A rarity in Washington, the secret was kept well until the announcement from National Intelligence Director Dennis C. Blair: His deputy as chairman of the National Intelligence Council is Charles “Chas” W. Freeman Jr., a Chinese-speaking iconoclast with a brilliant analytical mind that is anathema to the Israel lobby and the neocons.
Lucky for former Ambassador Freeman that Judaism, in contrast to Christianity, does not believe in mortal sins. But his sin is beyond redemption in Washington. Freeman is convinced that U.S. and Israeli strategic interests are not necessarily one and the same.
This triggered a cascade of name-calling, ranging from from "Saudi puppet" to "Chas of Arabia linked to Saudi cash" to "China-coddling, Israel-basher."
Leading the charge was Steve Rosen, former foreign policy director at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Rosen, long one of the committee's most influential officials on Capitol Hill, has been under federal indictment since Aug. 4, 2005, for alleged violations of the Espionage Act while carrying out the lobby's work.
Rosen, who now is with the Middle East Forum, and codefendant Keith Weissman face a frequently postponed trial, now scheduled to begin April 29. Rosen won't have much trouble establishing the fact that policy planning documents routinely made their way between friends from the Pentagon to the Israeli Embassy.
Freeman's new job as analyst in chief for the intelligence community is to produce medium- and long-term strategic ideas, compiled from the best thinking of 16 intelligence agencies that employ 100,000 (almost half of them analysts) at a cost to taxpayers of $50 billion a year.
In a speech to the Pacific Council on International Policy in 2007, Freeman said, "We embraced Israel's enemies as our own. They responded by equating Americans with Israelis as their enemies."
The new job of Freeman, the former ambassador to Saudi Arabia (during Gulf War I), is "to provide policymakers with the best information: unvarnished, unbiased and without regard to whether the analytic judgments conform to current U.S. policy."
The intelligence council’s quadrennial piece de resistance is the Global Briefing. Timed for release between Election Day and Inauguration Day, it "assesses critical drivers and scenarios for future global outcomes approximately 15 years out." From time to time, the Global Briefing, like all forecasts, makes astrology look respectable.
Intelligence chief Blair briefed the latest, titled "Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World," to Congress. He called the global economic and financial crisis "our greatest threat," creating as it does millions more desperate people, many of them drawn to angry acts, also "regime-threatening instability," the kind of chaos that plays into al-Qaida's terrorist agenda.
Freeman incurred the wrath of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee when he said in 2007, "Israel no longer even pretends to seek peace with the Palestinians; it strives instead to pacify them."
Haaretz, The New York Times of Israel, frequently makes the same point, most recently with a secret defense document that established the creeping annexation of Palestinian land in the West Bank.
Another conclusion, guaranteed to raise Israeli hackles, is Freeman's long-held belief that the terrorism the United States confronts is largely because of "the brutal oppression of the Palestinians by an Israeli occupation that has lasted over 40 years and shows no signs of ending." Accurate or not, this same refrain is heard from scholars to politicians to journalists in Arab and other Muslim capitals the world over.
The fact is that radical Islam has gained a powerful foothold in the Muslim imagination, says Zakaria, and television reporting on the death and destruction caused by Israeli bombs in the recent 22-day air and ground campaign in Gaza only strengthens the ranks of extremists.
Freeman also says Israeli contingency plans to bomb Iran's nuclear installations would trigger Iran's formidable asymmetrical retaliatory capabilities up and down the Persian Gulf and throughout the Middle East, where it can mobilize such surrogates as Hezbollah and Hamas.
Mercifully for Freeman, his job is not subject to Senate confirmation. Had it been, he would have been axed with a nod from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. But Blair made clear where he stood. His statement said Freeman will be responsible for overseeing a variety of intelligence reports.
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