A fiery exchange erupted between Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and U.S. special envoy to Venezuela Elliott Abrams during a congressional hearing Wednesday on the role the military may play in the embattled nation.
Omar accused Abrams of lying and grilled him over his role in the Iran-Contra affair and the killings that occurred in Central America during the Reagan administration, The Hill reports.
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,@IlhanMN "In 1991 you pleaded guilty … regarding your involvement in Iran-Contra … I fail to understand why [we] should find any testimony that you give today to be truthful"
Elliott Abrams "That was attack. It is not right .. to attack witness who is not permitted to reply" pic.twitter.com/yQq3xYHGxm
— Howard Mortman (@HowardMortman) February 13, 2019
“I don’t understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony that you give today to be truthful,” she said in her opening remarks to Abrams.
It should be noted that Abrams pleaded guilty to withholding evidence from Congress during testimony on the Iran-Contra affair in the 1980s.
Abrams became flustered and angry during the exchange, trying to interject a comment, but Omar firmly told him she was not asking a question:
“It was an attack,” he countered.
“I reserve the right to my time,” she responded over his protests.
Omar pressed him further on the U.S. military’s involvement in Nicaragua and El Salvador during the Reagan administration. At the time, Abrams was the Assistant Secretary of State and the U.S. backed Nicaraguan insurgents and the Salvadoran military.
Of specific concern to her were past comments Elliott made about the El Mozote massacre, in which nearly 1,000 civilians were murdered by the Salvadoran military:
“You later said that the U.S. policy in El Salvador was a fabulous achievement,” Omar said. “Do you still think so?”
Well, apparently he does. Even though U.S. policies have created staggering poverty that is almost unimaginable in the country, which also has one of the highest homicide rates in the world.
It may well be one of the ugliest chapters in American history but to Abrams, El Salvador is still “a fabulous achievement.”
But Omar wasn’t so easily persuaded, and she referenced the El Mozote massacre.
“Do you think that massacre was a fabulous achievement?” she asked Abrams.
Abrams tried to deflect her questions.
“That is a ridiculous question,” he said angrily. “I am not going to respond to that kind of personal attack, which is not a question.”
But as Mediaite notes, Omar was undeterred:
“Under your watch, a genocide will take place and you will look the other way because American interests will be upheld, is a fair question,” she said. “Because the American people want to know that anytime we engage a country that we think about what our actions could be and how we believe our values are being fathered.”
“That is my question,” she added, “will you make sure that human rights are not violated and that we uphold international and human rights?”
Abrams answer was predictable.
“The answer is that the entire thrust of American policy in Venezuela is to support the Venezuelan people’s effort to restore democracy to their country,” he said. “That is our policy.”
My guess is that people in El Mozote, much of the Middle East, and those who are refugees fleeing to the U.S. due to situations caused by the U.S. military may feel differently.
— Charles P. Pierce (@CharlesPPierce) February 13, 2019
I know this isn’t going to happen, but it would be nice if president Donald Trump would acknowledge the fact that many of the immigrants trying to cross over into the U.S. are fleeing situations caused by terrible U.S. policies.
For more perspective on this, the video below features professor Noam Chomsky, a noted philosopher, and political activist.
Featured image by Howard Mortman via Twitter