Charles Freeman’s resignation seems like a good thing. After he was appointed to serve as the new Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, the former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia came under criticism from pro-Israel and neoconservative constituencies for negative statements he has made in the past about Israeli policies in the Middle East.
Frankly, Freeman has a right to his views, and there is no question that Middle East politics are more complicated than the black-and-white stereotypes painted by forces on both sides of this long and violent confrontation.
However, it is this very complexity that suggests Freeman isn’t the right choice to serve as one of the nation’s most influential filters of international intelligence, responsible for overseeing the National Intelligence Estimates (reports on the consensus view of the nation’s various intelligence agencies). Freeman’s own assessments of the difficult political environment are anything but nuanced.
Let’s put aside his previous in-your-face assertions denouncing Israel’s policies as “high handed,” “self-defeating,” and “inherently violent.” What’s more telling is that he seems surprised that such public statements would not provoke equally in-your-face responses, and that they would come back to bite him, as they have done in the current controversy over his appointment. He was surprised? Really? And we were thinking of appointing him as one of our Intelligence Czars? What were we thinking?
What shines even brighter light on his resignation as clearly being the right thing, however, is Freeman’s ugly and bitter email denouncing an “Israel Lobby” that ran him out of office. “The aim of this Lobby [the melodramatic capitalization of the word Lobby is in Freeman’s original email] is control of the policy process through the exercise of a veto over the appointment of people who dispute the wisdom of its views.”
Ah, the monolithic Jewish Cabal that really runs this country has run poor Mr. Freeman out of his position at the top of the national security infrastructure because he dared to speak truth to power … I kept waiting for him to suggest that the Israel Lobby was behind our current financial chaos, profiting off of the misery of good Christians (and Muslims?) everywhere, but he evidently restrained himself, somewhat.
The irony of Freeman’s rant is that he is criticizing an alleged Israel Lobby that prevented him from speaking his truth. But there was no “Lobby.” As Walter Pincus’s article in the Washington Post makes clear, there was only the debate within the blogosphere — that damnable, all-controlling blogosphere again! It’s everybody’s favorite boogeyman.
What is the blogosphere but the chatter of American democracy? Did neocon and other blogs supportive of Israel come to vein-bulging life at the thought of Freeman’s management of the National Intelligence Council? Of course they did. Freeman made sure of that with his previous comments. But is Freeman suggesting that they have no right to disagree with his views? Isn’t that what he is allegedly decrying — the tendency of the other side to not want to hear his view?
By denouncing the perfectly legitimate views of a segment of American society that happens to disagree with him, and attempting to paint such views as the sinister workings of a powerful “Lobby” that controls Washington, Freeman was attempting to do exactly what he was accusing others of trying to do: stifle debate rather than encourage an open and vigorous exchange of views.
The difference is that Freeman was attempting to become one of the gatekeepers of American intelligence. Ironically, he was in one of those positions of power that really can influence policy.