Charles Freeman fails the loyalty test

Under attack for his insufficient devotion to Israel, the long-time diplomat's appointment is withdrawn.

Topics: Washington, D.C.,

(Updated belowUpdate IIUpdate III - Update IVUpdate V)

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Lieberman, but everything that is publicly known about Freeman makes it seem unlikely that he would have voluntarily withdrawn due to the shrieking criticisms directed at him.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.

 

UPDATE IV: Lynch mob leader Jonathan Chait of Marty Peretz’s magazine, who spent the last week denying that Israel was the driving force behind the attacks on Freeman, brings himself to acknowledge the truth now that Freeman has been vanquished for his blasphemy:

Of course I recognize that the Israel lobby is powerful, and was a key element in the pushback against Freeman, and that it is not always a force for good.

What I find most mystifying is that Israel-centric fanatics actually think it is a good thing for Israel to impose these sorts of Israel-based loyalty tests and orthodoxies on American politics.  Polls show that Americans overwhelmingly want the U.S. Government to be “even-handed” in the Israel/Palestinian dispute and substantial portions of Americans do not favor American policies towards Israel.  Isn’t it rather obvious that at some point, there will be a substantial and understandable backlash as Americans watch people like Chuck Schumer openly boast that anyone who makes “statements against Israel” that he deems “over the top” will be disqualified from serving in our Government, despite a long and distinguished record of public service and unchallenged expertise?

 

UPDATE V: Good for Charles Freeman for going down with a fight, issuing an impassioned and highly persuasive statement/warning about what the failure of his appointment, which he says he terminated, means for the U.S.:

I am not so immodest as to believe that this controversy was about me rather than issues of public policy. These issues had little to do with the NIC and were not at the heart of what I hoped to contribute to the quality of analysis available to President Obama and his administration. Still, I am saddened by what the controversy and the manner in which the public vitriol of those who devoted themselves to sustaining it have revealed about the state of our civil society. It is apparent that we Americans cannot any longer conduct a serious public discussion or exercise independent judgment about matters of great importance to our country as well as to our allies and friends.

The libels on me and their easily traceable email trails show conclusively that there is a powerful lobby determined to prevent any view other than its own from being aired, still less to factor in American understanding of trends and events in the Middle East. The tactics of the Israel Lobby plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency and include character assassination, selective misquotation, the willful distortion of the record, the fabrication of falsehoods, and an utter disregard for the truth. The aim of this Lobby is control of the policy process through the exercise of a veto over the appointment of people who dispute the wisdom of its views, the substitution of political correctness for analysis, and the exclusion of any and all options for decision by Americans and our government other than those that it favors.

There is a special irony in having been accused of improper regard for the opinions of foreign governments and societies by a group so clearly intent on enforcing adherence to the policies of a foreign government – in this case, the government of Israel. I believe that the inability of the American public to discuss, or the government to consider, any option for US policies in the Middle East opposed by the ruling faction in Israeli politics has allowed that faction to adopt and sustain policies that ultimately threaten the existence of the state of Israel. It is not permitted for anyone in the United States to say so. This is not just a tragedy for Israelis and their neighbors in the Middle East; it is doing widening damage to the national security of the United States.

The outrageous agitation that followed the leak of my pending appointment will be seen by many to raise serious questions about whether the Obama administration will be able to make its own decisions about the Middle East and related issues. I regret that my willingness to serve the new administration has ended by casting doubt on its ability to consider, let alone decide what policies might best serve the interests of the United States rather than those of a Lobby intent on enforcing the will and interests of a foreign government.

Freeman’s full statement is here.  How anyone thinks that it is helpful to Israel to impose these blatant litmus tests of Israel-loyalty on American politics is truly mystifying.  Foreign policy expert Larry Rothkopf says that the failure of Freeman’s appointment “cost the United States intelligence and policy communities the benefit of a truly unique mind and set of perspectives” and “have also contributed to what can only be characterized as a leadership crisis in the U.S. government.”  Judging by Freeman’s statement today, Rothkopf is absolutely right.

Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>