Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Neocons Strike Back

By Robert Parry
March 11, 2009

The neoconservatives have demonstrated that their power in Washington remains strong as they have succeeded in keeping veteran diplomat Chas Freeman out of a top intelligence job.

Read on.


Anonymous said...

Good article Robert. Have you noticed how CNN (Wolf Blitzer's Create A situation Room) has become the neocon's mouthpiece since Obama took the oath of office? It seems that this network does all it can to bring the president's ratings down in order to elevate its ratings. I am struck by the clever manipulation of both scientific and ad hoc polling. CNN reported the president's favorable ratings at 61 percent; however, that was the average of composite questions on issues. Of course, CNN did not report those other figures because some of them were above 80 percent and made the president look too good. In CNN's ad hoc polling at their Web site the network always selects issues that fuel the fires of controversy, pose question in such a way that those who volunteer to take the pool have choices that limit their exthusiasm or favorablity for the president and expand the choices for the president's enemies. I have never seen anything like it in the past. Apparently Obama is persona non grata with CNN's corporate CEOs, who obviously want him to fail just like Rush Limbaugh and his angry crowd of rabbid naysayers. Clearly, the media in America is doing all it can to tarnish Obama's popularity so they have more power over him and his agenda. Is it racism, radical conservatism, runaway Capitalism, fear of the president or a mixture of these issues? Who knows? But the clever and highly orchestrated mantra against the president goes on. His friends get limited exposure, while his enemies and detractors get prime time venting with all the bravado and flourishes. Wolf Blitzer (the non-stop verbosity machine)continues his campaign to shrink Obama down to managble size. Blitzer's head is alread so big he cannot buy a hat that fit's.

Bill from Saginaw said...

I have long been a big admirer of Robert Parry's history of how the neo-cons gradually undermined and politicized the CIA's intelligence analyis and consolidated right wing slant in the mainstream media's coverage of US political events. But I think the deeply disappointing loss of Charles Freeman as a member of the Obama team's inner circle of advisors has less to do with neocons flexing their muscles than it has to do with couple of other less widely discussed aspects of the Freeman appointment battle.

First, the position as chair of the National Intelligence Council that Charles Freeman was being considered for was not subject to a Senate confirmation vote. This was purely Barack Obama's call.

Why should the right wing neo-cons' omnipresent "influence within the elite media and their prominence at dinner parties" have any impact whatsoever upon Obama's decision making? There's nothing to filibuster. No need to reach across the aisle for compromise with the GOP. So why did Obama blink?

I really can't grasp Robert Parry's cause and effect reasoning on this one. How did the neocons' fixing of intelligence for partisan gain, and/or the neocons' schmoozing with media figures in DC at dinner parties somehow impact upon Barack Obama's reading of the political tea leaves? I just don't get the causal connection here.

A much more straight forward explanation (other than the most obvious one - the AIPAC lobby did Freeman in because of his words about the plight of the Palestinians) is that Chuck Schumer, Joe Lieberman, and Rahm Emanuel stabbed Freeman (and indirectly Obama) square in the back. This debacle is more an issue of internal Democratic Party skullduggery, than it is about some resurgence of the right wingers' influence inside the DC beltway.

Also, Charles Freeman was already on record seriously questioning the wisdom of doing a troop surge in Afghanistan. Just like the Israel lobby, there are powers-that-be at the Pentagon and within the black ops GWOT honchos of our national security establishment who had policy bones to pick with Mr. Freeman, with billions of dollars and truckloads of bureaucratic turf hanging in the balance.

Parallel to the Palestinian controversy, that horrible rag known as the Washington Times was running stories about how Freeman (who apparently is a fairly wealthy and very adroit businessman) had various financial conflicts of interest involving China and Saudi Arabia that should have been investigated as part of the vetting process.

This spectre is pretty much what caused Tom Daschle to fold. Despite eight years of blatant cronyism and financial corruption under the Bush/Cheney regime, suddenly the prospect of publicly airing details about a Democratic officials' personal wealth has become an inquisition to be deeply feared all along the Potomac.

In short, I think the unfortunate loss of Charles Freeman's realpolitik wisdom and his renown willingness to speak truth to power had more to do with AIPAC, militarism in the Afghan/Pakistan region, awkward financial disclosures on the horizon, and factionalism inside the Democratic Party than sabotage of his appointment can be attributed to renewed clout of the part of partisan neoconservatives.

Bill from Saginaw

Anonymous said...

I wish to express my admiration for those high ranking people from the US intelligence community who came out publicly in support of Freeman. It was a superb demonstration of courage and integrity. These are the kind of people who will win back the minds and hearts of former global admirers of the USA, so alienated by the former Bush administration ,Neocons and the Israeli Lobby

Anonymous said...

AJC Rejects Charles Freeman's "Scapegoating" of Pro-Israel Community

New York – March 11, 2009 – AJC rejected charges made by Ambassador Charles Freeman blaming the “Israel Lobby” for his decision to withdraw his acceptance of the position of chair of the National Intelligence Council.
Freeman was formerly the U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and the chair of the Middle East Policy Council, funded in part by the Saudi government. His foreign policy views drew considerable scrutiny.

He lavishly praised Saudi King Abdullah as “Abdullah the Great,” callously stated that the Chinese government’s Tiananmen Square crackdown was a “monument to overly cautious behavior,” demonstrated consistent hostility toward Israel, and bizarrely argued, “What 9/11 showed is that if we bomb people, they bomb back.”

AJC Executive Director David A. Harris issued the following statement:

Apparently, Chas Freeman can dish it out but can’t take it.

Like all appointments to key national security positions, Freeman’s merited public scrutiny. His views on ‘Abdullah the Great,’ on Israel, on September 11, and on Tiananmen Square were a matter of public record, and respected officials on both sides of the aisle raised legitimate concerns about them.

Ambassador Freeman could have defended those beliefs in an open debate. Instead, he chose to fire off nasty emails scapegoating the ‘Israel Lobby’ for his own decision to withdraw.

The only “libels” and “smears” here are Freeman’s tired clich├ęs about a nefarious ‘Israel Lobby’ that stifles debate. In truth, it’s Freeman, a charter member of the Saudi Fan Club, who wanted the debate to be silenced – since he found himself on the losing side once it started.

If Freeman’s conspiratorial rant reflects the quality of his analysis and his temperament under pressure, it’s just further evidence that he wasn’t the right man for this critical job.

Anonymous said...

Chas Freeman: It's not over yet
By Lawrence W. White, FLAME Hotline, March 11, 2009

Charles Freeman, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, is the diplomat chosen several weeks ago by the administration to chair the National Intelligence Council.

Problems immediately arose. Freeman was in the paid service of Saudi Arabia, had repeatedly blasted Israel, had defended China including its actions in the Tiananmen Square massacre, and had numerous conflicts of interest. Prior to the appointment he had not been fully vetted, and any examination of his finances had not occurred. As a result, the selection became controversial as soon as Freeman's name became public.

As a result of these issues, opposition to his nomination arose among several members of Congress, as well as parts of the media and ordinary citizens. This led to his withdrawing his nomination after several weeks of controversy. Whether he withdrew or was pushed is not clear at this time.

Opposition to Freeman was initially attributed to his many statements blaming Israel for the current crisis and absence of peace in the Middle East. However, what led to his demise were not primarily considerations related to Israel but rather the exposure of Freeman's many statements apologizing for Saudi and Chinese behavior as well as a whole panoply of foreign policy conflicts.

These included his 12-year chairmanship of the Middle East Policy Council which was a Saudi-funded front group, and his chairmanship of Projects International, a group that represented U.S. business interests in Saudi Arabia and China. Freeman fully supported the repressive government of China. He criticized a Tibet protest against China as a "race riot", and stated that China should have intervened earlier in the Tiananmen Square protests. But the major feature of his support for China was his paid role on the board of a Chinese government-owned oil company that had dealings in Iran. This same Chinese oil company also purchased oil from Sudan while its leaders were overseeing genocide in Darfur. There were no objections from Freeman about any of this

Following the withdrawal, a collective sigh of relief was uttered by those who opposed him. However, it is not yet time to uncork the champagne. For those of us in opposition, we should not expect this problem to disappear. The fact that a group of citizens along with members of Congress mobilized to put pressure on the administration to halt the nomination clearly represents an age-old use of the democratic right to petition government. However, it also opens the door to new charges of pressure from the Israel lobby.

We have heard this before, from Jimmy Carter, Stephen Walt, and John Mearsheimer, from the likes of such hateful demagogues as Norman Finkelstein, and even from Jewish groups such as J Street, who falsely label themselves as pro-Israel. This time, joining the cries of criticism of the so-called "Israel lobby" are many new and surprising names, including Andrew Sullivan, and M.J. Rosenberg of the Israel Policy Forum.

Certain historical events become symbols. The USS Liberty tragic friendly fire incident in 1967 became the casus belli for the anti-Israel zealots and has been so for over 40 years. Now the Freeman case is about to become the poster child for those who preach against the "Israel lobby".

Freeman himself has initiated the process. In a note to Foreign Policy, ABC News has reported that Freeman attacked the Israel lobby, claiming that the destruction of his career "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."

Here are Freeman's words:

"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."

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."

Now what is going on here? Congress, the media, good government organizations, and various special interest groups, have always evaluated candidates for high government office with great scrutiny. In this case as in others, the candidates own words were examined in full context. But as Jake Tapper of ABC News has pointed out, "only in Freeman's case does the nominee make an allegation that a foreign power was lurking nefariously somehow behind it all."

For Freeman, this represents a different and more lucrative kind of career move than the one he had originally expected. He is now following in the footsteps of Jimmy Carter, Ramsey Clark, Charles Lindbergh, and others who have made a profitable career out of travelling the lecture circuit blaming Jews and peddling tales of conspiracy. This is what Richard Hofstadter labeled "the paranoid style in American politics", and it has great appeal for angry minds.

Most Jewish and pro-Israel organizations took no public stance on the nomination, and there was apparently little lobbying of Congress. Nonetheless, Freeman's son, Charles Freeman Jr., a former assistant U.S. Trade Representative for China Affairs., referred to his father's critics as "Israel first-ers" and stated that his father's "appointment is being challenged these days by a small cabal of folks that believe first and foremost in the importance of allegiance to Israel as a core U.S. priority."

An irony in all this is that according to several members of Congress, the concerns about his anti-Israel positions did not and would not stop his official appointment to chair the NIC. Rather, it was Freeman's comments on China and Tibet, and his connections to the Chinese oil company, that finally did him in.

None of Freeman's critics claimed that he was not entitled to hold these opinions on Israel, China and the Middle East. Rather, they claimed he was not entitled to hold these judgments and allegiances and at the same time make official analyses and reach conclusions for the US government on critical intelligence matters.

This raises an age-old question for American Jews. Is it useful to try to prevent this sort of appointment, or will it, as M.J. Rosenberg claims, be dangerous in that it feeds resentment of Jews in official circles? We had a different experience during World War II, when the Roosevelt administration was supported by most of the Jewish community. Opposition to Roosevelt's policies regarding restrictions on intake of the doomed European Jews was virtually non-existent. At that time, the roles of Jimmy Carter, Stephen Walt, and John Mearsheimer, were taken by Charles Lindberg, Henry Ford, and Father Coughlin.

In the 1930s and 1940s Jews were primarily motivated by the fear of creating an anti-Semitic backlash. The prevailing view of the Jewish community was to maintain a low profile and do nothing that might annoy the powers in Washington, (This is the position of M.J. Rosenberg today).

At present, the Jewish community can see the results of a more aggressive posture. We now know the benefits of publicly speaking out, of lobbying, and using our rights as citizens. All indications are that this is a far healthier stance. However, this behavior is about to be tested.