Is it not a strange blindness on our part to teach publicly the techniques of warfare and to reward with medals those who prove to be the most adroit killers?
Marquis de Sade
Original Blog US Casualties Contact Donate

March 20, 2009

The Pillorying of Charles Freeman and America's Loss

by Leon Hadar

Washington has been riveted for a few weeks by one of those inside-the-beltway political spectacles that usually doesn't get much attention in the world press: Charles ("Chas") Freeman, a former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia and former deputy chief of mission in Beijing, was named last month as chairman of the National Intelligence Council (NIC).

Citing Mr. Freeman's "diverse background in defense, diplomacy and intelligence," the new director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, noted that the retired ambassador would be ideally suited to serve in a position involving the collection and analysis of intelligence from 16 US agencies and compiling them into National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs). Mr. Freeman, it was noted, was the principal interpreter during President Richard Nixon's first visit to China in 1972. But then all hell broke loose.

Reports of Mr. Freeman's nomination were met with an avalanche of condemnation from a number of commentators, including neoconservative bloggers who alleged that Mr. Freeman had personal and business ties in China and Saudi Arabia and questioned his ability to produce objective intelligence estimates on issues relating to US policy in East Asia and the Middle East.

Leading Chinese dissidents wrote a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to reconsider Mr. Freeman's appointment. House of Representative Speaker Nancy Pelosi was reported to be "incensed" by Mr. Freeman's alleged comments that excused the behavior of the Chinese government during of the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations. She reportedly urged President Obama to reconsider the selection.

Mr. Freeman explained that the remarks had been taken out of context and that his words had represented "his assessment of how Chinese leaders had seen things."

Unmoved, Republican Representative Frank Wolf wrote in the Washington Post: "For me, the warning flags about Charles Freeman went up when I learned of his questionable associations and inflammatory statements about China and Tibet." Mr. Wolf noted that Mr. Freeman had served on the advisory board of the China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC), receiving US$10,000 a year for his service for four years. Mr. Freeman had also chaired the Middle East Policy Council, a Washington-based research organization that has received some financial assistance from Saudi Arabia.

In the event, following the nasty campaign orchestrated by several pro-Israeli lawmakers and columnists, Mr. Freeman decided to withdraw his nomination from consideration last week. His decision deprived President Obama of the services of a very original thinker who could have provided his administration with balanced creative ideas about global affairs.

But what is no less disturbing is the notion that having business ties with the Chinese (or the Saudi) companies or receiving money from the Chinese (or the Saudi) government somewhat "compromises" and disqualifies one from serving in a top position in the US government.

That criteria would certainly make it impossible for many leading American business executives who trade with, and invest in, China (and Saudi Arabia) as well as top academics and other professionals who have been invited as guests by the Chinese (or Saudi) government from joining the US government.

Moreover, Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Wolf and other critics of the Freeman nomination should perhaps take into consideration the fact that the huge economic stimulus and Wall Street bailout packages that Congress has approved recently are going to be financed by the US dollars that the Chinese (and the Saudis) are investing in ever-growing American debt.

Ironically, on the same week that Mr. Freeman was being criticized for his ties with China, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao was expressing concern about the safety of China's US$1 trillion investment in US Treasury bonds and other debt, the world's largest such holding. Mr. Wen urged the US to provide assurances that Beijing's investment would keep its value in the face of a global financial crisis.

Mr. Wen's comments may have been politically timed, being made following a well-publicized naval game of chicken between a US vessel and several Chinese boats in the South China Sea. But that doesn't change the fact that the ailing American economy remains alive and well partly thanks to the infusion of money from China (and Saudi Arabia). And, by the way, Israeli government agencies and private companies do a lot of business in China.

It takes a lot of chutzpah on the part of American politicians and pundits to try to burnish their credentials as world class humanitarians at a time when they show up with their battered tin cup as first-class beggars asking for donations.

Copyright © 2009 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved.

comments on this article?

  • The Pillorying of Charles Freeman and America's Loss

  • The Return of Realist Interventionism

  • Islam and the West:
    The Myth of the Green Peril

  • Israel's Not-So-Future Perfect

  • Beware of Big Ideas

  • Peace Not Near on Middle East's 'Time Horizon'

  • Who Lost the Middle East?

  • Military Humanitarianism Won't Help Myanmar

  • Need a (Nuclear) Umbrella? Call Hillary

  • Futile Surges and Bailouts

  • The Pitfalls of Forecasting Foreign Policy

  • Balance of Power Is Continuing to Shift From the US

  • Bye, Bye Tora Bora; Hello Subprime Mortgages

  • Neocons Won't Let Facts Stand in the Way of Iran 'Threat'

  • The Mideast Strategic- Consensus Fantasy

  • Look Who's Downplaying Iran's Nuclear Threat

  • US Cannot Force Regime Change in Pakistan

  • The Tunnel at the
    End of the Light

  • When Reel Tales Rewrite
    Real History

  • The Costs of Isolating Myanmar

  • The Surge Scam: Getting Rid of the Goat

  • Dangerous Delusions

  • Hayek's Insights Apply to Iraq War as Well

  • Time to Ignore the Middle East?

  • The Wolfowitz Touch – or How to Lose US Credibility

  • Iraq War May End With an Isolationist US

  • The Bush Legacy:
    Headed for Hisses?

  • Another Victim of the Anti-Neocon Revolution?

  • Is Washington Being Sidelined on the Middle East?

  • The Axis of Evil: And Then There Was One

  • Listen to the Foxes, Not Hedgehogs, on Iraq

  • Expanding the War to Iran: Another 'Urban Legend'?

  • A Military 'Surge' to a
    Political Nowhere

  • Brace Yourself for 2007

  • The Right Men, the Wrong President

  • The Baker-Hamilton Recommendations: Too Little, Too Late?

  • A Losing War, a Failed President, a Weak Dollar: We've Been Here Before

  • Rumors of Neoconservatism's Death Exaggerated

  • Live by the Sword, Die by the Sword

  • Can Jim Baker Save the American Establishment?

  • The Humbling of the Hegemon

  • A New Kind of Neocon?

  • US-Iran Shootout Is Inevitable

  • Has the Hegemon Been Humbled in Lebanon?

  • And the Loser Is... Everyone

  • Playing Cowboy – and Falling Off the Horse

  • Baghdad, Beirut, Doha

  • The US Can't Run the Show in the Middle East

  • 'Birth Pangs of a
    New Middle East'?

  • All Hell Breaks Loose in the Middle East

  • Is Anyone Still Listening to the Flaming Bush?

  • Israel's Failed Strategy: The Writing Is on the Wall

  • Nationalism: The Last Refuge of the Political Loser

  • The Ever Elusive 'Tipping Point' in Iraq

  • US Stumbles Onto Road to Diplomacy With Iran

  • Iraq Like Water Off a Duck's Back to Bush, Blair

  • Why Can't the US Apply Its New North Korea Policy to Iran?

  • US-Iran Ties: Is the Pen Mightier Than the Sword?

  • Bush's Slow Race
    in the Last Lap

  • If Only Bill Gates
    Made Foreign Policy

  • The War on Terror Is Over,
    and China Won

  • From the China Lobby to the Israel Lobby

  • 'Democratizing' Iran:
    A Case of Déjà Vu

  • Muddling Through

  • Saying Good Bye to Dubai; Bidding Adieu to Globalization?
  • Leon Hadar is the author of Sandstorm: Policy Failure in the Middle East (Palgrave Macmillan). He is the former United Nations bureau chief for the Jerusalem Post and is currently the Washington correspondent for the Singapore Business Times. Visit his blog.

    Reproduction of material from any original Antiwar.com pages
    without written permission is strictly prohibited.
    Copyright 2017 Antiwar.com