[News] Elliot Abrams' Dark History in Latin America and the Struggle for Justice

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Fri Feb 3 19:39:44 EST 2012


Elliot Abrams' Dark History in Latin America and the Struggle for Justice

Written by Cyril Mychalejko
Friday, 03 February 2012 19:07

http://upsidedownworld.org/main/international-archives-60/3440-elliot-abrams-dark-history-in-latin-america-and-the-struggle-for-justice

Elliot Abrams, a former high level State 
Department official during the 1980s, testified 
last week that the Reagan administration knew 
that Argentina's military junta was 
systematically stealing babies from murdered and 
jailed democracy activists and giving them to 
right-wing families friendly to the regime.

In a meeting with the Junta's ambassador in 
Washington on December 3, 1982, Abrams suggested 
that the dictatorship could 
<http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/americas/former-us-diplomat-elliot-abrams-confirms-systematic-baby-thefts-by-argentine-dictatorship/2012/01/26/gIQANgoKUQ_story.html>improve 
its image by creating a process with the Catholic 
Church of returning the children, some of whom 
were 
<http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/110016.stm>born 
in secret torture chambers, to their legitimate 
families. The contents of this meeting were 
recorded in a memo Abrams wrote, which was 
declassified by the State Department in 2002 and 
is now a key piece of evidence against former 
junta officials in this high profile trial.

“While the disappeared were dead, these children 
were alive and this was in a sense the gravest 
humanitarian problem,” Abrams read from his cable 
via 
<http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/jan/27/former-us-official-says-us-knew-argentinas-junta-s/?page=all#pagebreak>videoconference 
testimony to a federal court in Buenos Aires. But 
this 
<http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/22/argentina-declassified-memo_n_1166303.html>didn't 
deter the State Department at the time from 
granting Argentina certification indicating that 
the country's human rights record was improving.

Alan Iud, a lawyer representing 
<http://www.abuelas.org.ar/>The Grandmothers of 
Plaza de Mayo, who claim that as many as 500 
children were stolen, said that Abrams' testimony 
“<http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/jan/27/former-us-official-says-us-knew-argentinas-junta-s/?page=all#pagebreak>exceeded 
our expectations.” However, Abrams' and the 
Reagan Administration's relationship with the 
military junta at the time was not adversarial, 
something that has been lost in the story, if not 
the trial. In fact, in 1978, even before being 
elected president, Ronald Reagan wrote a column 
in 
<http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2206&dat=19780817&id=SJ9jAAAAIBAJ&sjid=q-sFAAAAIBAJ&pg=1251,3083806>The 
Miami News attacking President Jimmy Carter's 
criticisms of Argentina's record of human rights 
abuses. Reagan countered that the military junta 
“set out to restore order” and that too much was 
being made over the jailing of “a few innocents.” 
However, human rights organizations estimate that 
tens of thousands of people were tortured, killed 
and disappeared during Argentina's “dirty war”. 
One of Reagan's first acts as President was to 
<http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAreagan.htm>overturn 
military aid restrictions put in place by Carter 
as a result of the regime's horrendous human 
rights record. The administration even hosted 
Argentine generals 
“<http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Human_Rights/VidelaArgentinaTerror.html>at 
an elegant state dinner.” Furthermore, Reagan 
paid members of Argentina's notorious death 
squads to travel to Honduras to train the 
Contras, as well as Honduran paramilitaries, such 
as the infamous death squad 
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battalion_3-16_%28Honduras%29>Battalion 
3-16, as the 
<http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bal-negroponte1a,0,4864981,full.story>Baltimore 
Sun revealed in a 1995 exposé.

Meanwhile, Argentina 
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jan/25/latin-america-state-atrocities-violence>isn't 
the only Latin American country facing its bloody 
past­and Abrams played a role in these state atrocities as well.

In Guatemala, Efraín Ríos Montt is 
<http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/27/world/americas/efrain-rios-montt-accused-of-atrocities-in-guatemala.html>standing 
trial for genocide and crimes against humanity. 
Rios Montt, an evangelical general who ruled 
Guatemala in 1982-83 after seizing power through 
a military coup, was a close ally of Washington 
who 
<http://www.soaw.org/about-the-soawhinsec/soawhinsec-grads/notorious-grads/239-notorious-graduates-from-guatemala>received 
training at the infamous 
“<http://www.soaw.org/index.php>School of the 
Americas”. He is 
<http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hFrQ5VrjPSdGXdMVNIbfc3m05mKg?docId=3467771880f4419098cbcb408082123a>accused 
of being responsible for “1,771 deaths, 1,400 
human rights violations and the displacement of 29,000 indigenous Guatemalans.”

Reagan, with Abrams' assistance, not only 
<http://www.copi.com/articles/guatmala.html>covered 
up, but 
<http://upsidedownworld.org/main/news-briefs-archives-68/3427-reagans-hand-in-guatemalas-genocide>aided 
and abetted war crimes and genocide in Guatemala. 
For example, President Reagan traveled to 
Guatemala in December 1982 to 
<http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1301&dat=19821206&id=iZ5WAAAAIBAJ&sjid=O-cDAAAAIBAJ&pg=6950,2121604>declare 
that Rios Montt was getting a “bum rap”, while 
praising the dictator's “progressive efforts” and 
dedication to democracy and social justice. Just 
a few days after Reagan's presidential visit the 
Guatemalan military 
<http://www.minnpost.com/globalpost/2010/05/06/17948/us_rounds_up_guatemalans_accused_of_war_crimes>massacred 
251 men, women and children in 
<http://www.nisgua.org/themes_campaigns/index.asp?cid=1058>Las Dos Erres.

Members of the US-trained Atlacatl Battalion.
In another recent instance, El Salvador's 
President Mauricio Funes apologized and asked for 
forgiveness for the 1981 
<http://www.markdanner.com/articles/show/the_truth_of_el_mozote>El 
Mozote massacre where the Atlacatl battalion, a 
notorious US-trained death squad, killed as many 
as 1,000 people. Like in Guatemala and Argentina, 
Reagan with Abrams' help simultaneously 
<http://www.tompaine.com/articles/reagans_bloody_legacy.php>armed 
and 
<http://www.pbs.org/itvs/enemiesofwar/perspectives5.html>covered-up 
the<http://www.nytimes.com/1993/03/21/world/how-us-actions-helped-hide-salvador-human-rights-abuses.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm> 
human rights abuses in El Salvador. The country 
endured a 12-year civil war which left some 
70,000 people dead, with the Reagan-backed 
government and paramilitaries believed to be 
responsible for over 90 percent of the deaths. In 
1993 when Congress planned to investigate the 
Reagan administration's role in human rights 
abuses in El Salvador, and indignant Abrams' 
<http://www.nytimes.com/1993/03/21/world/how-us-actions-helped-hide-salvador-human-rights-abuses.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm>called 
it “a reprehensible McCarthyite charge," while 
also 
<http://www.thenation.com/article/elliott-abrams-its-back>saying 
that, "The Administration's record on El Salvador 
is one of fabulous achievement."

Unfortunately, as Latin America seeks to 
reconcile with its unsavory past in order to 
forge a more just and humane future, the United 
States blindly barrels on­never looking back. The 
US media is missing an excellent opportunity to 
use Abrams' career as a vehicle to examine and 
reflect on the United States' bloody and barbaric 
history in the hemisphere. One could even argue 
that there should be a Truth Commission in the 
United States. Yet it is because of this willful 
ignorance and institutionalized impunity that 
diplomats such as Abrams, who the 
<http://www.commondreams.org/views01/0711-01.htm%20>Philadelphia 
Inquirer in a rare moment of editorial clarity in 
2001 described as a “deceitful, scheming coddler 
of Latin American tyrants” and “uncontrite 
peddler of lies” can continue to resurface in 
Washington, as a national security council member 
to President George W. Bush and as an 
<http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2011/01/obama-invites-elliot-abrams-and-robert-kagan-to-the-white-house>informal 
adviser to President Barack Obama.

Back in 2009, 
<http://upsidedownworld.org/main/international-archives-60/2017-obama-stays-the-course-in-latin-america>President 
Obama said in response to a question about 
whether he would apologize for the CIA's role in 
Chile's 1973 coup, "I'm interested in going 
forward, not looking backward. I think that the 
United States has been an enormous force for good in the world."

If history isn't going to repeat itself the 
president and U.S. citizens need to think again, 
and start looking back to history so justice can move forward.

Cyril Mychalejko is an editor at 
<http://upsidedownworld.org//>www.UpsideDownWorld.org.




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