Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Charles Freeman fails the loyality test
By Glenn Greenwald
Obviously, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt are rabid, hateful paranoids -- total bigots and anti-Semites -- for having suggested that there are powerful domestic political forces in the U.S. which enforce Israel-centric orthodoxies and make it politically impossible to question America's blind loyalty to Israel. What irrational lunacy on their part:
Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair announced today that Ambassador Charles W. Freeman Jr. has requested that his selection to be Chairman of the National Intelligence Council not proceed. Director Blair accepted Ambassador Freeman’s decision with regret.
In situations like this, it is often impossible to know whether the appointee really did voluntarily withdraw or whether he was forced out and is merely being allowed to say that he withdrew. To his credit, Adm. Blair was in the Senate this morning defending Freeman from the likes of Joe Lieberman, but everything that is publicly known about Freeman makes it seem unlikely that he would have voluntarily withdrawn due to the shrieking criticisms directed at him. If he were forced out -- and there's no basis for assuming he was until there's evidence for that -- then that reflects quite badly on the Obama administration's willingness to defy the Bill Kristols, Marty Peretzes, and National Reviews of the world when it comes to American policy towards the Middle East.
In the U.S., you can advocate torture, illegal spying, and completely optional though murderous wars and be appointed to the highest positions. But you can't, apparently, criticize Israeli actions too much or question whether America's blind support for Israel should be re-examined.
UPDATE: Prior to the announcement that the Freeman appointment was terminated, Max Blumenthal documented that the man leading the anti-Freeman assault was Steve Rosen, the long-time AIPAC official currently on trial for violations of the Espionage Act in connection with the transmission of classified U.S. information intended for Israel. Blumenthal also quotes foreign policy analyst Chris Nelson as follows:
Freeman is stuck in the latest instance of the deadly power game long played here on what level of support for controversial Israeli government policies is a "requirement" for US public office. If Obama surrenders to the critics and orders [Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair] to rescind the Freeman appointment to chair the NIC, it is difficult to see how he can properly exercise leverage, when needed, in his conduct of policy in the Middle East. That, literally, is how the experts see the stakes of the fight now under way.
Blumethal also suggested that right-wing Israel fanatics in the U.S. are particularly interested in controlling how intelligence is analyzed due to their anger over the NIE's 2007 conclusion that Iran had ceased its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
“It’s clear that Freeman isn’t going to be influenced by the lobby,” Jim Lobe, the Washington bureau chief of Inter Press Service, remarked to me. “They don’t like people like that, especially when they’re in charge of products like the NIE. So this is a very important test for them.”
Blumenthal further noted that the leader of the anti-Freeman crusade in the House, Rep. Mark Kirk, is Congress' top recipient of AIPAC donations. Identically, Greg Sargent previously reported that, in the Senate, "concern" over Freeman was expressed by Sen. Chuck Schumer directly to Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.
Does anyone doubt that it's far more permissible in American political culture to criticize actions of the American government than it is the actions of the Israeli Government? Isn't that rather odd, and quite self-evidently destructive?
UPDATE II: Andrew Sullivan on "The Freeman Precedent":
Obama may bring change in many areas, but there is no possibility of change on the Israel-Palestine question. Having the kind of debate in America that they have in Israel, let alone Europe, on the way ahead in the Middle East is simply forbidden. Even if a president wants to have differing sources of advice on many questions, the Congress will prevent any actual, genuinely open debate on Israel. More to the point: the Obama peeps never defended Freeman. They were too scared. The fact that Obama blinked means no one else in Washington will ever dare to go through the hazing that Freeman endured. And so the chilling effect is as real as it is deliberate.
Actually, Obama's DNI, Adm. Blair, did defend Freeman, but only today, and it's true that no other Obama officials did. As usual, it was a bipartisan onslaught of government officials marching in lockstep loyalty to AIPAC mandates, with nobody outside of some bloggers and online writers defending Freeman. Though I was just arguing yesterday that the rules for discussing Israel in the U.S. have become more permissive, and I still think that, this outcome was probably inevitable given the refusal of virtually all influential Beltway factions to deviate from mandated loyalty to the right-wing Israel agenda. That it was inevitable doesn't make it any less grotesque.
UPDATE III: Chuck Schumer -- who supported Bush's nomination of Michael Hayden for CIA Director despite his key role in implementing Bush's illegal eavesdropping program, and supported Bush's nomination of Michael Mukasey as Attorney General despite his refusal to say that waterboarding was torture -- is now boasting about the role he played in blocking Freeman's appointment, all based on Freeman's crimes in speaking ill of the U.S. Israel:
Charles Freeman was the wrong guy for this position. His statements against Israel were way over the top and severely out of step with the administration. I repeatedly urged the White House to reject him, and I am glad they did the right thing.
That's certainly evidence that (a) Freeman was forced out, and (b) his so-called "statements against Israel" were the precipitating cause.