Follow up to our other Chas Freeman article.

Thanks to our friend, Xisnotx, who is always ready to keep us on our toes, especially regarding Israel, and our conversation regarding John Mearsheimer of Walt & Mearsheimer fame (it would have been better had they decided to be a duo writing Broadway musicals), I ended up reading a little more about the resignation of Chas Freeman from consideration as head of the National Security Council.

As is well known, upon announcing his resignation, Freeman laid the blame entirely on the so-called “Israel lobby.”

In a message posted on The Cable, Foreign Policy magazine’s blog, Freeman blamed the “Israel lobby” for his decision.

“The libels on me and their easily traceable e-mail 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,” he writes in the message. “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.”

Let’s explore what he said.

The thing that jumps out at me is that he says that “easily traceable e-mail trails show conclusively that there is a powerful lobby…”

How would he have access to e-mail trails?

He says they are easily traceable, which suggests that he didn’t receive a copy of a train of messages, but actually saw a trace of IP addresses and names linked to those emails. There is no way to know where an IP address originates in the public domain, although presumably law enforcement has that capability. One can learn from a header of an email, unless it comes from certain email service providers like Google, what the sender’s IP is, but then you need to have been sent that email directly or forwarded by the recipient. That would preclude him from having access to more than a couple of emails unless every single email from every single source was forwarded to him.

I don’t think it’s that complicated. My guess is that Freeman is either lying or, if telling the truth, was provided this private information by some supporters in the intelligence community. Needless to say, that is inappropriate and suggests behavior that is no less egregious that what he claims was done to him. Spying on citizens of the US in order to strengthen the chances of appointment of the next head of the National Security Council seems highly inappropriate. I wonder whether it is even legal.

Next, without explaining what he means, he attacks the “Israel Lobby.” We know there’s a book out by Steve Walt and John Mearsheimer about the so-called “Israel Lobby,” which I like to call the Protocols of the Elders of Zion updated for the 21st Century. Is that who he meant? Or did he mean AIPAC, which publicly removed itself from the debate about his appointment? It’s unclear. What is clear is that he wants to make sure that people blame this “lobby” for his resignation and connect it to Israel and his views on Israel.

This is a nice sleight of hand. He was attacked not only for his views on Israel, but also for his views on China, his views on Tibet and his support of Saudi Arabia. Yet, he doesn’t bring these up at all. It’s the “Israel Lobby” (at least he didn’t blame Jews directly) who get hammered. Why? What is he not telling us?

Well, as NPR reports, “…all seven Republican members of the Senate Intelligence Committee took a stand opposing Freeman’s appointment.” Who would these seven be?

Kit Bond, Missouri; Richard Burr, North Carolina; Olympia Snowe, Maine; Tom Coburn, Oklahoma; Saxby Chambliss, Georgia; Orrin Hatch, Utah; Jim Risch, Idaho.

Nary a Jew in the bunch. Looking at their sources of donations and largest donors, I recognize virtually no Jews, although two of these senators were provided a trip to Israel last year by an unnamed pro-Israel group.

One website, Yid with Lid, points out that even James Baker, of “fuck the Jews they don’t vote for us anyway” fame, found Freeman to be a little too pro-Saudi (is that hysterical laughter I’m hearing) and wrote in his book The Politics of Diplomacy:

Our ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Chas Freeman, suggested to me that perhaps we shouldn’t ask quite so much of the Saudis. As a result of their previous commitments to Desert Shield, he said, they had a liquidity shortage that Saud hadn’t wanted to admit to me. It seemed to me to be a classic case of clientitis from one of our best diplomats. “I’m going in front of the Congress and I’m asking them to go ahead and fund this effort,” I said, “and I’ve got to explain that American blood will be spilled. If you think we’re not going to ask the Saudis to pay for this, you’ve got another thing coming.” It was the last I ever heard from him about going easy on the Saudis in terms of the costs of the operation.

A group of 87 Chinese also wrote Barack Obama to complain about Freeman. It begins:

Dear President Obama:
We are writing to convey our intense dismay at your selection of Charles W. Freeman to be chair of the National Intelligence Council. No American in public life has been more hostile than Mr. Freeman toward the ideals of human rights and democracy in China.

Who are some of the signatories?

1. Dan Wang, Visiting Fellow at St. Antony’s College of Oxford University, UK (He was no. 1 of the 21 student leaders on the Chinese government’s “wanted list” after the 1989 Tiananmen massacre. He spent 4 years in Chinese jail.)
2. Su Xiaokang, Chinese writer in exile, Delaware
3. Li-Zhi Fang, University of Arizona, AZ
4. Juntao Wang, Scholar, New Jersey. He got a 13-year sentence for his role in 1989
5. Fengsuo Zhou, Engineering, San Francisco, President, Chinese Democracy Education Foundation (He was no. 5 of the 21 student leaders “wanted” by Chinese government in 1989)

Nope, couldn’t find any Jews there, or AIPAC members, or zealous Christian Zionists.

And what about Nancy Pelosi, who is dismissed by John Mearsheimer as being a dupe of the pressure put upon her and others by the so-called “Israel Lobby?” Newsweek has a different take:

A well-placed Democratic source said Pelosi, a strong supporter of the Chinese human-rights movement, was incensed about public remarks that Freeman once made that seemed to justify the violent 1989 Chinese government crackdown on democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square. The source, who asked not to be identified, said Pelosi thought Freeman’s views were “indefensible” and complained directly to President Obama about his selection.

The Newsweek article proceeds to describe other efforts by non-Jewish politicians to derail Freeman’s candidacy, and how the person who nominated him went all out to defend Freeman. The article concludes with:

But Pelosi in particular was upset about public comments that seemed to belittle the Chinese human-rights movement—a cause she has championed for years. In 2005, for instance, Freeman was quoted as writing in a public e-mail about the Tiananmen Square massacre: “[T]he truly unforgivable mistake of the Chinese authorities was the failure to intervene on a timely basis to nip the demonstrations in the bud … In this optic, the Politburo’s response to the mob scene at ‘Tian’anmen’ stands as a monument to overly cautious behavior on the part of the leadership, not as an example of rash action.

“I do not believe it is acceptable for any country to allow the heart of its national capital to be occupied by dissidents intent on disrupting the normal functions of government, however appealing to foreigners their propaganda may be,” he added. “Such folk, whether they represent a veterans’ ‘Bonus Army’ or a ‘student uprising’ on behalf of ‘the goddess of democracy’ should expect to be displaced with despatch [sic] from the ground they occupy.”

What a deep, unconventional thinker who stands truth to power that Freeman must be. Isn’t that how he was described by his supporters?

Well, seeing the evidence, I can only think of Chas Freeman’s own choice words, “…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.” Only maybe they don’t apply, as he would have us believe, to the so-called “Israel Lobby.”

Perhaps these words of his apply to him, the cynical accuser of the supposed “Lobby” as he neglects to mention that so many others with power, influence and justice on their side sought to have him removed from consideration for his post. In fact, by claiming that it was the “Israel Lobby” which did this to him, and by publishing what amount to libel about them when considered with the evidence – of which he must be aware – about other groups seeking to have him removed from consideration for the security post, not only did Chas Freeman prove all of his critics, Chinese dissidents, pro-Israel activists, leading senators, the most important elected official in Congress and others absolutely right in seeking his candidacy quashed, but he showed a serious lack of judgment.

And let’s face it, he also showed the very profound bias against Israel and its supporters of which he had been accused. Doesn’t this strongly indicate that he would have been the wrong person for the sensitive position for which he was nominated?

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  • Well, it’s fine to devote another post to bashing Freeman, but can we move on to the vastly more important issue, kinda/sorta flagged in your last paragraph: what possessed the Obama administration to put him forward in the first place?

    It’s a waste of time and energy to address this crackpot on his own terms (though you do so effectively). The urgent questions are what does this portend for US policy toward Israel? Or China? Whither human rights under the new president?

    If Bush had nominated this guy, you’d have been all over his ass.

    I don’t begrudge Freeman his conspiracy theories. He’s a crank and likely a hater, too. Let Freeman be Freeman– fine. This is the sort of guy who Obama thinks would be a crack intelligence analyst?

    The Jews are supposed to know all about writing on the wall. Did you read Roger Cohen in the Times yesterday, Middle?

    Change is coming.

  • Yeah, I read Cohen’s piece which should have been called, “I went to Iran recently and all I got was this lousy propaganda they love me to spew.”

    I don’t think the Administration was directly involved with Freeman’s nomination and had to deal with it after the fact by ignoring it and thereby showing the people who were involved that this was their hot potato.

    The writing on the wall? I should be buying a piece of land in New Zealand, or somewhere else nice where my son can grow up without the animosity that is beginning to rear its ugly head up in the US. Read enough comments sections on the internet and it becomes clearer and clearer that old hatreds are surfacing rapidly. Sad to admit it, but Israel has become a lightning rod that enables the extremists to push their agenda successfully into the mainstream.

    Maybe the writing on the wall merits its own post.

  • It’s complicated, though, Middle, and it isn’t simply a case of resurfacing “old hatreds,” although Freeman seems to exemplify them. The writing I’m referring to is a fundamental shift toward seeing Israel as the chief obstacle to peace in the Holy Land, and perhaps vis-a-vis Iran as well. Its authors may or may not be old school, Freeman-style scapegoat artists, but instead, Euro-style leftists who distrust Israel as an essentially Western, white, colonialist enterprise that symbolizes all they disdain about American power. Don’t underestimate how despised Israel is by many on the left for its relationship with the US, its closeness to Bush, its American-made weapons.

  • Wait, we’re in agreement here. As I wrote, Israel is a lightning rod. That’s primarily for the Left, and I hear their reasons and understand their point of view even if I reject it. But I chose my words carefully because the opponents of Israel may view it, as you say, “as an essentially Western, white, colonialist enterprise that symbolizes all they disdain about American power,” but the manner in which they express their objections tend to bring up old hatreds. You have media control, money control, foreign government control, thieving, murderous, “chosen people,” fifth-column calumnies appearing to support the claims made against Israel and its supporters. Often, however, as Dana Milbank pointed out in the article about Mearsheimer, the offensive party uses Jews interchangeably with whatever group they’re seeking to critique for their support of Israel or for being Israeli.

    What is odd is that I believe Obama can put a stop to all of this with a few carefully worded speeches. However, he may believe that Israel is a liability or that Israel needs to make certain moves and therefore is unlikely to take the steps necessary to cool the ardor on the Left.

    Having said all of that, as I’ve written before, a large part of what is mucking everything up for Israel is the settlement movement. Israel should move its civilians west of the Security Fence, leave the army east of the Fence and negotiate a deal that allows its soldiers to leave without concern about rockets. The settlement movement may be right in their contentions about the provenance of the land, but they are presenting Israel with impossible choices and harming Israel internally and externally.

    (note to people like Chas Freeman: you can be critical of settlements and Israel without being over the top about it and even while supporting Israel)

  • Speaking of public relations disasters, the fondest hope of Freeman and his ilk is that Lieberman become foreign minister. A flesh-and-blood Israeli villain… I’ll bet some powerful people in the US administration want just this result.

  • Now that Barak has signed Labor on, assuming he succeeds in getting it through his party and Netanyahu gets the rest of a coalition in line, it is very possible that Livni will give in and Kadima will enter the coalition. In that scenario, she’s foreign minister and Lieberman is out.