Saudi/Manchurian candidate unexpurgated

Yesterday I noted Walter Pincus’s Washington Post article on the withdrawal of Chas Freeman from his appointment as National Intelligence Council chairman. Pincus provided an incredibly expurgated account of Freeman’s parting shot. According to Pincus, the rap on Freeman derived from “questions about his impartiality.”

Here was Pincus’s account of Freeman’s parting shot:

In an e-mail sent to friends yesterday evening, Freeman said he had concluded the attacks on him would not end once he was in office and that he did not believe the NIC “could function effectively while its chair was under constant attack.” He wrote that those who questioned his background employed “selective misquotation, the willful distortion of the record . . . and an utter disregard for the truth.”

Such attacks, he said, “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.” And he said he regretted that his withdrawal may cause others to doubt the administration’s latitude in such matters.

One would never know from the article that Freeman ascribed his withdrawal to “unscrupulous people with a passionate attachment to the views of a political faction in a foreign country,” to “a special interest group,” to “a powerful lobby determined to prevent any view other than its own from being aired,” to “the Israel Lobby,” to “a group so clearly intent on enforcing adherence to the policies of a foreign government – in this case, the government of Israel,” or to any of the other variations Freeman worked into his statement.

Readers who rely on the Washington Post for their news must have been somewhat surprised by today’s excellent Washington Post editorial on Freeman’s withdrawal. The Post editorial examines the portions of Freeman’s statement that were expurgated in Pincus’s account:

Mr. Freeman issued a two-page screed on Tuesday in which he described himself as the victim of a shadowy and sinister “Lobby” whose “tactics plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency” and which is “intent on enforcing adherence to the policies of a foreign government.” Yes, Mr. Freeman was referring to Americans who support Israel — and his statement was a grotesque libel.

How could the Post’s coverage of Freeman’s withdrawal have overlooked this “grotesque libel”? The Post’s editorial doesn’t address that question, but it does usefully challenge the factual basis of Freeman’s heartbreaking complaint that the Jews did him in:

For the record, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee says that it took no formal position on Mr. Freeman’s appointment and undertook no lobbying against him. If there was a campaign, its leaders didn’t bother to contact the Post editorial board. According to a report by Newsweek, Mr. Freeman’s most formidable critic — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — was incensed by his position on dissent in China.

But let’s consider the ambassador’s broader charge: He describes “an inability of the American public to discuss, or the government to consider, any option for U.S. policies in the Middle East opposed by the ruling faction in Israeli politics.” That will certainly be news to Israel’s “ruling faction,” which in the past few years alone has seen the U.S. government promote a Palestinian election that it opposed; refuse it weapons it might have used for an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities; and adopt a policy of direct negotiations with a regime that denies the Holocaust and that promises to wipe Israel off the map. Two Israeli governments have been forced from office since the early 1990s after open clashes with Washington over matters such as settlement construction in the occupied territories.

What’s striking about the charges by Mr. Freeman and like-minded conspiracy theorists is their blatant disregard for such established facts. Mr. Freeman darkly claims that “it is not permitted for anyone in the United States” to describe Israel’s nefarious influence. But several of his allies have made themselves famous (and advanced their careers) by making such charges — and no doubt Mr. Freeman himself will now win plenty of admiring attention. Crackpot tirades such as his have always had an eager audience here and around the world. The real question is why an administration that says it aims to depoliticize U.S. intelligence estimates would have chosen such a man to oversee them.

Kudos to the Post’s editors for calling Chas Freeman out on the “crackpot tirade” that their crack political reporter somehow missed.

PAUL adds: The Post’s effort is a good candidate for editorial of the year.

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