During a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) fiercely grilled President Donald Trump’s Venezuela envoy Elliott Abrams over his support for U.S.-backed massacres and genocide in Latin America throughout the 1980s, as well as his role in the Iran-Contra scandal.
“I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony that you give today to be truthful.”
—Rep. Ilhan Omar
“In 1991, you pleaded guilty to two counts of withholding information from Congress regarding your involvement in the Iran-Contra affair, for which you were later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush,” Omar stated at the beginning of her remarks. “I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony that you give today to be truthful.”
When Abrams attempted to respond to what he called an “attack,” Omar stated simply, “It wasn’t a question.”
The Minnesota congresswoman went on to recount the horrific details of the El Mozote massacre, in which U.S.-trained Salvadoran soldiers raped and murdered more than 800 civilians, including many women and young children.
“You later said that the U.S. policy in El Salvador was a ‘fabulous achievement,'” Omar said. “Yes or no: Do you still think so?”
After Abrams claimed that El Salvador became a “democracy” after the U.S. intervened, Omar pressed on, asking, “Yes or no, do you think that massacre was a ‘fabulous achievement’?”
Watch the exchange:
Omar went on to ask whether Abrams would “support an armed faction within Venezuela that engages in war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide if you believe they were serving U.S. interests, as you did in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.”
As Abrams continued to complain about the line of questioning and refused to answer, Omar declared: “Whether, under your watch, a genocide will take place, and you will look the other way because American interests were being upheld, is a fair question.”
She added, “The American people want to know that any time we engage a country, that we think about what our actions could be and how we believe our values are being furthered.”
The Minnesota congresswoman was immediately applauded by progressive anti-war activists and commentators for her persistent interrogation of Abrams, who The Intercept‘s Jeremy Scahill recently described as “an unrepentant war criminal” who “played a central role in the mass slaughter of tens of thousands of people” throughout Latin America during his tenure in the Reagan State Department.
“I think I know why they don’t want Ilhan Omar on the House Foreign Affairs Committee,” wrote progressive organizer Claire Sandberg, referring to ongoing calls to remove Omar from the panel for – as one reporter put it – “accurately describing how the Israel lobby works.”
— Zack Beauchamp (@zackbeauchamp) February 13, 2019
Excellent & crucial work by @IlhanMN in reminding us of the genocide, massacres and death squads that Elliott Abrams presided over in Latin America as part of the Reagan administration – particular must-watch for anyone who believes US intervention in Venezuela is “humanitarian” https://t.co/RDmvD8tAc6
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) February 13, 2019
Esquire columnist Charles Pierce praised Omar for her willingness to demand that “a world-historical ghoul to answer for what he did,” and said her fearless questioning honored the thousands killed in U.S.-backed massacres that Abrams supported.
“I think I speak for thousands of dead people in Central America when I thank Rep. Omar for allowing us to say, together, once again, and to the skull-like face of Elliott Abrams, ‘Man, fck that guy,'” Pierce concluded.