Friday, February 18, 2005

It Came From Nathan Glazer's Attic

There's major news on the "return of the living dead" front. Iran Contra aficionados are dancing in their seats over the news that two key figures from the Reagan administration's scandalous conduct in Central America have been promoted to top jobs in the Bush Administration. In this entry, we'll deal with the less savory of the pair (as far as such designations have meaning): Convicted perjurer Elliott Abrams.

Elliott Abrams, friend of the Contras and foe of interfaith marriage, has been named to one of the highest foreign policy posts in America: deputy national security adviser. The appointment has passed with little notice by the mainstream press; after all, who cares about some bureaucrat ascending another rung on the ladder?

Ah, but Abrams is no mere bureaucrat! A hardcore Cold Warrior and Reagan Administration official, Abrams has neoconservative street cred like Florida has beaches.

Born into a liberal Jewish household in New York, Abrams was a Democrat for much of his young life. While attending Harvard Law School, he lived in the attic of Nathan Glazer, the Trotskyite-turned-neocon sociologist. He worked for Sens. Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Scoop Jackson, the two Democrats closest to neocon thought on domestic and foreign policy, respectively. He married Rachel Decter, whose mother, Midge, is a formidable neocon publicist and who herself is married to Norman Podhoretz, "neocon Yoda figure" as Slate calls him, and the father of New York Post columnist John Podhoretz (Norm, like Glazer, is also an ex-communist). Abrams is also a longtime friend of neocon folk hero Natan Sharansky, currently a member of the Israeli Knesset.

Abrams ditched the Democratic Party in the late 1970s, finding Jimmy Carter's foreign policy "hopeless." He joined Reagan's State Department and initially distinguished himself by his principled opposition to U.S.-backed dictators like Augusto Pinochet of Chile and Manuel Noriega of Panama. This flirtation with credibility went out the window when Abrams distinguished himself by his fanatical defense of the murderous Salvadoran government, even after evidence of massacres in that country became public. When his wife told the Washington Post that she'd like to mow down NY Times columnist Anthony Lewis with a machine gun, Abrams said, hilariously, "I wouldn't waste the bullets. I would rather have them go to the Contras."

But Abrams wasn't just a wacko; he was also a pretend spy. Although not a main player behind the Iran-Contra skulduggery, Abrams nevertheless traveled to Britain in 1986 with a secret Swiss bank account number and the code name "Mr. Kenilworth" in order to solicit a $10 million donation to the Contras from that well-known advocate of democracy, the Sultan of Brunei.

While Iran-Contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh was preparing a multi-count indictment of Abrams, Abrams took the manly way out and pleaded guilty to lying to Congress, a misdemeanor. In 1992, Abrams was one of the recipients of Poppy Bush's famous Christmas Eve pardons, clearing his criminal record.

Bush says that Abrams' central task is promoting "the expansion of freedom in the world." Surely he's aware of the irony of entrusting such a task with a man famous for defending murderous tyrannies, who personally acted as the courier in a transaction that provided a terrorist organization with millions of dollars. Then again, maybe not.

Be sure to watch for this series' next thrilling installment: The Negroponte Checkmate!