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 above quote is from Ambassador Charles ("Chas.") Freeman's email to his friends explaining why he withdrew from the nomination to be the head of the National Intelligence Council. The full text of the email is here.
I have heard Ambassador Freeman on numerous occasions speak about foreign affairs, have read his speeches, and have heard him interviewed on a few occasions on Ian Masters' "Background Briefing" and "Live from the Left Coast" (a two hour radio show broadcast on KPFK in Los Angeles on Sunday mornings, 11-1 Pacific Time. It is much more valuable than all the Sunday current affairs shows.) You may not always agree with Freeman, but the man is a straight talker. He calls an occupation an occupation, an attack an attack, a charade a charade.
It is laudable that he was asked by Admiral Dennis Blair to lead the Council. However, it is very disappointing to find that the "team of rivals" concept that the President touted as he was preparing to enter office has not been put into practical application in this case. President Obama would have been well-served by national intelligence estimates prepared by a group with Freeman at the head. However, as Freeman so clearly states in his email, his tenure on the Council would have been less than efficacious given the constant second-guessing and criticism that would have attended every report. It is a good thing, however, that we have seen the Israeli Lobby once again in action, especially since the attacks on Freeman have been lead by a former executive of AIPAC, Steve Rosen, who has been indicted and is awaiting trial on charges that he spied for Israel. (For more on the extent of Israeli spying, see James Bamford's latest, The Shadow Factory, and this comprehensive, well documented essay by Christopher Ketcham, "Breaking the Taboo on Israel's Spying Efforts on the United States.")
We will continue to see the influential fingers of the Israeli Government and its supporters in our politics until one of these days Americans will understand that both houses of the legislative branch are beholden to another government, and so cowardly that the vast majority will not take the necessary steps to throw off the undue influence, while a vociferous minority will toady to the lobby and do their bidding. The day will come when those fingers will be bitten off. For now we have to follow these events carefully and keep the history as accurately as we can.