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Ron Radosh

Why Democrats Too Should Oppose the Freeman Appointment

March 10th, 2009 - 1:44 pm

Somehow, Freeman calls his desire to praise dictators for being tough on dissenters a “Burkean conservative view,” evidently confusing Burke’s well said opposition to the French Revolution with the Chinese government’s crackdown at Tiananmen Square.  So Freeman has said that the fault of the Chinese was to not having acted earlier “to nip the demonstrations in the bud,” which would have allowed them to escape using the deadly force he evidently feels was justified when “all other measures had failed to restore domestic tranquility.” And he even thinks the murder of hundreds was the fault of “ill-conceived restraint” by the Chinese government.

The above has been commented on a great deal. But most commentators have missed his other analogy. Freeman wrote that “I side with Gen. Douglas MacArthur,” (my emphasis) because “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.” It does not matter, he wrote, whether it was ” ‘The Bonus Army’ or a ‘student uprising’ on behalf” of democracy in China.

Students of 20th Century U.S. History are well acquainted with the importance of the Bonus Army episode. Freeman’s citation of this is, quite frankly, shocking. It refers to the encampment by World War I veterans and their families on the outskirts of the capital in May through July of 1932, where they gathered to support Rep. Wright Patman’s bill to advance the bonus payment promised to veterans which they had not received.  MacArthur ordered troops to clear veterans out of the downtown DC area. Not stopping at that, he ordered his troops to advance to the Anacostia Flats across the 11th Street bridge, where the families and veterans were camping out. He acted against the advice of his aide, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and without orders from President Herbert Hoover. Their camps were torched, gas bombs were thrown, and the veterans were forced to flee. The official toll was 54 injured, 135 arrested, and three dead, including a baby.

Here were peaceful demonstrators, veterans of the last war, routed from peaceful protest and incorrectly described by MacArthur as “a mob animated by the essence of revolution” who wanted to take over the government by force.  If anyone has a right to peacefully assemble and bring their grievances to the center of government power, it was our wartime veterans. Does Mr. Freeman really see all such protests, normal in a democracy (especially since this occurred in time of great despair-the Great Depression) as events to be dealt with by military force? His e-mail suggests that he does.

Then, of course, there is the question of the Saudis, in particularly as Eric Fingerhut writes, his chairmanship of the Saudi funded Middle East Policy Council. Today, all seven Republican members of the Senate Intelligence Committee criticized his appointment, expressing concerns about both his experience and his objectivity.  Their letter to Intelligence chief Dennis Blair, however, is in danger of being viewed as purely partisan, and will unlikely lead to the withdrawal of Freeman’s appointment.

Yet more and more evidence is coming to show the dangers of a Freeman appointment. Martin Kramer reveals that in testimony on Capitol Hill in 2004, Freeman repeated unverified Saudi chatter as fact, thereby leading Kramer to write that Freeman is both “a shill and a sucker.” Do Democrats too want this man to be offering the President national security estimates? And Martin Peretz, citing the Weekly Standard,  points to “more nonsense” that Freeman has spouted. He suggests that President Obama act now before having to reluctantly withdraw the appointment after a fight, that will look like “an embarrassing defeat for him.”

Supposedly, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been planning to meet with Democrats to discuss the questions that have been raised about Freeman. That they have come only from Republicans to date suggests that she is likely to remain on board in support of his appointment.  That is why it is more important than ever that you contact your Representatives and Senators, especially if they are Democrats, and let them know your opposition to Charles Freeman’s appointment. In these dangerous times, America cannot afford such a man as head of the National Intelligence Council.

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