PHOTO: By AP/Reuters

One of the warmongering characters of the US administration Brian Hook is stepping down, giving way to an actual American war criminal Elliott Abrams who spent the Ronald Reagan years abetting genocide.

Iran PressAmerica: The White House Iran envoy Brian Hook is leaving his post and US Venezuela envoy Elliott Abrams will add Iran to his role following a transition period with Hook, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday.

Pompeo did not give a reason for Hook’s decision to leave. It was not immediately clear when Hook would finish, but the announcement comes at a crucial time for US diplomacy on Iran.

Since assuming his post in August 2018, Hook had been tasked with executing Trump’s "maximum pressure" policy toward Iran, working closely with Pompeo, the strategy has deepened tensions and thus far failed to force Iran back to the negotiating table, as Trump had hoped. 

Hook’s departure comes as the United Nations Security Council prepares to vote next week on a US bid to extend an international arms embargo on Iran. Some diplomats have said the measure lacks support.

As the Nation reported, Elliott Abrams, as assistant secretary of state for human rights in the Ronald Reagan administration, sought to ensure that General Efraín Ríos Montt, Guatemala’s then-dictator, could carry out “acts of genocide”—those are the legally binding words of Guatemala’s United Nations-backed Commission for Historical Clarification—against the indigenous people in the Ixil region of the department of Quiché, without any pesky interference from human-rights organizations, much less the US government.

As the mass killings were taking place, Abrams fought in Congress for military aid to Ríos Montt’s bloody regime. He credited the murderous dictator with having “brought considerable progress” on human rights issues. Abrams even went so far as to insist that “the amount of killing of innocent civilians is being reduced step by step” before demanding that Congress provide the regime with advanced arms because its alleged “progress need[ed] to be rewarded and encouraged.”

Promoted to the assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs, Abrams repeatedly denounced the continued protests by organizations seeking to call attention to the mass murders of both Ríos Montt and the no less bloodthirsty President Vinicio Cerezo Arévalo, who came to power fewer than three years later. In one village during the latter’s reign, “the army herded the entire population into the courthouse, raped the women, beheaded the men, and took the children outside to smash them to the death against rocks,” according to Inevitable Revolutions, Walter LaFeber’s classic history of the United States in Central America.

At the time, a leader of the Guatemalan Mutual Support Group (an organization of mothers of the disappeared), her brother, and her 3-year-old son were found dead in their wrecked car. Abrams not only supported the nonsensical official explanation (there was “no evidence indicating other than that the deaths were due to an accident”), he also denounced a spokeswoman for the group who demanded an investigation, insisting that she had “no right to call herself a human rights worker.”

When The New York Times published an op-ed challenging the official State Department count of the mass murders underway—by a woman who had witnessed a death-squad-style assassination in broad daylight in Guatemala City without ever seeing it mentioned in the press—Abrams lied outright in a letter to the editor, even citing an imaginary story in a nonexistent newspaper to insist that the man’s murder had, in fact, been reported.

Since Abrams’s 1991 conviction for his Iran-contra lies (and subsequent pardon by George H.W. Bush), the course of his failing-upward career has repeatedly revealed the moral rot at the heart of our political establishment.