion that they are God’s chosen leaders in carrying out the doctrine of  American Exceptionalism.  You know, that God (there’s that dude again!) created the U.S. to not only be the bestest nation, but to scold other nations about how to mind their affairs and meddle in those affairs, whether starting wars and imposing American-style democracy at point of gun or fomenting regime-toppling dissent with a large helping of human rights abuses. 

The neocon masterpiece was — or should I say is — the Iraq War (perhaps 400,000 dead, including nearly 4,000 Americans) because years since this carnage was officially over it continues to roil the Middle East, which plays into the hands of Iran, with whom neocons have been trying to start a war since forever.   

Then there was a nasty piece of work called Iran-Contra. 

This particular neocon excursion occurred during the second Reagan administration when Abrams and other senior White House officials put one over on the Gipper, who was in the process of losing what little mind he had, to secretly facilitate the sale of arms to Iran, which was the subject of an arms embargo because of that American Embassy hostage messiness, with the intention of using the proceeds of the arms sale to fund the Contras in Nicaragua, to whom Congress had wisely prohibited arms sales.   

In the end, Abrams and 10 other administration officials were convicted for their law-breaking binge.  All were pardoned by President H.W. Bush. 

But you can’t keep a good neocon down, and Abrams went on to hold a foreign policy position in the Dubya administration and now is Special Representative for Venezuela in the Trump administration, which is a great fit since Trump and Abrams never met a brutal foreign leader and human rights abuser they didn’t like. 

That tailor-made role — and fears that the White House is trying to foment a war in Venezuela over control of the nation’s presidency — is what brought Abrams before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a tigress by the name of Ilhan Omar, who confronted Abrams over Iran-Contra and his unwavering lifelong support of thugs abroad. 

In one of several tense exchanges during the Wednesday hearing, Omar recalled long-ago testimony from Abrams about a massacre in which units of El Salvador’s U.S. trained and equipped military killed nearly 1,000 civilians in 1981 in the village of El Mozote under the approving eye of Reagan pal General Efraín Ríos Montt, who soon became president.   

Abrams, in effect, had called the massacre fake news and the Reagan administration’s record in El Salvador a “fabulous achievement,” never mind that Ríos Montt was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity in 2013. 

OMAR: “Do you think that massacre was a ‘fabulous achievement’ that happened under our watch?” 

ABRAMS: “That is a ridiculous question, and I will not respond to it.  I am not going to respond to that kind of personal attack, which is not a question.”

And so it went as the hajib-wearing, far-left 37-year-old Somali-American politician from Minnesota took on the scowl-wearing, far-right 71-year-old neocon warmonger from Nightmares Past.

OMAR: “Would you support an armed faction within Venezuela that engages in war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide if you believe they serve the U.S. interests as you did in Guatemala, El Salvador or Nicaragua?” 

ABRAMS: “I am not going to respond to that question.” 

The emergence of a viable left wing in Democratic Party politics is being viewed with concern — and sometimes panic — by people who ought to know better if they have any knowledge of the sordid history of American foreign policy since World War II, most of it anyway.   

At home, the economy needs a massive rebalancing in favor of Main Street.  The same old pols aren’t going to get that done, but maybe Omar, AOC and their hair-on-fire colleagues can get that ball rolling with radical but necessary income tax reforms.  Despite Republican hysterics to the contrary, we’re not talking socialism here, only a long-overdue brake on runaway capitalism. 

I do wish Omar could have been a little more polite in taking on Abrams.  There’s nothing wrong with good manners.  But he needed to be called out.  

Predictably, Omar got mostly negative reviews for what many old hands saw as impertinence.  Some called for her removal from the committee.  Yes, the same old hands who conveniently forget American misdeeds from not so long ago but roll over when the next imperialist folly comes along.

Editor’s Note: This essay originally appeared on February 15, 2019 on Kiko’s House, a website featuring commentary by journalist and author, Shaun Mullen.  It was reproduced here with the consent of Mr. Mullen.

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