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Wash. Post: A Parting Shot That Maligns Obama, Too

Discussion in 'Political Zone' started by Angus, Mar 15, 2009.

  1. Angus

    Angus Active Member

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    A Parting Shot That Maligns Obama, Too

    By Charles Lane
    Sunday, March 15, 2009; A15

    There's been much talk about Charles Freeman and the angry parting shot he aimed at the "Israel Lobby," which he blames for forcing him to withdraw as President Obama's choice for chairman of the National Intelligence Council.

    Amid the hubbub, however, no one seems to have noticed that Freeman's broadside against "unscrupulous people with a passionate attachment to the views of a political faction in a foreign country" was also a not-very-implicit indictment of the president himself.

    To be sure, Freeman protested his "respect" for both Obama and Dennis Blair, the director of national intelligence directly responsible for picking Freeman. But if Freeman's attack on the "Israel Lobby" means anything at all, it is that the president and his staff are either too weak to resist the machinations of these foreign agents -- or are in cahoots with them. The same would go for the senators and House members who also opposed Freeman.

    Freeman himself wrote that the affair "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."

    So far, however, President Obama has had exactly nothing to say about this extraordinary claim -- either in his own defense, or in defense of the American citizens whom Freeman has impugned.

    Asked on Tuesday whether Obama agreed that Freeman was "unfairly driven out," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said he hadn't talked to the president about it and left the briefing room. When I contacted the White House press office on Friday, a spokesman e-mailed back that they "don't have anything additional to add."

    No doubt the president faces a dilemma. I imagine that he finds Freeman's comments repugnant, but to say so publicly would raise questions about why the man was appointed in the first place. And Obama has other things on his plate. If I were him, I'd rather deal with Citibank than dive into the nasty Freeman fight.

    But the administration's silence is disappointing just the same. The president needs to knock Freeman's insinuations down hard -- for two reasons. The first is to stop them from gaining any more currency than they already have in the rest of the world, especially in Arab and Muslim regions.

    The second has to do with the United States itself and the quality of our political culture. Barack Obama first electrified the country when he told the Democratic convention in 2004 that "we are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the Stars and Stripes, all of us defending the United States of America." That ennobling message helped propel him to the White House, and it is a major theme of his presidency.

    Letting Freeman's comments pass unchallenged would undercut it.

    To be sure, Freeman and his supporters feel ill used. The criticism he faced was not 100 percent fair; some of it went over the top in labeling him a pawn of the Saudis, etc. But for the most part it wasn't "libelous," as Freeman claims. It was basically a strong policy reaction based on his own voluminous paper trail.

    That paper trail ranges from the brilliant to the offensive to the strange -- such as Freeman's 2006 speech to the United States Information Agency Alumni Association, in which he labeled both American political parties "xenophobic, Islamophobic, Arabophobic, and anti-immigrant." The United States, he opined, had become "the planet's most despised nation, with its most hateful policies."

    Even if Freeman had a perfectly legitimate grievance, even if he had been maligned, he wouldn't be entitled to respond in kind -- much less to brand large numbers of his fellow citizens as fifth columnists. His accusations of dual loyalty went a step beyond even Patrick Buchanan's famous rant against Israel's "amen corner" in America.

    Accepting his party's nomination for president last summer, President Obama declared that "one of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other's character and each other's patriotism."

    Now would be a good time to say it again.

    Charles Lane is a member of the editorial page staff.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/13/AR2009031302800_pf.html
  2. Temo

    Temo Active Member

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    Article written shortly before Freeman withdrew: http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2009/03/05/setback-for-americas-pro-israel-hawks/

    “The brutal oppression of the Palestinians by the Israeli occupation shows no sign of ending … Israel no longer even pretends to seek peace with the Palestinians, it strives to pacify them … American identification with Israel has become total.”

    These are excerpts from a 2007 speech by Charles (Chas) Freeman, a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, whose appointment as chairman of the National Intelligence Council was announced on February 26 and is turning into a test case for the strength of Washington’s right-wing pro-Israel lobby.

    Signs are that its influence might be waning under the administration of President Barack Obama. Does that mean the days of unquestioning American support for Israel are coming to en end? Probably not.

    But the furious reaction to Freeman’s appointment from some of the most fervent neo-conservative champions of Israel points to considerable concern over the possible loss of clout.

    In his new job, Freeman will be responsible for compiling intelligence from the the United States’ 16 intelligence agencies into National Intelligence Estimates, detailed and lengthy analyses that play a key role in shaping U.S. foreign policy.

    The initial drumbeat of criticism came from conservative pro-Israel bloggers, including Steve Rosen, former policy director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Rosen has been indicted for giving “national defense information to persons not entitled to receive it,” legalese for spying.

    “Freeman is a strident critic of Israel and a textbook case of the old-line Arabism that afflicted American diplomacy at the time Israel was born,” Rosen wrote.

    While remarks critical of Israel are common coin among human rights groups and independent scholars, they are virtually taboo in official Washington, whose elected leaders - or those running for office - tend to stress unflagging support for the Jewish state.

    Even small departures from the standard line can prompt the ire of the Israel-right-or-wrong camp. During his election campaign, Obama learned how tricky seemingly innocent remarks can be when he said “nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people.” There was so much criticism, he later “clarified” the remark.

    The initial blogger assault on Freeman, whose lengthy and impressive resume of public service includes Assistant Secretary of Defense under Ronald Reagan, then moved to the opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and the conservative Washington Times. The attacks widened to suggest that he is beholden to the Saudi government.

    That allegation stems from the time he ran a Washington-based think tank, the Middle East Policy Council (MEPC), whose donors include Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a member of the Saudi royal family and billionaire entrepreneur, who gave the council $1 million.

    CRITICISM THREATENS PEACE?

    The appointment has been made but the quest to dislodge or discredit him is not over. Nine Republican members of Congress wrote to the inspector general in the office of the Director of National Intelligence, Admiral Dennis Blair, demanding “a comprehensive review of Ambassador Freeman’s past and current commercial, financial and contractual ties to the Kingdom to ensure no conflict of interest exists in his new position.”

    House Minority Whip Eric Cantor has urged Obama to reconsider the appointment, saying that Freeman’s comments about the U.S.-Israel relationship “raise serious concerns about his ability to support the administration’s attempts to bring security, stability and peace to the Middle East.”

    Criticism of Israel threatens peace? Israeli settlements on the West Bank, in violation of international law, have nothing to do with the flagging peace process? Making peace is made easier by the U.S. refusal to talk to Hamas, the group that won elections in Gaza and runs the war-shattered territory?

    One of the critics of the appointment, Gabriel Schoenfeld, noted, with a tone of disapproval, that Freeman’s MEPC had published “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” a controversial assessment of U.S.-Israeli relations by two prominent American academics, John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard.

    They argued that the United States, through its unquestioning support of Israel, was neglecting its own security interests to advance the interests of another state. The influence of hawkish pro-Israel lobbies, chief among them AIPAC, had established a stranglehold on Congress to ram through decisions favoring Israel.

    In the 60 years since its establishment on May 14, 1948, Israel has been by far the largest recipient of U.S. assistance, military and economic, in the world, according to the Congressional Research Service. Aid has been running at around $3 billion a year since 1985, a sizable sum for a country with a population smaller than that of New York City.

    Walt, who blogs at Foreign Policy magazine, weighed into the Freeman debate as it gathered steam even before the actual appointment. Apart from trying to get it revoked by Dennis Blair or get Freeman to withdraw, Walt said, the anti-Freeman campaign had a third aim.

    “Attacking Freeman is intended to deter other people in the foreign policy community from speaking out on these matters. Freeman might be too smart, too senior and too well-qualified to stop, but there are plenty of younger people eager to rise in the foreign policy establishment and they need to be reminded that their careers could be jeopardized … if they said what they thought.”

    But the Obama administration appears to have no problem with people who say what they think about U.S.-Israel ties. Take Samantha Power, the former Harvard professor whose outspoken views echo those of Walt and Mearsheimer. Obama gave her an important job on the National Security Council.
  3. JBond

    JBond Well-Known Member

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    The list of Obama buddies forced to resign or withdraw continues to grow daily. Not a big surprise considering Obama's character and decision making ability. Does anyone have a running total?

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