By Theodore Shoebat
The Trump administration appointed Elliot Abrams to be in charge of US policy in Venezuela. Looking at Abrams’ history, it would not be adventuresome to say that Trump has appointed a war criminal and murderer.
Elliot Abrams was chosen by the Reagan administration to be assistant secretary of state for human rights; he was also a major figure in the US proxy war in El Salvador where what he would support was nothing short of a Nanking style slaughterhouse in which far-Right death squads massacred around 40,000 people.
A lot of this violence took place in El Salvador where the Reagan administration backed far-Right commandos who were fighting Sandinistas in a 12 year long civil war that ended with 70,000 dead, tens of thousands of whom were civilians. The US’s policy did not have just the backing of Abrams, but a number of other politicians including U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, President Reagan, Vice President Bush, Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) and Lt. Col. Oliver North.
The far-Right officers were led by intelligence officer Roberto D’Aubuisson who was trained by the CIA directed International Police Academy in Washington, and who would become the most notorious face of the US backed death squads which were a part of an alliance between Far-right reactionaries and the El Salvador government. It was D’Aubuisson who orchestrated the assassination and murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero in March of 1980, as well as massacres of civilians. Abrams denied that the murder of the Archbishop was done by D’Aubuisson. “Anybody who thinks you’re going to find a cable that says that Roberto D’Aubuisson murdered the archbishop is a fool,” Abrams said at the time.
But information cabled to Washington in 1980 reported that “Major Roberto D’Aubusson was in charge of the meeting” conspiring for the murder of the Archbishop, and that “the participants drew lots for the task of killing the archbishop. The ‘winner’ was an ex-national guardsman who, said the source, now lives in Cuidad Delgado.” Another cable to Washington, from 1981, spoke of “a meeting chaired by Major Roberto D’Aubusson during which the murder of Archbishop Romero was planned … during the meeting some of the participants drew lots for the privilege of killing the Archbishop.”
In 1984, US ambassador Robert White testified before Congress that “there was sufficient evidence” to convict D’Aubuisson of planning and ordering Archbishop Romero’s murder. In March of 2010, the then President of El Salvador, Mauricio Funes, made a public apology before the family of Romero for his death, stating that he was a “victim of illegal violence” and that the murderers “unfortunately acted with the protection, collaboration, or participation of state agents.” In the end, Archbishop Romero was a martyr of US backed Right-wing violence. The fact that Elliot Abrams tried to whitewash the conspiracy behind the murder of Romero reveals how truly evil this son of belial is. Yet it is this same son of the devil who Trump appointed to, in the words of Mike Pompeo, “restore democracy” in Venezuela.”
The US embassy in El Salvador revealed to Washington that there was clear evidence to implicate D’Aubuisson for murders such as that of Archbishop Romero. But the Reagan administration did not make a single move against El Salvador’s government, nor did it take any steps, such as the cutting off of aid, to pressure the government to cease such despotism. D’Aubuisson would go on television and declare as enemies teachers, labor leaders, union organizers and politicians, and within days their mutilated bodies would be found. Yet, the Reagan administration claimed that they could not determine who was responsible for such murders. But, by 1982 most of the leaders of the death-squads were known to Washington, as journalist Douglas Farah reported in 1992:
“On national television, d’Aubuisson, using stolen military intelligence files, would denounce teachers, labor leaders, union organizers and politicians. Within days, their mutilated bodies would be found at one of the numerous, gruesome dumping grounds in the country. The Reagan administration claimed not to be able to figure out who was behind the killings.
But in the subsequent interviews I conducted, former administration officials with access to the intelligence data at the time told me that by 1982 most of the leaders of the far-right death squads had been identified by Washington as officers in the Salvadoran security forces and military, with direct ties to d’Aubuisson.
Yet only when U.S. public outrage at the bloodshed threatened to move Congress to cut off aid to El Salvador did the Reagan administration finally take the first step against d’Aubuisson and his network.”
On December 11th of 1983, Vice President Bush had a meeting with Alvaro Magana, El Salvador’s provisional president, and warned him that aid would be cut off if the slaughter did not cease. According to a source who attended the meeting, Oliver North slipped a piece of paper to Magana which had no letterhead or watermark so as not to make it traceable, on which was written the names of eight military officers and one civilian — all close d’Aubuisson associates — identified as death squad leaders. None of these men were brought to justice but either put into exile or went out of plain sight. But the killings by the death squads dropped significantly.
The story reveals that the US government knew exactly who were behind the killings regardless of their claims of ignorance and could have stopped the massacres many years earlier. The story is reminiscent to how the United States brought in a Nazi scientist named Walter Schreiber who experimented on Polish girls at Ravensbruck prison to live in Texas (this was under Operation Paperclip) in the later 1940s. When news of this grabbed the attention of major media, the United States decided to send Schreiber to Argentina (see Jacobsen, Operation Paperclip, ch. 18, pp. 357-358). As a report from Human Rights Watch reported:
“During the Reagan years in particular, not only did the United States fail to press for improvements … but, in an effort to maintain backing for U.S. policy, it misrepresented the record of the Salvadoran government, and smeared critics who challenged that record. In so doing, the Administration needlessly polarized the debate in the United States, and did a grave injustice to the thousands of civilian victims of government terror in El Salvador.  Despite the El Mozote Massacre that year, Reagan continued certifying (per the 1974 amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act) that the Salvadoran government was progressing in respecting and guaranteeing the human rights of its people, and in reducing National Guard abuses against them.”
There were other horrific persecutions of Catholics, such as the rape and murder of three American nuns and a lay Catholic. These were Maura Clarke and Ita Ford, Ursuline Dorothy Kazel, and lay missionary Jean Donovan. The four missionaries were in El Salvador for an international humanitarian aid mission. Their car was stopped by five Guardsmen who took the four women to an isolated spot and beat, raped and murdered them.
Peasants who lived near where the murder took place said that they saw the nuns’ white van and heard machine gun fire followed by single shots. They then saw the five Guardsman driving the white van with the radio speakers booming. The bodies were later found with stab wounds. The peasants who found the corpses were forced to burry them which they did. After this they told a local priest of what happened, and he then in turn told the news to Archbishop Romero’s successor, Bishop Arturo Rivera y Damas. Once the story reached the US, it garnered mass attention from the press, forcing the US to begin pressuring the Salvadorian government to stop the death squads. The murderers, Daniel Canales Ramirez, Carlos Joaquin Contreras Palacios, Francisco Orlando Contreras Recinos and Jose Roberto Moreno Canjura, were found guilty and sentenced to 30 years in prison. Three of the murderers were released early on “good behavior” although this entailed detailing information about the killings.
In 1998, four of the perpetrators confessed to abducting, raping and murdering the four women and said that they did the crime upon orders from the top, that is, from General Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova. Some of them were released after they confessed that Casanova and his cousin Col. Oscar Edgardo Casanova Vejar, the local military commander in Zacatecoluca, had planned and orchestrated the executions of the churchwomen.
According to a report from the Maryknoll Sisters:
“The  U.N.-sponsored Report of the Commission on the Truth for El Salvador concluded that the abductions were planned in advance and the men responsible had carried out the murders on orders from above. It further stated that the head of the National Guard and two officers assigned to investigate the case had concealed the facts to harm the judicial process. The murder of the women, along with attempts by the Salvadoran military and some American officials to cover it up, generated a grass-roots opposition in the U.S., as well as ignited intense debate over the Administration’s policy in El Salvador. In 1984, the defendants were found guilty and sentenced to 30 years in prison. The Truth Commission noted that this was the first time in Salvadoran history that a judge had found a member of the military guilty of assassination. In 1998, three of the soldiers were released for good behavior. Two of the men remain in prison and have petitioned the Salvadoran government for pardons.”
There was a deliberate policy to muddy up the waters on the reality of who committed these murders. Even though tens of thousands of people were butchered by the death squads, Elliot Abrams praised US policy in El Salvador as a “fabulous achievement.” The killings that were done in El Salvador were, in the words of Janine Jackson, “one of the most notorious mass slaughters anywhere on Earth over the past 40 years or so.” In the massacre of El Mozote, every girl over the age of ten was raped. This atrocity of El Mozote was investigated into by New York Times journalist Raymond Bonner who wrote an article on the massacre six or seven weeks after it occurred. The Reagan Administration attacked Bonner and pressured his editors to remove him from his post as journalist on Central American affairs. Bonner was removed from his position and put on a desk, an obvious demotion. This was the mobbish ways of Elliot Abrams. So much for freedom of the press.
Elliot Abrams also backed the death-squads in Nicaragua (the “Contras”). Abrams was so close to the Contra reign of terror that he got the nickname, “contra commander-in-chief.” In fact, Abrams went to the Sultan of Brunei to ask for $10 million to funnel to the Contras (the money was never given because, supposedly, Abrams gave the Sultan the wrong account number). Abrams managed to secretly give weapons to the Contras. What is interesting is that these weapons were masqueraded as “humanitarian aid” (which makes one wonder about that “aid” that Venezuela is being pressured to accept). Abrams would later deny helping the Contras, using as his defense that the Sultan did not donate the $10 million: “I said no foreign government was helping the contras, because we had not yet received a dime from Brunei”.
The CIA taught the Contras on the strategies of violence, such as inciting mob violence and attacking “soft” targets such as schools and health clinics. The Contras were murderous, loving the knives that the CIA gave them. “A commando knife [was given],” recounted Contra leader Edgar Chamorro, “and our people, everybody wanted to have a knife like that, to kill people, to cut their throats”. Frank Wohl was an American conservative admirer of the Contras who accompanied the insurgents. He recounted the butcherings done by them:
“The victim dug his own grave, scooping the dirt out with his hands… He crossed himself. Then a contra executioner knelt and rammed a k-bar knife into his throat. A second enforcer stabbed at his jugular, then his abdomen. When the corpse was finally still, the contras threw dirt over the shallow grave — and walked away”
Edgar Chamorro, in an interview with an American reporter, explained the justification for such killings: “Sometimes terror is very productive. This is the policy, to keep putting pressure until the people cry ‘uncle'”. The CIA even wrote a book for the Contras on the effectiveness and utilization of killing, entitled Tayacan, in which it says that people from the local population should be gathered together for a public tribunal to “shame, ridicule and humiliate” Sandinista officials to “reduce their influence”. The textbook also instructed the Contras to encourage locals to take part in the executions.
The US also led this type of bloodbath policy in another Central American country, Guatemala, in a counterinsurgency campaign that was done with the support of US counterinsurgency experts Caesar Sereseres and Colonel George Minas who served as a US military attache in Guatemala in the early 1980s. The violence in Guatemala was so horrendous that in the whole region of Quiche the entire Catholic archdiocese withdrew from the area, with all of its priests, catechists and many parishioners. The situation was so severe that Guatemala’s Conference of Bishops released a statement in 1982: “Not even the lives of old people, pregnant women or innocent children were respected. Never in our history has it come to such grave extremes.” The reputable forensic anthropologist, Clyde Snow, examined bodies in Guatemala and concluded:
“The military guys who do this are like serial killers. They
got away with it once, so they think they’ll always get away
with it. If Jeffrey Dahmer had been in Guatemala, he would
be a general by now.”