Just two days after condemnation from her own party leaders prompted a half-hearted apology for anti-Semitic tweets, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., took a personal swipe at a Jewish diplomat in a hearing Wednesday of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Omar opened her questioning of Elliott Abrams, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s special envoy on Venezuela, by attacking his credibility.
“I don’t understand why members of this committee should find any testimony that you give today to be truthful,” she said, referencing controversial charges by the left wing in the 1980s that since have been refuted.
The freshman lawmaker refused to let Abrams respond, saying she was not asking a question.
In his opening statement, Abrams explained the U.S. was defending the Venezuelan National Assembly that elected Juan Guaido as its head. U.S. policy was to work with the Venezuelan people to restore democracy through a peaceful democratic transition. He noted the U.S. did not favor arming Maduro’s opponents.
Omar previously described attempts to protect the Venezuelan people from a socialist dictatorship that has driven the once-prosperous, oil-producing nation to economic ruin amid deadly political oppression a “U.S.-backed coup.”
Ronald Radosh, a Hudson Institute scholar, in the Daily Beast noted Omar called Abrams “Mr. Adams” then read “a statement she did not appear to be familiar with, hesitating often and mispronouncing many words.”
She asked Abrams whether he would “support crimes against humanity or genocide if you would believe they were serving U.S. interests as you did in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua.”
Omar said she wanted to find out whether “a genocide will take place and you will look the other way because American interests were being upheld.”
“I don’t believe this line of questioning is meant to be real questions and so I will not reply,” Abrams said.
Omar charged Abrams with lying to the Senate in 1982 by denying that a massacre took place in El Mozote, El Salvador when a U.S.-trained Salvadoran military battalion went into the town to attack communist guerrillas.
But Radosh, a former Marxist, points out that while other officials denied the massacre, Abrams called it an “incident that is at least being significantly misused, at the very best, by the guerrillas.” It wasn’t until 1992 that forensic evidence confirmed the massacre had occurred.
Quoting Abrams as having said that U.S. policy in El Salvador had been a success, Omar asked, “Do you think the massacre was a fabulous achievement?”
“That is a ridiculous question,” Abrams shot back, pointing out that after the election of Napoleon Duarte as president, every government since has been democratically elected.
Abrams said “the entire thrust of American policy in Venezuela is to support the Venezuelan people’s effort to restore democracy to their country.”
Radosh addressed Abrams’ 1991 conviction in the Iran-Contra affair on two misdemeanor counts of unlawfully withholding information from Congress. One of Abram’s chief human-rights critics, Aryeh Neier, later changed his mind, Radosh pointed out. Neier wrote in the left-wing Dissent magazine that the facts “suggest a political prosecution rather than the fair administration of justice.” Abrams later was pardoned by George H.W. Bush.
Radosh, professor of history emeritus at the City University of New York, agreed with Republican leaders who are demanding that Omar be removed from her seat in the Foreign Affairs Committee.
“Omar’s comportment at the hearing, as well as her obvious belief that the United States is an imperialist and reactionary nation that by its very nature abuses human rights, should alone be reason enough to have her removed before she can do real damage,” he wrote.