Amazing Appointment — Chas Freeman as NIC Chairman

As first reported by Laura Rozen and subsequently confirmed by Chris Nelson, it appears that Chas Freeman has been appointed chairman of the National Intelligence Council (NIC), the body that is charged by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) with synthesizing the analyses of the entire U.S. intelligence community and producing National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) — the most famous of which was the December 2007 NIE on Iran’s nuclear program that put paid to the hopes of hawks who favored a military action against Tehran — that are used to guide policymakers on critical issues facing U.S. security.

To me, this is a stunning appointment. There are very few former senior diplomats as experienced and geographically well-rounded (just look at this bio here), knowledgeable, entertaining (in a mordant sort of way), accessible (until now at least), and verbally artful as Freeman. He can speak with equal authority about the politics of the royal family in Saudi Arabia (where he was ambassador), the Chinese Communist Party — he served as Nixon’s primary interpreter during the ground-breaking 1972 visit and later deputy chief of mission of the Beijing embassy, and the prospects for and geo-strategic implications of fossil-fuel production and consumption over the next decade or so. But, more to the point, he was probably the most direct and outspoken — and caustic — critic of the conduct of Bush’s “global war on terror,” especially of the influence of the neo-conservatives — of any former senior member of the career foreign service. His appointment constitutes a nightmare, for the Israeli right and its U.S. supporters, in particular, (and for reflexive China-bashers, as well).

For a taste of both his rhetorical style and his politics, see, for example, this speech he gave to the U.S. Information Agency Alumni Association two years ago or, better yet, this one to the Pacific Council on International Policy in October 2007 in which he says:

“In retrospect, Al Qaeda has played us with the finesse of a matador exhausting a great bull by guiding it into unproductive lunges at the void behind his cape. By invading Iraq, we transformed an intervention in Afghanistan most Muslims had supported into what looks to them like a wider war against Islam. We destroyed the Iraqi state and catalyzed anarchy, sectarian violence, terrorism, and civil war in that country.

Meanwhile, we embraced Israel’s enemies as our own; they responded by equating Americans with Israelis as their enemies. We abandoned the role of Middle East peacemaker to back Israel’s efforts to pacify its captive and increasingly ghettoized Arab populations. We wring our hands while sitting on them as the Jewish state continues to seize ever more Arab land for its colonists. This has convinced most Palestinians that Israel cannot be appeased and is persuading increasing numbers of them that a two-state solution is infeasible. It threatens Israelis with an unwelcome choice between a democratic society and a Jewish identity for their state. Now the United States has brought the Palestinian experience – of humiliation, dislocation, and death – to millions more in Afghanistan and Iraq. Israel and the United States each have our reasons for what we are doing, but no amount of public diplomacy can persuade the victims of our policies that their suffering is justified, or spin away their anger, or assuage their desire for reprisal and revenge.”

He doesn’t pull punches.

Jim Lobe

Jim Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington DC bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement.



  1. surely say that, invasion of iraq brings harsh situation to U.S.

    but it’s definitly unfair to “blame” bush for that opration.

    just imagine what will U.S. be facing now,if bush didn’t go ahead for iraq?

    obama should be grateful that he dosen’t need to make that hard decision,because bush did it for him.

  2. This is Glorious News ! Maybe that means America’s foreign policy will be crafted by Americans rather than Israelis for the first time in sixty years !

    I hesitate to be too confident about that however. Washington is itself Israeli controlled territory. It’s an encouraging first step though.

    America has its interests. Israel has its interests. The two are not identical. The national interests of America and Americans have taken a back seat to Israel’s interests (whims) since the creation of that state.

    Any objective observer will readily concede for example that petro-rich Iran, with its influence in the Muslim world and its population of seventy million people (or seventy million consumers, as the hard core capitalists would call them) is a far more logical ally and trade partner of the United States than is Israel, barely one tenth the size of Iran and with virtually zero natural resources. Yet the United States maintains an hostile relationship with, and indeed a partial economic boycott of Iran because the Israelis do not like that country. The Americans themselves are hardly frightened of a developing country half way round the world.

    Some Americans are still pouting a bit over the Revolution in ’79 and the hostage-taking, but most got past that long ago. The Israelis though, not missing chance to wedge the Americans against one of Israel’s perceived enemies stepped right in and proclaimed Iran to be another monster or “existential threat” to themselves. The AIPACmerican congress members always seem somehow obliged (blackmailed? Just what happens back at the hotel in Tel Aviv on those “fact-finding” trips to Israel anyway? A guy can get lonely all by himself in a foreign country dontcha know. Do the Israelis have it on film?) into picking up that anti-Iran ball and running with it, as usual.

    Every time someone says Israel is our only friend in the Middle East I can’t help but think that before Israel, we had no enemies in the Middle East. — Father John Sheehan

  3. Wow! Mr. Freeman looks like the best thing that’s happened to our Mideast (and Far East, for that matter) foreign policy in a long, long time.

  4. Sounds good…but.

    Will he end up being treated by the Obama adm like Collin Powell was by Bush -Cheney?

    I will believe our Israel policy is changed when we cut off their billions in US aid.

  5. You’ve gotta love this. When has ANY American diplomat or government official spoken this openly about the pernicious effect that unconditional support for Israel has on America’s relations with the rest of the world? Never, that’s when. Freeman has guts, and of course he’s correct.

    – – – – – – – –

    New Top U.S. Intel Chief: Terrorists Hate U.S. Because of Israel

    by David Lev —

    22 Feb 2009

    A flurry of reports over the weekend said that the former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, considered a sharp critic of Israel, is to be named to a top intelligence post in the administration of President Barack Obama.

    Chas W. Freeman Jr., who was U.S. ambassador to Riyadh from 1989-1992, is set to be named chairman of the National Intelligence Council, which has a strong influence on the content of the intelligence briefings presented to the President. The Council chairman is also often called on to give direct briefings to the President.

    Typical of Freeman’s viewpoints is a statement he made in a speech before the Washington Institute of Foreign Affairs in 2007, in which he more or less blames international terrorist acts on Israel. “American identification with Israeli policy has also become total. Those in the region and beyond it who detest Israeli behavior, which is to say almost everyone, now naturally extend their loathing to Americans. This has had the effect of universalizing anti-Americanism, legitimizing radical Islamism, and gaining Iran a foothold among Sunni as well as Shiite Arabs. For its part, Israel no longer even pretends to seek peace with the Palestinians; it strives instead to pacify them. Palestinian retaliation against this policy is as likely to be directed against Israel’s American backers as against Israel itself. Under the circumstances, such retaliation – whatever form it takes – will have the support or at least the sympathy of most people in the region and many outside it.”

    Full piece here:

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