Checking In From the Caribbean

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Thanks to my fellow TWN posters for covering the blog while I am on a vacation out of the United States.
I have stopped in Haiti, sailed by Cuba — where I really wanted to stop — and am in the Dominican Republic today.
I just got word that Chas Freeman has resigned as Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, yielding to the attacks on him. This is unfortunate news as it is going to yield a new, long-running battle over what “patriotism” to US national interests means. Is loyalty to Israeli preferences and interests a litmus test for a political appointment?
This will be a big battle and while Freeman has been the first big victim in this struggle for the soul of American foreign policy, I suspect that there will be a slew of similar battles ahead and any Congressman or Senator who regularly puts Israel’s interests before American interests could be in for some rough times.
More later — back to learning what colonialism and slavery did to these islands.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

15 comments on “Checking In From the Caribbean

  1. Carroll says:

    Joe Klein at his Time blog has a good point.
    Tuesday, March 10, 2009 at 8:23 pm
    “Assassination”
    Posted by Joe Klein
    Comments (69) | Permalink | Trackbacks (6) | Email This
    Chas Freeman has withdrawn his name from consideration as the chairman of the National Intelligence Council. His withdrawal statement is relayed here by Laura Rozen in all its pugnacious glory. The guy goes out with guns blazing–a bit too hot, for my taste. He pins his departure on “the Israel Lobby,” which is imprecise. He was the victim of a mob, not a lobby. The mob was composed primarily of Jewish neoconservatives–abetted by less than courageous public servants like Senator Chuck Schumer, who has publicly taken credit for the hit. This was his statement:
    “Charles Freeman was the wrong guy for this position. His statements against Israel were way over the top and severely out of step with the administration. I repeatedly urged the White House to reject him, and I am glad they did the right thing.”
    Freeman’s most important point in his statement is this one:
    I believe that 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.
    Barack Obama should take note. The thugs have taken out Chas Freeman. They will not rest. Their real target is you, Mr. President.”

    Reply

  2. Carroll says:

    “This is unfortunate news as it is going to yield a new, long-running battle over what “patriotism” to US national interests means. Is loyalty to Israeli preferences and interests a litmus test for a political appointment?”
    I agree with Paul, this is not only not unfortunate but is in fact very good news.
    Not too long ago on TWN we had many,many discussions “about having” a discussion on exactly what America fundementals should be and what it’s real interest are. The Israeli fetish at work in US government is part of that discussion so in the words George Jr…bring it on.
    A word also to those who express fear that Israel, the Lobby and assorted Israeli minons are increasing ‘anti semitism’ with their actions.
    By describing negative attitudes toward Israel and US Jews involved with Israel as “the rise of anti semitism” you are playing into the hands of those very people who use the anti semitism to dodge the debate and as a justification for what they do and you continue the echo.
    It does not matter if it is Jews, Buddhist, Methodist or Communist or Quakers who are undermining the US and corrupting our foreign policy..the resentment of any such group or individuals among the public would be the same regardless.
    We need to be very clear and precise about what this is, what is happening and what is and is not anti semitic. If not, you will not be able to present or argue the American political point of view effectively.

    Reply

  3. jlo says:

    Steven Walt is not nearly as sanguine as Steve about the ramifications of this for US policy in the region. His words: “Bottom line: Caving on Freeman was a blunder that could come back to haunt any subsequent effort to address the deteriorating situation in the region.” ( http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2009/03/11/on_chas_freemans_withdrawal )
    Hyperbole or not on Walt’s part, I have to agree that this is a bigger defeat than most “well-placed” sources in the administration are willing to admit.

    Reply

  4. Paul Norheim says:

    DonS,
    thanks for you kind words.
    You say: “Your positive spin that Freeman’s plight is “good
    news” isn’t fully resonating with me, maybe because I am not
    viewing it “from abroad”. I must say this issue caught my
    attention because of the open and public way in which the
    Lobby went right for the gut, and led by a guy indicted for
    espionage against the US for God’s sake; doesn’t get much more
    in-your-face than that. If there is to be a change in political
    orientation away from Israeli-centrism, I don’t see it happening
    quickly. But I do fear the very thing the dishonest criticism of
    Freeman has implied, a rise of anti-Semitism.”
    After reading your comment, I realized that my assessment may
    have been too optimistic. The espionage affair unfortunately
    makes the whole affair a double edged sword, and the outcomes
    of a debate is rather unpredictable – possibly also damaging
    innocent Jews, not responsible whatsoever.

    Reply

  5. Pacos_gal says:

    On the whole I agree with you DonS that it might get a bit tough for some people who supported this. I don’t know that I would go so far as to say it will spark a rise of Anti-Semitism, but I think you can expect a rise of Anti-Israeli.
    Kathleen G, Andrew Sullivan put up a time line on the Freeman issue a few days ago, it’s missing some of the recent activities, but has the things from back at the beginning with Laura Rozen and the response by Steve Rosen.
    http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/03/a-freeman-time.html
    Steve, enjoy your vacation. We were just in Dominican in January, loved the warmer weather.

    Reply

  6. DonS says:

    Hello Paul, sorry that nasty flu put you out of commission and I hope you mend fully and soon. Your voice was missed.
    Your positive spin that Freeman’s plight is “good news” isn’t fully resonating with me, maybe because I am not viewing it “from abroad”. I must say this issue caught my attention because of the open and public way in which the Lobby went right for the gut, and led by a guy indicted for espionage against the US for God’s sake; doesn’t get much more in-your-face than that. If there is to be a change in political orientation away from Israeli-centrism, I don’t see it happening quickly. But I do fear the very thing the dishonest criticism of Freeman has implied, a rise of anti-Semitism. Israel has played for all the marbles, all the time, using the specter of the Halocaust and the specter of Anti-Semitism as its chief weapon. US political apologists have adopted the approach. There is a price to pay for that kind of manipulation, albeit it the current generation of manipulators will point the finger elsewhere.
    I don’t necessarily agree with Steve’s assessment, that Wig wag critiques. I think it could be a lot nastier than ruffling some Congresscritter’s feathers.

    Reply

  7. JamesL says:

    RE Freeman and the Zinni mention via Kathleen:
    If Obama is not to be driven by events, he needs to draw an effective distinction between “hostile to” and “critical of”. Doing it “later” is just digging the hold deeper. There are a multitude of good reasons to be critical of Israeli government policies. America’s security and best interests are not served by Israel directing US policy. It is increasingly clear that the opposite is true: the Israeli government’s direction is harmful to the US and at odds with the most cherished American ideals.
    Google Israeli technological and military espionage on the US for a refresher.
    It’s time for Obama to step out on this. He should renew his request of Freeman to take the NIC post. At the specific request of the President, why shouldn’t Freeman do it? Any way you cut it there is going to be Israeli objections to anything they don’t like. There is no later here.

    Reply

  8. WigWag says:

    “I suspect that there will be a slew of similar battles ahead and any Congressman or Senator who regularly puts Israel’s interests before American interests could be in for some rough times.”
    I hope you are enjoying your vacation but a little more modesty in your predictions might be called for. After all, this is what you said in a post about Chas Freeman on February 25th, (10:14PM)
    “I think Steve Rosen’s chances of flipping Chas Freeman are pretty much nil.”

    Reply

  9. Kathleen G says:

    Steve “Is loyalty to Israeli preferences and interests a litmus test for a political appointment?”
    Obviously the litmus test and Freeman did not pass. Wondering if you will be checking into those “easily traceable” emails that Mr. Freeman referred to?
    Steve wondering if you could/would look into what Phillip giraldi claimed that Zinni was a victim of this litmus test also.
    He had an article at American Conservative
    “have been informed by a State Department contact that Zinni was rejected after Clinton came under pressure from some major supporters in New York State who told her that the appointment was unacceptable to Israel because Zinni is perceived as “hostile” to the Jewish state. Zinni has, indeed, been critical of Israel on a number of occasions. Another source in the intelligence community has told me that Zinni was perceived as bad for Israel’s security because Israel regards Iraq as a “front line state” in its confrontation with Iran. If Israel were to attack Iran it would need overflight approval over Iraq, something that Zinni would be unlikely to approve, possibly even submitting his resignation to stop such a development. It is not clear if Hill would necessarily be more amenable, but as a career diplomat not known for being outspoken or independent minded he would be unlikely to rock the boat if Washington wanted to look the other way to enable an Israeli attack.
    Whither Zinnihttp://www.amconmag.com/blog/2009/02/10/whither-zinni/

    Reply

  10. ... says:

    mainstream media in the usa circa 2009.. the dumbing down of americans continues…
    quote from Philip Weiss
    A nominee for a high intelligence position bows out of the job under fierce political attack and issues a blistering statement that the Israel lobby is endangering our national security by smearing anybody who disagrees with it and the Washington Post prints a long piece about his exit and says nothing about his assertions!

    Reply

  11. Paul Norheim says:

    Steve, you have a certain way of formulating ambiguous messages
    that seem designated to provoke debate. But OK, I`ll bite:
    “This is unfortunate news as it is going to yield a new, long-
    running battle over what “patriotism” to US national interests
    means.”
    From abroad, I see this as good news. I hope Freeman`s
    resignation will help triggering a long and fierce battle, since
    there is no way to avoid this discussion – if you care about US
    interests and an improved situation in the Middle East.
    But you knew that some of the commenters here would say
    something along those lines, didn´t you?

    Reply

  12. ... says:

    paul norheim – nice to see you back! hope you had a good holiday…

    Reply

  13. Dan Kervick says:

    With apologies for redundancy, I will just cross-post something I wrote on Stephen Walt’s blog:
    _________________
    My chief concern is the message this withdrawal sends to Israel and to global capitals about Obama’s political weakness. In recent months, we have seen a bloodbath and continuing blockade in Gaza followed by the Israeli public’s stunning lurch to the right and election of a government likely headed by the rejectionist Netanyahu, and featuring the radical nationalist Lieberman. Now, no one who knows how this world works expects the United States government actually to sanction or isolate Israel the way it sanctioned and isolated the Palestinians, for example, when the latter elected a government we did not like. But you would think the administration could at least get its act together to send a strong signal of disapprobation with a visible move toward a somewhat firmer line on Israeli intransigence – a signal such as Chas Freeman at NIC.
    But the world just got instead a loud and clear signal that no matter how far Israel lurches to the right, or how intransigent and brutal their policies become, they still get a veto over executive branch appointments in the United States. This is bound to encourage and empower Netanyahu and Lieberman in moving their odious agenda forward. And leaders around the world looking for evidence that Obama will be able to extricate himself from the paralyzing constraints of US domestic politics, and step up to exert global leadership in the Middle East, just found out the US is still struggling with its constricted politics, and is still stuck in the muck of its long-running Middle East quagmire.

    Reply

  14. Cee says:

    Nelson Report Says Freeman Foes Distorting China Memo
    March 9, 2009
    It’s quite clear that a major battle has erupted over the appointment of Chas Freeman as chairman of the National Intelligence Council (NIC), which, among other things, is charged with putting together the consensus judgments, called National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) on key issues of the 16 agencies that make up the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC). Today, in what was described as upping the ante, the seven Republican members of the Senate Intelligence Committee expressed their “surprise” at the appointment in a letter to the man who appointed Freeman, Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Adm. Dennis Blair, and threatening to “devote even more oversight scrutiny to the activities of the NIC under (Freeman’s) leadership.” (The wording — and the fact that the seven didn’t mention the alleged conflict of interest regarding Freeman’s ties to Saudi Arabia, but only his “highly controversial statements about China and Israel” — suggested to me that they believe that Blair has no intention of seeking Freeman’s withdrawal, which is perhaps an overly hopeful interpretation on my part.)
    http://www.antiwar.com/blog/2009/03/09/nelson-report-says-freeman-foes-distorting-china-memo/

    Reply

  15. ... says:

    Is loyalty to Israeli preferences and interests a litmus test for a political appointment?
    apparently it is.. if you challenge any of it, the possibility of being labeled anti-semite is very strong…
    american politicians are really quite pathetic in their unquestioning devotion to israel… need they to be challenged on this around voting time when americans have the ‘one’ chance to do anything about it…

    Reply

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