Charles Freeman is a problem for Obama

world | Mar 03, 2009 | By Shoshana Bryen

Charles “Chas” Freeman is an appalling choice for Chairman of the National Intelligence Council. As president of the Saudi-funded Middle East Policy Council, Mr. Freeman functions as lobbyist, making his analysis suspect. And his analysis is, in any event, appalling. Gabriel Schoenfeld, in The Wall Street Journal’s “Opinion Journal,” reveals a once private 2006 Freeman internet post that Schoenfeld says “was provided to me by a former member” of a private site. Freeman is said to have written of the 1989 Chinese massacre in Tiananmen Square:

The truly unforgivable mistake of the Chinese authorities was the failure to intervene on a timely basis to nip the demonstrations in the bud… I do not believe it is acceptable for any country to allow the heart of its national capital to be occupied by dissidents intent on disrupting the normal functions of government, however appealing to foreigners their propaganda may be.

What he has written about Israel, and reprinted from Walt and Meerscheim, is suspect because of his financial ties to the Saudis and appalling in its inability to differentiate between a Western democratic ally under siege from a combination of terrorists and the states that harbor and support them, and those very states and terrorist organizations. This is a problem he shares with Samantha Power at the NSC.

Which is why this is not exactly about Chas Freeman – who is entitled to make a living, even as a functional Saudi lobbyist, and who is entitled to be an appalling analyst.

This is about the President who has chosen him to be Chairman of the body that is “a center of strategic thinking within the US Government,” according to the NIC website. It produces, among other documents, National Intelligence Estimates – like the one that so thoroughly bungled the 2007 evaluation of Iran’s nuclear program that our European allies took a walk on us.

It is a crucial appointment and one that, like those of Power and Robert Malley at the NSC and “informal advisor” Zbigniew Brzezinski, is not subject to Senate Confirmation, making the calls to “action” by some Jewish and other organizations meaningless. Action by whom? Do they expect the President to say, “Oh, right. I shouldn’t have these people around.?” These people represent the President’s thinking on foreign policy.

Coupled with Secretary of State Clinton’s decision not to mention human rights in China; President Obama’s offer to find areas in which the US and Iran could cooperate; Vice President Biden’s desire to “reset” relations with Russia, while the Russians upset the supply of natural gas across Europe in the middle of winter; offering $900 million for Gaza without requiring any changes from Hamas or UNRWA; and overtures to Syria just as the UN tribunal is convening on the Hariri murder, there is an appalling pattern here of affinity for “stable” dictators at the expense of sometimes messy, democratic friends.

To many, it must surely seem appalling that a Democratic administration has wandered so far away from or deliberately scorned the Henry “Scoop” Jackson legacy of a strong American defense capability, close relations with our democratic allies and a serious commitment to human rights.

If the President wants Freeman,, he will have Freeman, et. al, but a price will be paid by America in places where people looked to us for hope.

Cutting Edge Commentator Shoshona Bryen is Senior Director for policy at the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. She can be found at



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