Chas Freeman with Alwaleed bin Talal
There’s a great flap over the nomination of Charles ‘Chas’ Freeman for chairman of the National Intelligence Council, the agency responsible for writing the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that digests intelligence information for the President and others (you will recall the NIE that suggested that we needn’t worry too much about the Iranian nuclear program).
In pro-Israel circles, it’s been pointed out (see here also) that Freeman, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia who was until recently President of the Middle East Policy Council — formerly the American Arab Affairs Council — a pro-Arab lobbying agency funded in great part by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (read Freeman’s thank-you to the Saudi King here), is about as anti-Israel a guy that you can find west of Gaza City.
Everyone with a brain has a point of view, of course, and it’s certain that one side or the other (sometimes both) will always find something wrong with every appointee. But this is something else: a paid Saudi lobbyist is not the appropriate person to stand at the gateway between our decision-makers and raw intelligence data.
Nor are Freeman’s personal views close to balanced. Here’s his 2006 take on the history of the Jewish state:
For fifty years Israel has enjoyed military superiority in its region. Demonstrably, Israel excels at war; sadly, it has shown no talent for peace.
For almost forty years, Israel has had land beyond its previously established borders to trade for peace. It has been unable to make this exchange except when a deal was crafted for it by the United States, imposed on it by American pressure, and sustained at American taxpayer expense. For the past half decade Israel has enjoyed carte blanche from the United States to experiment with any policy it favored to stabilize its relations with the Palestinians and its other Arab neighbors, including most recently its efforts to bomb Lebanon into peaceful coexistence with it and to smother Palestinian democracy in its cradle.
The suspension of the independent exercise of American judgment about what best serves our interests as well as those of Israelis and Arabs has caused the Arabs to lose confidence in the United States as a peace partner. To their credit, they have therefore stepped forward with their own plan for a comprehensive peace. By sad contrast, the American decision to let Israel call the shots in the Middle East has revealed how frightened Israelis now are of their Arab neighbors and how reluctant this fear has made them to risk respectful coexistence with the other peoples of their region. The results of the experiment are in: left to its own devices, the Israeli establishment will make decisions that harm Israelis, threaten all associated with them, and enrage those who are not.
Tragically, despite all the advantages and opportunities Israel has had over the fifty-nine years of its existence, it has failed to achieve concord and reconciliation with anyone in its region, still less to gain their admiration or affection. Instead, with each decade, Israel’s behavior has deviated farther from the humane ideals of its founders and the high ethical standards of the religion that most of its inhabitants profess. Israel and the Palestinians, in particular, are caught up in an endless cycle of reprisal and retaliation that guarantees the perpetuation of conflict in which levels of mutual atrocities continue to escalate.
Regarding the Saudi/Arab League ‘peace’ plan, he adds,
Despite the fact that such a peace is so obviously also in Israel’s vital and moral interests, history and the Israeli response to date both strongly suggest that without some tough love from Americans, including especially Israel’s American coreligionists, Israel will not risk the uncertainties of peace. Instead, it will persist in the belief, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that it can gain safety through the officially sanctioned assassination of potential opponents, the terrorization of Arab civilians, and the cluster bombing of neighbors rather than negotiation with them. These policies have not worked; they will not work. But unless they are changed, the Arab peace plan will exceed its shelf life, and Arabs will revert to their previous views that Israel is an ethnomaniacal society with which it is impossible for others to coexist and that peace can be achieved only by Israel’s eventual annihilation, much as the Crusader kingdoms that once occupied Palestine were eventually destroyed.
His position could be summed up as follows: it’s all Israel’s fault, Israel dominates American policy in opposition to our interests, and the US better force Israel to give the Arabs what they want before it’s too late.
In keeping with Freeman’s opinions about Israeli and Jewish influence on American policy, his MEPC journal published a revised, ‘improved’ version of the original Mearsheimer-Walt article on the “Israel lobby”, thus lending weight to my early speculation about a Saudi connection to this false and slanderous work.
The MEPC journal and website even include a collection of articles by the notorious anti-Zionist (and arguably antisemitic) Israel Shahak, a favorite of David Duke, neo-Nazis and and antisemitic Talmud-bashers.
I would like to think that Barack Obama was not fully acquainted with Ambassador Freeman’s connections and his bias when he decided to offer him the intelligence job, and I hope he will reconsider.
Unfortunately, this is not the only cause of unease I feel about the Obama Administration. Yesterday, I wrote about my concern that the US seemed to be playing along with the Durban II exercise in delegitimization being prepared by Israel’s enemies at the UN.
Obama has said numerous times that he is a strong supporter of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. But if his appointments — and there are already a few worrisome ones, like that of Samantha Power — and his actions belie his words, then his words don’t amount to much, do they?