Help me out here. Shouldn’t it at least be a matter of some concern that a man hired by the U. S. government to offer counsel on Middle Eastern affairs runs an institution, the Middle East Policy Council, which has been largely funded by one of the governments he would be responsible for advising about? Yet to listen to the people James Fallows quotes here there is simply no possible justification for having any doubts about Chas Freeman whatsoever.
A lot of knowledgeable people across the political spectrum supported Freeman vigorously, which counts for a good deal to me. But I have not been able to find answers from Freeman or his supporters to two questions:
1) Freeman says that he has “never sought to be paid or accepted payment from any foreign government, including Saudi Arabia or China, for any service”; but he has also acknowledged then-Crown Prince Abdullah’s “generosity” in funding his Council. There are not necessarily inconsistent statements, but I haven't seen an explanation from Freeman or his supporters of the distinction. Is is just that everyone in Washington is so financially entangled with foreign governments that this is a non-issue for them? It’s not a non-issue for me.
2) Freeman and his supporters insist that in his now-notorious comments about the Tiennanmen Square crackdown that he was simply describing the Chinese government’s views, not offering his own. But the text clearly shows that after he described the government position, he went on to give his own: “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.” Italics mine, because the words “for myself” are rather straightforward, aren't they?
I’m not saying that Freeman didn't, on the merits of his knowledge and insight, deserve the job he was offered. But he needed to answer, clearly and unambiguously, the questions I’ve just asked. Maybe he has and I haven't seen it. All I see, in the resignation message quoted above, is the angry shouting of Israel Lobby! Israel Lobby! And that’s not good enough.