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Editorial Abrams at the UN is a warning. We must rebuild respect for international law

Elliott Abrams, US special envoy on Venezuela, headed up Donald Trump’s team at this week’s UN debate.

The resolution he put before the security council called for new presidential elections in Venezuela, described the poll that put Nicolas Maduro in office as “neither free nor fair” and sought UN support for the delivery of foreign humanitarian aid.

The world and its dog knows that Abrams’s bid is an empty exercise in media management with a zero chance of avoiding veto by Russia and China.

Britain’s shame as a permanent member of the security council is that it signed up to the US regime-change strategy.

Abrams has form as a long-time specialist in managing the succession of military coups, destabilisation programmes and “colour” campaigns that comprise the interventionist toolkit.

Abrams was assistant secretary of state to Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. A key architect of the interventionist strategy the US employs in its continental backyard, his fingerprints were all over George W Bush’s disastrous Middle East wars and he is a specialist in what the US quaintly characterises as its “global democracy” programme.

His commitment to democratic principles is evidenced by his complicity in covering up the many atrocities committed by murderous goon squads at the service of US foreign policy during which he never hesitates to showcase his contempt for democratic procedures in his own country.

During that country’s civil war the Salvadoran counter-insurgency Atlacatl Battalion, trained by the US, killed a thousand people in a place called El Mozote. Abrams, it was alleged, “artfully distorted several issues in order to discredit the public accounts of the massacre” during a Senate hearing on the massacre.

He copped a guilty plea for two counts of misleading the US Congress over the Reagan regime’s bid to illegally fund a counter-revolutionary campaign in Nicaragua.

A favourite of his was the Guatemalan dictator Efraim Rios Montt – responsible for a genocidal campaign in which thousands were killed and “disappeared.” Rios Montt, he said, was responsible for “considerable progress” in bringing human rights to Guatemala.

And he barely bothers to deny his role the abortive 2002 coup against Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. In a scenario strikingly similar to today’s slow-motion coup the Bush government was first to recognise the self-appointed businessman Pedro Carmona as president. The coup flopped when Chavez emerged from confinement and rallied his popular and military support to send the coup-makers packing.

This kind of skullduggery is not the personal property of Elliot Abrams. He is merely the most brazen of a whole host of US military and diplomatic functionaries whose interference in the domestic affairs of sovereign states is routine.

The United Nations is still something of a check on the untrammelled use of imperial power. The US would like its operations to gain the air of legitimacy that a UN resolution confers even if it works to deny the international body agency in many of its operations.

Russia keeps a sharp eye on UN business since it was seriously wrong-footed into sanctioning a so-called “humanitarian” mission operation in Libya that turned swiftly into military action by Britain, France and the US and which destroyed the country’s stability, precipitated its breakdown and led to today’s major humanitarian crisis and refugee exodus.

It is a sign that US power is under challenge that it still feels the need to seek UN authority for its actions even if the weight of world opinion is against it. International law is routinely ignored by Western powers who bomb and assassinate targets in foreign countries all the time; the practice is now inspiring similar lawlessness from other players like Narendra Modi’s India. The left needs to fight for a renewed respect for international law as the means to a more peaceful world.



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