Punishing a Heretic in DC

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A Heretic Is Punished in Washington

by Eric Margolis by Eric Margolis

The White House publicly humiliated US National Intelligence Director, Adm. Dennis Blair last week by forcing him to cancel appointing veteran diplomat Charles W. Freeman Jr. as the chairman of the National Intelligence Council, one of the nation’s most important national security posts.

The National Intelligence Council chairman’s job is to assemble all reports from America’s 16 intelligence agencies and produce a synthesis upon which the president make national security policy.

A former ambassador to Saudi Arabia and respected Mideast and China expert, Freeman had the audacity to previously say, "left to its own devices, the Israeli establishment will make decisions that harm Israelis, threaten all associated with them, and enrage those who are not."

Freeman has criticized Israel’s actions on other occasions. He committed the ultimate heresy of warning that close US collaboration with Israel’s right-wing parties was jeopardizing American interests and security, and generating anti-American terrorism.

A firestorm ensued as the outspoken Freemen touched the "third rail of American politics." A former high official of the Israel Lobby, who has been charged with passing classified information to Israel, had the chutzpah to kick off a vicious slander campaign against Freeman. Sen. Joseph Lieberman and other pro-Israeli politicians took up the cry. The Obama administration was forced to ask Freeman to "resign" after lamely claiming it had not been informed of his appointment.

The Israel Lobby has been crowing, and rightly so. Freeman’s public lynching sent a clear message to politicians, officials, and media: fail to toe the party line on Israel and risk losing your career.

One also suspects the public humiliation of Admiral Blair may have been linked to his denials that Iran was making nuclear weapons. Blair had recently reaffirmed the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) finding that Iran is not producing nuclear weapons. This finding enraged the Washington war party.

Freeman’s rejection confirms the decisive influence of pro-Israel groups over the Obama administration’s Mideast policies. It is an evil portent for Israelis and Arabs seeking peace.

Hillary Clinton was named Secretary of State in part to placate American supporters of Israel, many of whom doubted Barack Obama’s commitment to continuing the Bush administrations unlimited support of Israel’s right-wing parties.

She, in turn, named Dennis Ross Special Advisor for Iran and the Gulf. Ross has long been linked to Israel and associated with the Israel Lobby. Imagine the uproar if an American Muslim noted for pro-Palestinian positions was named Washington’s Special Advisor to Israel.

Take candidate Obama’s promises to the Israel lobby that he would never pressure the Jewish state into a peace deal it opposed, and his assurances that Jerusalem would remain undivided. Add Obama remaining almost mute while Israel was pounding Gaza into ruins with US weapons.

Now comes the humiliation of Freeman and Adm. Blair, and the State Department’s tilt towards Israel. All this adds up to a "new" US Mideast policy that may be not so different from that of President Bush, except perhaps for less overt antagonism toward Iran — at least for a while — and occasional chirps about aiding "moderate" (read: obedient) Palestinians.

No change in the US-Israeli equation means no change in Israel’s policy of stalling on creation of a viable Palestinian state. Israel is speeding up building settlements on the West Bank and Golan. The advent of rightist Bibi Netanyahu as Israel’s new prime minister will intensify these expansionist trends. Unlike his predecessors, Netanyahu at least has the honesty to openly say he won’t stop settlements or accept a real Palestinian state.

Which, of course, means no Arab-Israeli peace in the Mideast for the foreseeable future. Israel and its American supporters will retain their grip on US Mideast policy. The Freeman affair ends any hope held by many Americans and Mideasterners that President Obama would have the political courage to change course on the Mideast and nudge Israel and the Palestinian factions into a real land for peace deal — the only possible basis for peace in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

President Obama is moving sharply to the left in domestic affairs by starting to implant European-style socialist polices in America, nationalizing banks, supporting failed industries, raising taxes and running up monster deficits.

But, interestingly, Obama’s foreign policy has veered far to the right from his original antiwar, reformist image. US military spending still remains absurdly high, accounting for 50% of the world’s total. The US armed forces are being rapidly reconfigured for "expeditionary and counterinsurgency warfare" in the Third World — what was once known as "colonial warfare."

Obama promised 30,000 US troops would reach Afghanistan. Most alarmingly, after promising the US would get out of Iraq, President Obama now plans to keep some 50,000 American "training" troops there and large numbers of mercenaries.

Most of the 90,000 US troops slated to be withdrawn from Iraq will be sent to Afghanistan, provided Iraq does not boil up again. New US bases are being built or expanded, and new supply routes sought through Central Asia and even Iran. In other words, a growing stay and long presence.

This sounds more like the Imperial-talking Bush than the so-called "antiwar" Barack Obama.

Eric Margolis [send him mail], contributing foreign editor for Sun National Media Canada. He is the author of War at the Top of the World and the new book, American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World. See his website.

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