A statement by Chas Freeman

The tactics of the Israel Lobby plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency

To all who supported me or gave me words of encouragement during the controversy of the past two weeks, you have my gratitude and respect.

You will by now have seen the statement by Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair reporting that I have withdrawn my previous acceptance of his invitation to chair the National Intelligence Council.

I have concluded that the barrage of libelous distortions of my record would not cease upon my entry into office. The effort to smear me and to destroy my credibility would instead continue. I do not believe the National Intelligence Council could function effectively while its chair was under constant attack by unscrupulous people with a passionate attachment to the views of a political faction in a foreign country. I agreed to chair the NIC to strengthen it and protect it against politicization, not to introduce it to efforts by a special interest group to assert control over it through a protracted political campaign.

As those who know me are well aware, I have greatly enjoyed life since retiring from government. Nothing was further from my mind than a return to public service. When Admiral Blair asked me to chair the NIC I responded that I understood he was “asking me to give my freedom of speech, my leisure, the greater part of my income, subject myself to the mental colonoscopy of a polygraph, and resume a daily commute to a job with long working hours and a daily ration of political abuse.” I added that I wondered “whether there wasn’t some sort of downside to this offer.” I was mindful that no one is indispensable; I am not an exception. It took weeks of reflection for me to conclude that, given the unprecedentedly challenging circumstances in which our country now finds itself abroad and at home, I had no choice but accept the call to return to public service. I thereupon resigned from all positions that I had held and all activities in which I was engaged. I now look forward to returning to private life, freed of all previous obligations.

I am not so immodest as to believe that this controversy was about me rather than issues of public policy. These issues had little to do with the NIC and were not at the heart of what I hoped to contribute to the quality of analysis available to President Obama and his administration. Still, I am saddened by what the controversy and the manner in which the public vitriol of those who devoted themselves to sustaining it have revealed about the state of our civil society. It is apparent that we Americans cannot any longer conduct a serious public discussion or exercise independent judgment about matters of great importance to our country as well as to our allies and friends.

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.

There is a special irony in having been accused of improper regard for the opinions of foreign governments and societies by a group so clearly intent on enforcing adherence to the policies of a foreign government – in this case, the government of Israel. 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.

The outrageous agitation that followed the leak of my pending appointment 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. I regret that my willingness to serve the new administration has ended by casting doubt on its ability to consider, let alone decide what policies might best serve the interests of the United States rather than those of a Lobby intent on enforcing the will and interests of a foreign government.

In the court of public opinion, unlike a court of law, one is guilty until proven innocent. The speeches from which quotations have been lifted from their context are available for anyone interested in the truth to read. The injustice of the accusations made against me has been obvious to those with open minds. Those who have sought to impugn my character are uninterested in any rebuttal that I or anyone else might make.

Still, for the record: I have never sought to be paid or accepted payment from any foreign government, including Saudi Arabia or China, for any service, nor have I ever spoken on behalf of a foreign government, its interests, or its policies. I have never lobbied any branch of our government for any cause, foreign or domestic. I am my own man, no one else’s, and with my return to private life, I will once again – to my pleasure – serve no master other than myself. I will continue to speak out as I choose on issues of concern to me and other Americans.

I retain my respect and confidence in President Obama and DNI Blair. Our country now faces terrible challenges abroad as well as at home. Like all patriotic Americans, I continue to pray that our president can successfully lead us in surmounting them.

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Comments

  1. delia ruhe says:

    To repeat, sometimes I hate it when I’m right.

  2. While this is a tragic, albeit a brief, moment in Obama’s new presidency so far, it also presents an opportunity to exploit AIPAC by exposing its tactics to the rest of the country. Furthermore, Obama can now use the resignation of Charles Freeman as a bargaining chip with AIPAC in the future.

    I should also note that a report just came out that Iran has no highly enriched uranium. Hence, no need for Freeman, AIPAC already lost that battle!

  3. Christine Stier says:

    I regret that you felt that you had to withdraw from consideration for this post, but I greatly appreciate your powerful statement on the forces which have derailed your appointment. Thank you.

  4. T. McKenna says:

    Mr Freeman
    Thank you so much for this explanation. So many times we hear that an appointee withdraws but we only get pastel answers like “I decided to spend more time with my family”.

    Please do not drop out of the debate. Please continue to shed light on and share your knowledge of the Middle East. There are many who agree with you, and I for one am tired of my country toeing the line of unconditional Israeli allegiance. It is not anti-Semitic to think that Israel can not kill its way to peace. It is not anti-American to disagree with Israeli policy.

  5. Jo Houston says:

    I salute you Mr Freeman. When first hearing of your potential appointment I rejoiced that saner views might now be heard in American foreign policy, and that America itself might re-discover values seemingly long lost. Your withdrawal is a monstrous loss,not only to America, but to the rest of the world.My joy has turned to sadness that the American administration did not have the guts to come out in vigorous support of you against the jackals yapping at your heels.

  6. Salute to you for taking on what you surely knew would be a bloody war of words and regret that there was no voice from the “leadership” on behalf of the american people who deserve to have a clear eyed well schooled man in the NIC seat. Wondering if you’d be willing to explain why you chose to change your term israel lobby to lieberman lobby in a recent Nation article–the lobby’s been around a long time before there was any likud or a liberman to vex…especially after your profoundly honest statements were published and widely circulated?? thought Lowenthal’s WaPo comment that NIC was not that important position, though only later I learned that he himself held that post only a few years earlier. He’s merely another hypocritical tool of T.L. (the lobby) whether called Israel or Lieberman but it’s way bigger than that fanatical Russian bouncer cum Israeli ‘statesman’?…
    Warmest regards and appreciation for your years of public service and leadership. you’re still a hero in my book..!

  7. Kevin Gallagher says:

    Many Americans would readily agree with your position. Unfortunatly most are not even aware of the existence of
    AIPAC and the influence they have on American foreign
    policy. Thank you for speaking out as you did, I am sure
    you raised many and eyebrow and that will hopefully lead to
    a greater awareness by some. Please continue speaking when
    you have the chance, this Country really does need all the
    help it can get at this point.

  8. A great loss to any hope of honest, straightforward dealing with the perrenial mid-east – Israeli-Palestinian crisis. We truly need a fearless pro-American negotiator, with unparalleled credentials to stand up to this unlawful, cabel of powerful hidden persuaders that set the tone and conduct with impunity, our failed foreign policy in this region. Just hope there are avenues still open to Mr. Freeman to get his urgent message accross, so many can wake up to this continual danger.

  9. doug tickner says:

    Mr. Freeman, I had about a dozen Tom Dispatches open at once on my desktop waiting for time to get caught up on reading them, and didn’t actually read “The Freeman Affair” until last night! I’ve been a little caught up with preparations for my first trip to Gaza, going with a Code Pink delegation, leaving SFO 5/26. So sorry this is so after-the-fact. But I did want to write and say well done. When did we not need people to speak their minds, regardless of the consequences, regardless of how impolitic it might be. Thank you for not fading quietly into the background “to spend time with family.” Thank you for your courage, for your honesty, for your integrity. We will always be, I fear, in short supply with men and women of your conviction.