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Profile: Elliott Abrams

 
  

Positions that Elliott Abrams has held:

  • The National Security Council?s top Middle East aide


 

Quotes

 
  

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Elliott Abrams actively participated in the following events:

 
  

June 3, 1997      Complete Iraq timeline

       The Project for the New American Century (PNAC), a neoconservative think tank formed in the spring of 1997, issues its statement of principles. PNAC states that its aims are “to shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests,” to achieve “a foreign policy that boldly and purposefully promotes American principles abroad,” “to increase defense spending significantly,” to challenge “regimes hostile to US interests and values,” and to “accept America's unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles.” [Sources: Statement of Principles, 6/3/97] The statement is significant because it is signed by a group who will become “a rollcall of today's Bush inner circle.” [Guardian, 2/26/03] ABC's Ted Koppel will later say PNAC's ideas have “been called a secret blueprint for US global domination” (see January 26, 1998) (see also September 2000, August 21, 2001 (B)). [ABC News, 3/5/03 (B)]
People and organizations involved: Paul Wolfowitz, Steve Rosen, Peter Rodman, Henry S. Rowen, Vin Weber, Midge Decter, George Weigel, Norman Podhoretz, Aaron Friedberg, Francis Fukuyama, Elliott Abrams, Steve Forbes, Donald Rumsfeld, William J. Bennett, Dick Cheney, Zalmay M. Khalilzad, Lewis Libby, Dan Quayle, Jeb Bush, Donald Kagan, Fred C. Ikle, Eliot A. Cohen, Paula J. Dobriansky, Hasam Amin, Frank Gaffney
          

January 26, 1998      Complete Iraq timeline

       The Project for the New American Century (PNAC), an influential neoconservative think tank, publishes a letter to President Clinton urging war against Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein because he is a “hazard” to “a significant portion of the world's supply of oil.” In a foretaste of what eventually happens, the letter calls for the US to go to war alone, attacks the United Nations, and says the US should not be “crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council.” The letter is signed by many who will later lead the 2003 Iraq war. 10 of the 18 signatories later join the Bush Administration, including (future) Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Assistant Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Assistant Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Undersecretaries of State John Bolton and Paula Dobriansky, presidential adviser for the Middle East Elliott Abrams, and Bush's special Iraq envoy Zalmay Khalilzad. [Sunday Herald, 3/16/03 Sources: January 26, 1998 Open Letter to Bill Clinton] Clinton does heavily bomb Iraq in late 1998, but the bombing doesn't last long and its long-term effect is the break off of United Nations weapons inspections. [New York Times, 3/22/03]
People and organizations involved: Richard Perle, William Schneider Jr., Elliott Abrams, Richard Armitage, Jeffrey T. Bergner, William Kristol, Donald Rumsfeld, Zalmay M. Khalilzad, Robert Kagan, Francis Fukuyama, Peter Rodman, Paula J. Dobriansky, John R. Bolton, Vin Weber, Paul Wolfowitz, James Woolsey, William J. Bennett, William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton, Robert B. Zoellick
          

February 19, 1998      Complete Iraq timeline

       The Committee for Peace and Security publishes an open letter to President Bill Clinton outlining a 9-point “comprehensive political and military strategy for bringing down Saddam and his regime.” The letter is signed by a litany of former US government officials known for their neoconservative viewpoints. Several of the signatories are also involved with the Project for the New American Century and had endorsed a similar letter published by that organization the previous month. [Committee For Peace and Security, 2/19/98; CNN, 2/20/98 Sources: February 19, 1998 Open Letter to Bill Clinton]
People and organizations involved: William Kristol, Robert Kagan, Douglas Feith, Elliott Abrams, Richard Perle, Michael Ledeen, Donald Rumsfeld, Dov Zakheim, Paul Wolfowitz, Joshua Muravchik, Robert A. Pastor, Martin Peretz, Roger Robinson, Peter Rodman, Robert C. McFarlane, Jarvis Lynch, Frederick L. Lewis, Bernard Lewis, Paula J. Dobriansky, William B. Clark, Fred C. Ikle, Sven F. Kraemer, David Wurmser, Zalmay M. Khalilzad, Frank Gaffney, Frank Carlucci, Max Singer, Richard Armitage, Richard V. Allen, Stephen Solarz, John R. Bolton, Gary Schmitt, Jeffrey T. Bergner, Stephen Bryen, Jeffrey Gedmin, Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Caspar Weinberger, Peter Rosenblatt, Leon Wienseltier, Richard Burt
          

April 11, 2002      Venezuela

       Chavez is overthrown in a military coup reminiscent of previous CIA-coups in Guatemala, Chile, Brazil etc. The US welcomes the coup and congratulates the military, while denying involvement. The coup collapses after two days, however, and Chavez returns to power. The BBC notes: “Since his election, President Chavez has been a thorn in the side of the United States—which gets much of its oil from Venezuela. In particular, US officials were angered because Mr Chavez was selling cheap oil to Fidel Castro in Cuba. Mr. Chavez had also condemned US bombing of civilians in Afghanistan.” [BBC, 4/14/2002] Otto J. Reich, the US' assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs, is in contact with Mr. Chavez's successor on the very day he takes over. The Bush administration claims Reich was pleading with him not to dissolve the National Assembly. [New York Times, 4/17/02] The Pentagon also admits that Rogelio Pardo-Maurer, the Defense Department official responsible for Latin America, discussed the proposed coup in Washington with Gen. Lucas Romero Rincon, chief of the Venezuelan military command. Maurer spent the 1980s working in Washington as the chief spokesman for the Nicaraguan Contras. [World Policy Institute, 4/9/2001; The Guardian, 11/28/2001; Columbian Journal, 6/10/2002; National Catholic Reporter, 8/10/2001; Yellow Times, 5/7/2002] It is revealed that senior Bush administration aides, including Assistant Secretary of State Otto Reich and White House advisor Elliott Abrams (both key players in the Reagan administrations covert network for supporting the contra terrorist war on Nicaragua in the 1980s), had met repeatedly in Washington with the coup's organizers. [The Observer, 4/21/2002] Elliott Abrams is also known for his role in the 1973 coup in Chile, as well as his sponsorship of death squads in Argentina, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. [Yellow Times, 5/7/2002] The Washington Post reports: “Members of the country's diverse opposition had been visiting the U.S. Embassy here in recent weeks, hoping to enlist U.S. help in toppling Chavez. The visitors included active and retired members of the military, media leaders and opposition politicians.” Administration spokesmen insist however that these officials repeatedly urged the coup plotters not to take extra-constitutional action. [The Washington Post, 4/13/2002; Monthly Review, 9/2002; CounterPunch, 4/14/2002] A Defense Department official claims the administration's message was less categorical.“We were not discouraging people,” the official said. “We were sending informal, subtle signals that we don't like this guy. We didn't say, ‘No, don't you dare,’ and we weren't advocates saying, ‘Here's some arms; we'll help you overthrow this guy.’ We were not doing that.” [BBC, 4/16/2002; Foreign Policy in Focus, 6/2002]
People and organizations involved: Elliott Abrams, Lucas Romero Rinconh, Rogelio Pardo-Maurer, Otto Juan Reich, Hugo Chavez Frias, Fidel Castro
          

September 2002      Complete Iraq timeline

       Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, adamant hawks, rename the Northern Gulf Affairs Office on the Pentagon's fourth floor (in the seventh corridor of D Ring) the “Office of Special Plans” (OSP) and increase its four-person staff to sixteen. [Knight Ridder Newspapers, 8/16/02; Los Angeles Times, 11/24/02; New Yorker, 5/5/03; Inter Press Service, 8/7/03; American Conservative, 12/1/03; Tom Paine [.com], 8/27/03; Mother Jones, 1/04 Sources: Greg Thielmann, Unnamed administration official, Karen Kwiatkowski] William Luti, a former navy officer and ex-aide to Vice President Cheney, is put in charge of the day-to-day operations. [Guardian, 7/17/03; Mother Jones, 1/04] The Office of Special Plans is staffed with a tight group of like-minded neoconservative ideologues, who are known advocates of regime change in Iraq. Notably, the staffers have little background in intelligence or Iraqi history and culture. [Salon, 7/16/03; Inter Press Service, 8/7/03; American Conservative, 12/1/03; Mother Jones, 1/04 Sources: Karen Kwiatkowski, A Pentagon adviser, Greg Thielmann] They hire “scores of temporary ‘consultants’ ... including like-minded lawyers, congressional staffers, and policy wonks from the numerous rightwing think-tanks in the US capital.” Neoconservative ideologues, like Richard Perle and Newt Gingrich, are afforded direct input into the Office of Special Plans. [Guardian, 7/17/03; Mother Jones, 1/04] The office works alongside the Near East and South Asia (NESA) bureau, also under the authority of Douglas Feith [Inter Press Service, 8/7/03; Mother Jones, 1/04 Sources: Karen Kwiatkowski] The official business of Special Plans is to help plan for post-Saddam Iraq. The office's staff members presumably “develop defense policies aimed at building an international coalition, prepare the secretary of defense and his top deputies for interagency meetings, coordinate troop-deployment orders, craft policies for dealing with prisoners of war and illegal combatants, postwar assistance and reconstruction policy planning, postwar governance, Iraqi oil infrastructure policy, postwar Iraqi property disputes, war crimes and atrocities, war-plan review and, in their spare time, prepare congressional testimony for their principals.” [Insight, 12/2/03] But according to numerous well-placed sources, the office becomes a source for many of the administration's prewar allegations against Iraq. It is accused of exaggerating, politicizing, and misrepresenting intelligence, which is “stovepiped” to top administration officials who use the intelligence in their policy decisions on Iraq. [Knight Ridder Newspapers, 8/16/02; Los Angeles Times, 11/24/02; New Yorker, 5/5/03; Inter Press Service, 8/7/03; American Conservative, 12/1/03; Tom Paine [.com], 8/27/03; Mother Jones, 1/04; Telegraph, 7/11/2004; CNN, 7/11/2004 Sources: Greg Thielmann, Unnamed administration official, Karen Kwiatkowski] Colin Powell is said to have felt that Cheney and the neoconservatives in this “Gestapo” office had established what was essentially a separate government. [Woodward, 2004 cited in Washington Post 1/18/2004 Sources: Top officials interviewed by Washington Post editor Bob Woodward] Some of the people associated with this office were earlier involved with the Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group, also known as the “Wurmser-Maloof” project (see Shortly after September 11, 2001). Among the claims critics find most troubling about the office are:
The office relies heavily on accounts from Iraqi exiles and defectors associated with Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress (INC), long considered suspect by other US intelligence agencies. [Inter Press Service, 8/7/03; Guardian, 7/17/03; Salon, 7/16/03; New Yorker, 5/5/03; Independent, 9/30/03; Mother Jones, 1/04 Sources: Greg Thielmann, Unnamed administration official] One defector in particular, code-named “Curve Ball,” provides as much as 98% of the intelligence on Iraq's alleged arsenal of biological weapons. [CNN, 7/11/2004] Much of the information provided by the INC's sources consists of “misleading and often faked intelligence reports,” which often flow to Special Plans and NESA directly, “sometimes through Defense Intelligence Agency debriefings of Iraqi defectors via the Defense Human Intelligence Service and sometimes through the INC's own US-funded Intelligence Collection Program, which was overseen by the Pentagon.” [Mother Jones, 1/04] According to Karen Kwiatkowski, the movement of intelligence from the INC to the Office of Special Plans is facilitated by Colonel Bruner, a former military aide to Gingrich. [Newsweek, 12/15/03; Mother Jones, 1/04; Salon, 3/10/2004 Sources: Memo, Karen Kwiatkowski] Bruner “was Chalabi's handler,” Kwiatkowski will tell Mother Jones. “He would arrange meetings with Chalabi and Chalabi's folks.” [Mother Jones, 1/04 Sources: Karen Kwiatkowski]
The Office of Special Plans purposefully ignores intelligence that undermines the case for war while exaggerating any leads that support it. “It wasn't intelligence,—it was propaganda,” Karen Kwiatkowski, who worked at the NESA desk, will later explain. “They'd take a little bit of intelligence, cherry-pick it, make it sound much more exciting, usually by taking it out of context, often by juxtaposition of two pieces of information that don't belong together.” [New Yorker, 5/5/03; New York Times, 10/24/02; Inter Press Service, 8/7/03; Guardian, 7/17/03; Salon, 7/16/03; Independent, 9/30/03; Mother Jones, 1/04 Sources: Greg Thielmann, Ellen Tauscher, Unnamed former intelligence official]
The OSP bypasses established oversight procedures by sending its intelligence assessments directly to the White House and National Security Council without having them first vetted by a review process involving other US intelligence agencies. [Guardian, 7/17/03; Salon, 7/16/03; New Yorker, 5/5/03; Mother Jones, 1/04 Sources: Unnamed senior officer who left the Pentagon during the planning of the Iraq war, David Obey, Greg Thielmann] The people at Special Plans are so successful at bypassing conventional procedures, in part, because their neoconservative colleagues hold key positions in several other agencies and offices. Their contacts in other agencies include: John Bolton, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International; Bolton's advisor, David Wurmser, a former research fellow on the Middle East at the American Enterprise Institute, who was just recently working in a secret Pentagon planning unit at Douglas Feith's office (see Shortly after September 11, 2001); Elizabeth Cheney, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs; Stephen Hadley, the deputy national security adviser; Elliott Abrams, The National Security Council's top Middle East aide; and Richard Perle, Newt Gingrich, James Woolsey and Kenneth Adelman of the Defense Policy Board. The office provides very little information about its work to other US intelligence offices. [Inter Press Service, 8/7/03; Guardian, 7/17/03; Salon, 7/16/03 Sources: David Obey, Karen Kwiatkowski, Greg Thielmann, Unnamed An unnamed senior officer who left the Pentagon during the planning of the Iraq war]
Lastly, the people involved in Special Plans openly exhibit strong pro-Israel and anti-Arab bias. The problem, note critics, is that the analysis of intelligence is supposed to be apolitical and untainted by ideological viewpoints. [American Conservative, 12/1/03 Sources: Karen Kwiatkowski] According to a CIA intelligence official and four members of the Senate's Intelligence Committee, Special Plans is the group responsible for the claim Bush will make in his 2003 State of the Union address that Iraq had attempted to procure uranium from an African country (see January 28, 2003). [Information Clearing House, 7/16/03; The Nation, 6/19/03] After the existence of the Office of Special Plans is revealed to the public, the Pentagon will deny that it served as a direct conduit to the White House for misleading intelligence, instead claiming that its activities had been limited to postwar plans for Iraq. [New Yorker, 5/5/03] And a December 2003 opinion piece published in Insight magazine will call the allegations surrounding the Office of Special Plans the work of conspiracy theorists. [Insight, 12/2/03]
People and organizations involved: Kenneth Adelman, James Woolsey, Colonel Bruner, Colin Powell, Newt Gingrich, Douglas Feith, Richard Perle, Stephen Hadley, Paul Wolfowitz, Abram Shulsky, Elliott Abrams, Elizabeth Cheney, David Wurmser, Karen Kwiatkowski  Additional Info 
          

November 2002-December 2002      Complete Iraq timeline

       Elliot Abrams leads one of a dozen administration working groups charged with drafting post-invasion plans. Involved in his group are adamant neoconservatives Joe Collins, a deputy assistant secretary at the Pentagon, and Robin Cleveland, a former aide to Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. His working group is supposed to draft plans for rapid humanitarian planning. But critics in the State Department complain that it involves itself in the issue of post-Saddam politics and economic reconstruction. Abrams' group is backed by Paul Wolfowitz and the vice president's office. An ally of Secretary of State Colin Powell tells Inter Press Service, “This is a case of stealthy micromanagement by the Wolfowitz hawks—they use what bureaucratic vehicles are available to make their imprint on policy.” Additionally the group is very secretive. It refuses “to brief not only top State Department officials but also aides of Gen. Tommy Franks, the commanding officer of the US Central Command [CENTCOM], about what it is doing.” Instead it “stovepipes” its work to its contacts in the White House. Sources in the State Department and CIA believe that one of the group's apparent aims is reducing the influence of the State Department, CIA and the United Nations in post-Saddam Iraq. These critics also question “why a convicted felon [Abrams], pardoned or not, is being allowed to help shape policy.” Within the Pentagon, there is also resentment of Abrams' group. An unnamed Pentagon source says General Tommy Franks is being “left out of the loop.” A Defense official says, “CENTCOM is for the most part unaware of what Abrams is doing, but friction is developing and the military end of the equation feels that they are being mislead.” [Insight, 11/26/02; Insight, 12/9/02 Sources: Unnamed US State Department Officials]
People and organizations involved: Elliott Abrams, Paul Wolfowitz, Joe Collins, American Enterprise Institute
          

December 2002      Complete Iraq timeline

       Elliott Abrams, a special assistant to President George W. Bush on the National Security Council [NSC] is appointed to senior director for Near East and North African affairs within the NSC. Neoconservatives working at the Pentagon's Near East South Asia (NESA) desk worked hard to get Abrams appointed. “The day he got (the appointment), they were whooping and hollering, ‘We got him in, we got him in,’” Karen Kwiatkowski, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, tells Inter Press Service. Abrams, a controversial figure with close ties to Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, had been convicted of withholding information from Congress during the Iran-Contra scandal, though he was later pardoned by George W. Bush's father. [Insight, 12/9/02; Inter Press Service, 8/7/03]
People and organizations involved: Karen Kwiatkowski, Elliott Abrams, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith
          

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