Bird writes, "The scurrilous campaign against the leading American diplomat on China and the Middle East, leading to the voluntary withdrawal of his name, may have been a blunder of strategic proportions for Israel and her lobby in the United States. We have been witnessing the awesome exchanges between supporters for Ambassador Chas Freeman and AIPAC legmen for the past few days. Our judgment is that the great American desire to be fair and morally balanced is winning out as usual."
Bird asks, "The question is can American Intelligence estimates on Israel and her neighbors ever be trusted again? The Freeman incident is far worse than the incident involving Valerie Plame and her husband Ambassador Joe Wilson in the run up to the Iraq war in 2003. We know now that Israeli intelligence in all probability worked with Italian intelligence to mislead America, the world and Secretary Colin Powell regarding yellow cake uranium from Niger. The Freeman incident will have a much broader effect than how America went to war on behalf of Israel in Iraq with no exit strategy and little thought to the consequences. How can the Obama intelligence estimates so far as the Middle East is concerned, ever be trusted?"
David Broder a Pulitzer Prize-winning political reporter, writes in the Washington Post that "Blair [Director of National Intelligence] said that the White House told him that if he wanted Freeman, he'd have to fight for him himself. When I asked the White House on Tuesday if Obama supported Freeman, a National Security Council spokesman said he would check, but he never got back to me. Freeman vanished without a squawk from Obama."
Harvard Professor Stephen Walt, co-author of The Israel Lobby wrote about the Freeman incident this week in Foreign Policy, "It is one thing to pander to various special interest groups while you're running for office -- everyone expects that sort of thing -- but it's another thing to let a group of bullies push you around in the first fifty days of your administration."
Bird concludes, "Israel and her lobby may have won a pyrrhic victory but the real loser is America, Israel and final Middle East peace process that we all so desperately need. This is not the end of this incident. It uncovered the deep fissures in American Middle East policymaking."
Freeman's frustration at his shameful treatment is clearly evident in the defiant statement published in Foreign Policy.
"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....
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. "
"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."
Read the whole of Freeman's response here.
Freeman's description of the tactics used against him sound remarkably familiar this side of the Pond. They "... include character assassination, selective misquotation, the willful distortion of the record, the fabrication of falsehoods, and an utter disregard for the truth."
In an interview with Robert Dreyfuss published in The Nation Freeman adds,
"What it shows is that despite efforts by the ‘Lieberman lobby' to make it seem like members of the American Jewish community speak with one voice, on behalf of Liebermanesque policies in Israel, in fact the American Jewish community has a broad diversity of opinion, and a good deal of it, maybe a majority, doesn't agree with this particular perspective and feels terribly afraid that it can't speak out without being trashed. So you're either anti-Semitic or you're a self-hating Jew. Either way it's an awful accusation to have to endure."
And frankly, its no different this side of the Atlantic.
Stephen Zunes, is professor of politics and chair of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco. Writing in Foreign Policy in Focus, Zunes concludes "Obama apparently didn't order Freeman's appointment to be rescinded. But Obama's refusal to come to Freeman's defense will make it all the more difficult for the president to challenge future right-wing attacks on his administration's policies in the Middle East and beyond. Smelling victory, the right will only become bolder in challenging any progressive inclinations in Obama's foreign policy."
Even the conservative US News & World Report, owned by Morton Zuckerman, a progressive Jew but, nonetheless, strong defender of Israel, published an article in the last few days that focuses on the future of US Mideast policy in light of what happened to Freeman.
Gary Kimiya in Obama's Middle East moment of truth asks, "His diplomatic moves are a good start. But does he have the will to challenge Israel?""His cautious and contradictory moves so far give the impression that Obama hopes that more diplomacy will somehow cause the chess pieces on the Middle East board to move in such a way that he will be able to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace without going head-to-head with Israel. But that hope is unrealistic."
I'll leave the last word to Joe Klein. On his Time Magazine blog he makes this astute assessment and chilling prediction under the one word heading Assassination
"Barack Obama should take note. The thugs have taken out Chas Freeman. They will not rest. Their real target is you, Mr. President."