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Obama Caves to Israel Lobby

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On Tuesday morning Director of National Intelligence, Admiral Dennis Blair, employed the indicative mood in describing the high value that Chas Freeman, his appointee to head the National Intelligence Council (NIC), will bring to the job—“his long experience and inventive mind,” for example.  By five o’clock in the afternoon, Freeman announced that he had asked that his selection “not proceed.”

Not one to mince words, Freeman spelled out the strange set of affairs surrounding the flip-flop and the implications of what had just happened.  Borrowing the pointed warning from George Washington’s Farewell Address against developing a “passionate attachment” to the strategic goals of another nation, Freeman made it clear that he was withdrawing his “previous acceptance” of Blair’s invitation to chair the NIC because of the character assassination of him orchestrated by the Israel Lobby.

The implications?  Freeman was clear:

“The outrageous agitation…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...[It casts} doubt on its ability to consider, let alone decide what policies might best serve the United States rather than those of a Lobby intent on enforcing the will and interests of a foreign government…

“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…and the exclusion of any and all options for decision by Americans and our government other than those it [the Lobby] favors.”

Foreign policy analyst Chris Nelson described the imbroglio as a reflection of the “deadly power game on what level of support for controversial Israeli government policies is a ‘requirement’ for U.S. public office.”  Before the flip-flop on Freeman was announced, Nelson warned, “If Obama surrenders to the critics and orders Blair to rescind the Freeman appointment, it is difficult to see how he can properly exercise leverage, when needed, in his conduct of policy in the Middle East.  That, literally, is how the experts see the stakes in the fight now under way.”

The fight is now over.

Schadenfreude

Sen. Chuck Schumer, (D-New York) led Lobby boasting just minutes after the Freeman debacle was announced.  Schumer was clear:  “His [Freeman’s] statements against Israel were way over the top…I repeatedly urged the White House to reject him, and I am glad they did the right thing.”

And, as Glen Greenwald has noted, “Lynch mob leader Jonathan Chait [of the New Republic and author of a recent Washington Post op-ed on the subject], who spent the last week denying that Israel was the driving force behind the attacks on Freeman,” now concedes the obvious.

Greenwald quotes Chait:  “Of course I recognize that the Israel Lobby is powerful, and was a key element in the pushback against Freeman.”

Neoconservative Daniel Pipes offered an anatomy of the crime, blog-bragging about how it was conducted:

“What you may not know is that Steven J. Rosen of the Middle East forum was the person who first brought attention [on February 19] to the problematic nature of Freeman’s appointment…Within hours, the word was out and three weeks later Freeman has conceded defeat.  Only someone with Steve’s stature and credibility could have made this happen.”

The same Steve Rosen?  The same one who is currently on trial for violations of the Espionage Act involving the transmission of classified information intended for Israel?  Yes, one and the same!  This has to be the purest brand of gall that ever came down the Pipes.

This “morning after,” I find myself wondering when White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel—another staunch supporter of the Lobby who reportedly was Schumer’s go-to guy on the get-Freeman campaign—saw fit to let Admiral Blair in on the little secret that no way could he have Freeman.  And why Blair tucked tail.

In a March 8 letter to Admiral Blair, we Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) endorsed his appointment of Freeman and decried the campaign to derail it. We seven signatories (with cumulative experience of 130 years) noted that the Freeman case was the first time we witnessed such a well-coordinated campaign to reverse the appointment of an official to an intelligence job not requiring Senate confirmation.

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Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for 27 years, and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). His (more...)
 

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