Ron Radosh

Why Democrats Too Should Oppose the Freeman Appointment

BREAKING NEWS: Just as I posted this–literally- the news has come through that Charles Freeman has asked not to be appointed to the post! In other words, our blogs, attacks and opposition has done its job! If not for people like the folks at The Weekly Standard, who uncovered Freeman’s e mail, and journalists like Eli Lake, Martin Peretz, James Kirchick, Reason magazine’s Michael Moynihan and others, this victory could not have taken place. Kudos to all of them, and let us rejoice!

Update: 7:48 pm East Coast Time. Freeman has just posted his own explanation for why he asked to not be appointed. It is a self-serving, dishonest and poor excuse. To make it simple: his explanation is: “It’s all the fault of the Israeli Lobby.” You know how powerful they are. After all, Walt and Mearsheimer proved it. see for yourself:

The opposition to the appointment of Charles (“Chas”) Freeman to the post of Director of the National Intelligence Council has been growing. The problem is that it quickly is becoming a partisan issue- with more Republicans going on the offensive- and Democrats remaining quiet. This is one of the issues that deserve bi-partisan unity, with national security Democrats joining Republicans with the demand that President Obama rescind his appointment.

Do the Democrats really want someone like Freeman choosing what national security information to give to the President each morning, given Freeman’s track record of being a shill for the Saudis and a man in the pocket of the Chinese government? Last week, TNR’s Jonathan Chait rightfully called Freeman an “ideological fanatic” who is “blind to the moral dimension of international politics.” And The Weekly Standard posted Freeman’s now famous e-mail in which he made known his views. Freeman wrote the following:

From: [email protected] [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Friday, May 26, 2006 9:29 PM

I will leave it to others to address the main thrust of your reflection on Eric’s remarks. But I want to take issue with what I assume, perhaps incorrectly, to be your citation of the conventional wisdom about the 6/4 [or Tiananmen] incident. I find the dominant view in China about this very plausible, i.e. that the truly unforgivable mistake of the Chinese authorities was the failure to intervene on a timely basis to nip the demonstrations in the bud, rather than — as would have been both wise and efficacious — to intervene with force when all other measures had failed to restore domestic tranquility to Beijing and other major urban centers in China. In this optic, the Politburo’s response to the mob scene at “Tian’anmen” stands as a monument to overly cautious behavior on the part of the leadership, not as an example of rash action.

For myself, I side on this — if not on numerous other issues — with Gen. Douglas MacArthur. 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, however appealing to foreigners their propaganda may be. Such folk, whether they represent a veterans’ “Bonus Army” or a “student uprising” on behalf of “the goddess of democracy” should expect to be displaced with despatch from the ground they occupy. I cannot conceive of any American government behaving with the ill-conceived restraint that the Zhao Ziyang administration did in China, allowing students to occupy zones that are the equivalent of the Washington National Mall and Times Square, combined. while shutting down much of the Chinese government’s normal operations. I thus share the hope of the majority in China that no Chinese government will repeat the mistakes of Zhao Ziyang’s dilatory tactics of appeasement in dealing with domestic protesters in China.

I await the brickbats of those who insist on a politically correct — i.e. non Burkean conservative — view.


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.