The Attacks On Chas Freeman

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The rhetoric is intensifying. Freeman is called "savage", "shameless", and a "rabid Israel-hater" by National Review. The general term used on the neocon right is "abomination". Chuck Schumer has now contacted Rahm Emmanuel to express his misgivings. At least Schumer is honest:

“It was in a phone call to Rahm,” the source says, adding that Chuck expressed reservations about Freeman’s positions on Israel. “It was about Freeman’s positions on the Middle East.”

I see no reason why Freeman should not be thoroughly vetted and if there are financial conflicts of interest that make it impossible for him to be an effective and even-handed head of the National Intelligence Council, he should withdraw. But none of that is established yet and, as most of the neocon attackers have freely admitted, Freeman was originally targeted not for these reasons but because he has actually criticized the recent policies of the state of Israel in blunt terms.

He published a version of the Walt-Mearsheimer essay. He makes John Derbyshire seem like a bleeding heart on China. Then this:

In a fall 2007 speech to the Pacific Council on International Policy Freeman said:

"In retrospect, Al Qaeda has played us with the finesse of a matador exhausting a great bull by guiding it into unproductive lunges at the void behind his cape. By invading Iraq, we transformed an intervention in Afghanistan most Muslims had supported into what looks to them like a wider war against Islam. We destroyed the Iraqi state and catalyzed anarchy, sectarian violence, terrorism, and civil war in that country. Meanwhile, we embraced Israel’s enemies as our own; they responded by equating Americans with Israelis as their enemies. We abandoned the role of Middle East peacemaker to back Israel’s efforts to pacify its captive and increasingly ghettoized Arab populations. We wring our hands while sitting on them as the Jewish state continues to seize ever more Arab land for its colonists."

A simple question: how is this not at least a legitimate if debatable reading of what has happened under the disastrous policies of the last seven years? Why are these views disqualifying for office in the Obama administration?

The entire piece is evidence, as my colleague Jeffrey Goldberg has it, of "hostility to Israel." It is only such, it seems to me, if all criticism of what Israel does is evidence of a desire that it be extinguished or weakened. But Freeman is clear that he believes these policies have weakened Israel as well. And he is surely right that the merging of the American and Israeli security apparatus under Bush has ruined any credibility that the US has as an honest broker in the region. That matters - and if Obama does not change it, he will not be successful in the region. And neither will Israel.

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