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August 13, 2012

Let's Remember Elliott Abrams Is an Apologist for Torture and Decapitation

Who's advising Paul Ryan on foreign policy? One of the people is Elliott Abrams:

Ryan has been receiving briefings from Elliott Abrams…

Abrams told The Daily Beast on Saturday that he found Ryan’s views in line with the mainstream of the Republican Party today, saying Ryan was "relaxed, serious, funny, very smart, and knows more about foreign policy than people may think, in view of his concentration on the economy."

The few Americans who pay attention to U.S. foreign policy usually remember Elliott Abrams for pleading guilty to lying to Congress about the Iran-Contra scandal, or for helping to cover up the El Mozote massacre of at least 800 unarmed peasants by the Salvadoran government in 1981. (He collaborated on this with Thomas Enders.) Some may recall he was one of the main organizers of the attempted overthrow of the elected Hamas government in Gaza in 2006. Or that his wife feels Palestinian children are "Devil's spawn." Or that his mother-in-law straightforwardly explained that we invaded Iraq not "for sweetness and light" but for oil. Or that his brother-in-law's opinion is that "the tactical mistake we made in Iraq was that we didn't kill enough Sunnis," so we probably should have killed all "Sunni men between the ages of 15 and 35."

Sadly, though, Abrams' support for torture and decapitation in Panama is almost completely forgotten. This is from Dark Alliance by Gary Webb:

When they found Dr. Hugo Spadafora in September 1985, they found everything but his head. The rest of him had been tied up in a U.S. mail sack and dumped under a bridge on the border of Costa Rica and Panama.

His body bore evidence of unimaginable tortures. The thigh muscles had been neatly sliced so he could not close his legs, and then something had been jammed up his rectum, tearing it apart. His testicles were swollen horribly, the result of prolonged garroting, his ribs were broken, and then, while he was still alive, his head had been sawed off…

Spadafora was one of Manuel Noriega's main political opponents. And so back in 1985 before Noreiga became our enemy, that meant, as the book Overthrow describes, Elliot Abrams felt everything done to Spadafora was perfectly fine:

[Spadafora's] stomach was full of blood that Spadafora had swallowed as his head was being slowly cut off…

Noriega was at a dermatology clinic in Geneva when Spadafora was killed, undergoing treatment that he hoped would repair his deeply scarred face. There he received an urgent telephone call from Major Luis Cordoba, head of the unit that had captured Spadafora. Evidently neither man realized that American intelligence agents were eavesdropping.

"We have a rabid dog in our hands," Major Cordoba told his commander.

"And what does one do with a rabid dog?" Noriega asked in reply.

That was the go-ahead soldiers needed in order to begin the long night of torture that ended in Spadafora's decapitation...

During this period, Noriega [] endeared himself to the Reagan administration by agreeing to help the Nicaraguan contras…

After Noriega forced President Barletta out of office, the American ambassador in Panama, Everett Briggs, wanted to begin increasing American pressure on him. His boss, Undersecretary of State Elliot Abrams, a vigorous supporter of the contras, overruled him

As this became clear to Panamanian opposition figures, they began looking for other ways to influence American policy. One of them, Winston Spadafora, a brother of the murdered dissident, flew to Washington and managed to persuade Senator Jesse Helms…to hold hearings on Panama…Abrams called Helms and asked him to cancel it. He said that Noriega was "being really helpful to us" and was "really not that big a problem."

Later, of course, Noriega became more trouble than he was worth and he had to go.

TREASON!: After Roberto Diaz Herrera, a top Panamanian military official, accused Noriega of responsibility for the murder of Spadafora, Noriega accused Diaz Herrera of "high treason." As in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the U.S., the definition of "treason" in Panama is "telling the truth."

LET'S NOT FORGET: Those al Qaeda people sure are barbarians, what with their massacres and decapitations and all.

—Jon Schwarz

Posted at August 13, 2012 10:52 PM

This is so lurid it makes me yawn.

Posted by: Nice Liberal at August 13, 2012 11:50 PM

You are my favorite commenter in the history of this site.

Posted by: Jon Schwarz at August 13, 2012 11:59 PM

There were about 900 dead (give or take) at El Mozote, not 5000. Mark Danner's New Yorker article is online here for anyone interested. And the most clearcut admission that the US was deliberately and knowingly supporting mass murder is found in the Atlantic Monthly here

Anyway, statistical disagreement aside, great post.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at August 14, 2012 12:02 AM

Most clearcut admission in a mainstream US publication, I should have said. It doesn't take much insight to see that the US was supporting mass murder while pretending not to, but that Atlantic piece was surprisingly forthright about it.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at August 14, 2012 12:03 AM

Donald, thanks -- was correcting even as you wrote that.

Posted by: Jon Schwarz at August 14, 2012 12:06 AM

Can't have a definitive Central American foreign policy, unless ya got a death squad.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at August 14, 2012 12:58 AM

Our govt ( past and current ) is VERY HAPPY to support Freedom Fighters/death squads ( whether in Latin America or anywhere else ) which will end in "regime change", no matter the consequences.......why don't I feel happy but feel rather horribly sick!!?? Sorry folks, I tried to yawn but failed miserably....
And is Mr Abrams' advice going to be to continue this?? Short history is any guide, he will be VERY HAPPY to do so....


btw, the Republican Presidential candidate received his seed money for Bain Capital from people connected to Death Squads in Latin America. He must be so proud to set such a great example and teach a great lesson to all the entrepreneurs.... .. Go for it...make your day....or rather I should say, make your money!!!

Posted by: Rupa Shah at August 14, 2012 08:42 AM

The TRUE face of modern warfare---The only rule is "do or die", the only war crime is "failure to participate".

Posted by: Mike Meyer at August 14, 2012 02:22 PM

Unlike beaheadings carried out in Mexico by US-linked gangs, I can't make heads or tails of this coincidence, by which I mean comparing US behavior to dream behavior:

The invasion of Panama, what was that? The U.S. killed, according to the Panamanians, 3,000 civilians. Maybe they're right. We don't investigate our own crimes, so nobody knows. But it certainly killed plenty of people--on the scale of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, roughly the same casualties. The U.S. used its veto power on the Security Council and voted against the condemnation in the General Assembly. Manuel Noriega was illegally brought back to Florida, tried in a ridiculous trial in which he was convicted of crimes which he had indeed committed, almost all of them when he was on the CIA payroll. It was just like the trial of Saddam Hussein will be, if he ever comes to trial: He will be convicted of crimes that the U.S. supported, but that part won't be mentioned. -- Source,

In my dream last night, I was in a room in my synagogue from the real world. Only the room doesn't really exist. Upon reflection, I realized that this room represented a secret crush I have that I am afraid would upset my family.

Posted by: Lewis at August 14, 2012 08:49 PM

You guys all miss an important point. The Republican base does not normally read either The New Yorker or The Atlantic. You want these facts out there where they'll be seen and read? Try again. It will have to be in an easy-to-read, easy-to-digest medium, and neither of those magazines qualify as such. Sorry.

Posted by: John Hoffman at August 19, 2012 10:06 AM

You guys all miss an important point. The Republican base does not normally read either The New Yorker or The Atlantic. You want these facts out there where they'll be seen and read? Try again. It will have to be in an easy-to-read, easy-to-digest medium, and neither of those magazines qualify as such. Sorry.

Posted by: John Hoffman at August 19, 2012 10:07 AM

Everyone should read Danner's article. The US trained forces executed all the men, first raped and then executed all the women, and then bayoneted the infants and threw them into the well. God Bless America.

But the article has an up side. After El Mozote the FMLN tricked the army into thinking they had finally tracked down the FMLN's radio station which had been broadcasting the truth about the struggle to Salvadorans for years. I don't want to give the ending away but let's just say the bad guys get their just deserts.

Posted by: mudplanet at August 19, 2012 10:40 AM

What gives? Where are the jokes? If I don't get me my quota of jokes I'll stop reading these ideological rantings

Posted by: Not Errol Flynn at August 19, 2012 11:47 AM