Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The lefties [of yesteryear] who cried 'fascism' were marginal cranks, without the slightest influence in the Democratic Party world

Hendrick Hertzberg & The F-Word. By Jonah Goldberg
Liberal Fascism/NRO, Thursday, March 05, 2009

He writes:

One of the signs that a political movement may be approaching terminal decline is when its more excitable elements begin to see “fascism” where none exists.

He then goes on to attack yours truly, Michael Ledeen and others. In a related post he goes after Ron Radosh.

I enjoy this sort of thing because I hear it so often from liberals who insist that no serious liberal ever used the term "fascist" to describe their political opponents. Anyone who has read my book — or who has even paid attention to politics — over the last 30, 40 or 70 years knows this is simply not true. Off the top of my head, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Lyndon Johnson, Harry Truman, Charles Rangel, Alan Wolfe, nearly every Hollywood activist one can think of, and — I'm sure if I looked — numerous contributors to the New Yorker have made ad hitlerum arguments about the American right, which (broadly speaking) believes in limited government, free markets and traditional values (tenets loathed by fascists).

Hertzberg goes on to say that unlike Michael Ledeen and yours truly — supposedly major luminaries with posh billets on the right — "the lefties [of yesteryear] who cried 'fascism' were marginal cranks, without the slightest influence in the Democratic Party or any Democratic Administration."

So would that include Hugh Johnson, the man who ran FDR's National Recovery Administration and was hailed as Time's Man of the Year in 1934? (Roosevelt himself was Man of the Year in 1933). This would be the same Hugh Johnson who distributed a memo at the Democratic Convention proposing that FDR becoming a Mussolini-like dictator? The same Hugh Johnson who handed out copies of The Corporate State — an Italian fascist propaganda pamphlet — to fellow members of FDR's cabinet? The same Hugh Johnson who hung a portrait of Mussolini on his office wall as head of the NRA?

Admittedly, Johnson didn't "cry fascism" he cheered fascism (as did, to one extent or another, Herbert Croly, Charles Beard, Lincoln Steffens, Rexford Tugwell and other presumably marginal cranks who provided the intellectual framework for New Deal liberalism), but that shouldn't be a point in Hertzberg's favor. Norman Thomas, the head of the American Socialist party did cry fascism, as did many others to the left and the right of FDR, but I wouldn't call all of them marginal cranks and I certainly wouldn't say none of them had any influence over any Democratic administration.

Indeed, was FDR a "marginal crank" when he acknowledged that “what we were doing in this country were some of the things that were being done in Russia and even some of the things that were being done under Hitler in Germany. But we were doing them in an orderly way."

Needless to say, I could go on.

Andrei Illarionov on House "From Competition to Collaboration: Strengthening the U.S.-Russia Relationship"

Testimony of Andrei Illarionov before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs' "From Competition to Collaboration: Strengthening the U.S.-Russia Relationship"

Cato Institute, February 25, 2009

Chairman Berman, Ranking member Ros-Lehtinen, Members of the Committee,
Thank you for the opportunity to share with you my views on the current status of the U.S.-Russia relationship and on possible consequences of its strengthening in near future.


First of all, I would like to provide you with a necessary disclaimer:I am a Russian citizen.For number of years I worked at different posts at the Russian government and the Administration of the Russian President.Since my resignation from the positions of the Russian President’s Personal Representative to the G-8 (Sherpa) and Adviser to the Russian President in 2005 I was not employed by any Government and did not receive any payment from neither Russian Government, nor the US Government, nor any other Government.For last two and half years I do work for the Cato Institute here in Washington that is a non-partisan think tank not associated with any of political parties existed in the US or in any other country in the world. According to its Charter the Cato Institute does not accept financial support from any government, government agency or government-related program.As a Russian citizen and a Cato Institute employee I am not in a position to advice either the US Government, or esteemed members of the US Congress. Whatever I will say here today, should be considered as background information that you are welcome to use as you find it suitable. Whatever I will say here, should be considered as solely my personal views on what I see as the best interests of the Russian people on a way one day to create and develop Russia as a democratic, open, peaceful and prosperous country, respected and respectable member of the international community, reliable partner of other democratic countries, including the United States. I solely bear responsibility for everything that I say here today.

In my testimony I touch upon three issues: challenges from the past of the U.S.-Russia relationship;challenges to the Russian people, neighboring countries, and world peace from the current political regime in Russia;forecast of what could happen if the approach that is been announced and taken by the current administration will be fulfilled.

Challenges from the past of the U.S.-Russia relationship

Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the formation of independent Russia two US Administrations, namely that of the President Bill Clinton and that of the President George W. Bush, began their terms with clear formulated goal — to improve the US-Russia cooperation. Each of the administrations started their terms with great expectations for fruitful bilateral relations. Regardless of their individual approaches, personal attitudes, content of issues at the agenda, both US administrations have invested heavily in terms of time, efforts, attention of their key members, including both Presidents, into improvement of the U.S.-Russia relations. Both administrations have created special bodies for development of these relations (the so called Gore-Chernomyrdin commission by the Clinton administration and bilateral Group of High level by the Bush administrations). Many delegations have crossed the ocean, many hours have been spent in the conversations, many decisions have been taken.

The outcomes of these efforts are well known. They were outright failures. Russia has failed to be integrated fully into the community of the modern democratic peaceful nations. Each US administration has finished its term in the office with the U.S.-Russian relations at much lower level than they were at its beginning. The leading feeling at the end of each Administration’s term is widely shared disappointment — both among members of the administrations and in the Russian and the US societies.

The beginning of the President Obama Administration’s term strikingly resembles the beginning of the two preceding administrations’ terms. We can see similar desire to improve bilateral relations, similar positive statements, similar promising gestures and visits. Since nothing serious has changed in the nature of political regimes in both countries it is rather hard not to expect the repetition of already known pattern — high expectations — deep disappointments — heavy failures — for the third time.

That is why before any new policy is being implemented and even being formulated it is worth to spend some time to analyze the reasons of two previous failures. To my mind, they arise mainly from the nature of the current Russian political regime, lack of understanding on the part of the US the internal logic and intentions of the current Russian leadership, inability of the democratic nations to deal with the challenges of the powerful authoritarian regimes, and a double standards approach in the US policies towards similar issues on the international arena.

Nature of the Current Political Regime in Russia

Today’s Russia is not a democratic country. The international human rights organization Freedom House assigns "Not Free" status to Russia since 2004 for each of the last 5 years. According to the classification of the political regimes, the current one in Russia should be considered as hard authoritarianism. The central place in the Russian political system is occupied by the Corporation of the secret police.

The Corporation of Secret Police

The personnel of Federal Security Service — both in active service as well as retired one — form a special type of unity (non-necessarily institutionalized) that can be called brotherhood, order, or corporation. The Corporation of the secret police operatives (CSP) includes first of all acting and former officers of the FSB (former KGB), and to a lesser extent FSO and Prosecutor General Office. Officers of GRU and SVR do also play some role. The members of the Corporation do share strong allegiance to their respective organizations, strict codes of conduct and of honor, basic principles of behavior, including among others the principle of mutual support to each other in any circumstances and the principle of omerta. Since the Corporation preserves traditions, hierarchies, codes and habits of secret police and intelligence services, its members show high degree of obedience to the current leadership, strong loyalty to each other, rather strict discipline. There are both formal and informal means of enforcing these norms. Violators of the code of conduct are subject to the harshest forms of punishment, including the highest form.
CSP and the Russian society

Members of the CSP are specially trained, strongly motivated and mentally oriented to use force against other people and in this regard differ substantially from civilians. The important distinction of enforcement in today’s Russia from enforcement in rule-based nations is that in the former case it doesn’t necessarily imply enforcement of Law. It means solely enforcement of Power and Force regardless of Law, quite often against Law. Members of the Corporation are trained and inspired with the superiority complex over the rest of the population. Members of the Corporation exude a sense of being the bosses that superior to other people who are not members of the CSP. They are equipped with membership perks, including two most tangible instruments conferring real power over the rest of population in today’s Russia — the FSB IDs and the right to carry and use weapons.

Capture of State Power by the CSP

Since ascension of Vladimir Putin to power the members of the CSP have infiltrated all branches of power in Russia. According to the Olga Kryshtanovskaya’s study up to 77% of the 1016 top government positions have been taken by people with security background (26% with openly stated affiliation to different enforcement agencies and other 51% with hidden affiliation). Main bodies of the Russian state (Presidential Administration, Government apparatus, Tax agency, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Defense, Parliament, Court system) as well as main business groups and most important mass-media outlets have been captured by the CSP. Since the members of the CSP have taken key positions in the most important institutions of the state, business groups, media channels, almost all valuable resources available in the society (political, executive, legal, judicial, enforcement, military, economic, financial, media) have been concentrated and in many cases monopolized in the hands of the CSP.

Mass Media

Independent mass media in Russia virtually does not exist. The TV channels, radio, printed media are heavily censored with government propaganda disseminating cult of power and violence, directed against democrats, liberals, westerners and the West itself, including and first of all the US. The level of the anti-US propaganda is incomparable even with one of the Soviet times in at least 1970-s and 1980s.

Electoral System

Since 1999 there is no free, open, competitive parliamentary or presidential election in Russia. The last two elections — the parliamentary one in December 2007 and presidential one in March 2008 — have been conducted as special operations and been heavily rigged with at least 20 mln ballots in each case stuffed in favor of the regime candidates. None of the opposition political parties or opposition politicians has been allowed either to participate in the elections, or even to be registered at the Ministry of Justice. For comparison, the Belarusian regime that is considered to be "the last dictatorship in Europe" has allowed opposition politicians to participate in the parliamentary election last September.

Political Opposition

Members of political opposition in Russia are regularly being harassed, intimidated, beaten by the regime’s security forces. Each rally of the opposition since 2006 is been harshly attacked by the riot police, hundreds of people have been beaten, arrested and thrown into jails. In April 2007 the former world chess champion Garry Kasparov has been arrested and put into jail for 5 days as he was walking along the Tverskaya street in the downtown of Moscow. The same day there was an attempt to arrest the former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov.

Political Prisoners

According to the human rights organizations there are about 80 political prisoners in the country who are serving their terms for their views and political activities from 2 to 9 years in the jails and camps. One of the best known political prisoners is Mikhail Khodorkovsky who has been sentenced to 9 years in the Siberian camp Krasnokamensk on the basis of purely fabricated case against him and his oil company YUKOS. The company has been confiscated and taken by one of the leading figures of the current Chekist regime who is occupying now the position of the deputy prime minister of the Russian government. Mr. Khodorkovsky has recently been transported to Moscow to be put on another fabricated trial with a clear purpose to keep him behind the bars forever. Just for comparison, the Mr. Lukashenka’s political regime in the neighboring Belarus that is very far from any notion of genuine democracy, has nevertheless released the last four political prisoners in summer 2008. It is worth to note that until recently the EU had the so called smart sanctions against Mr. Lukashenka and members of his government. As far as I know, the US still has similar sanctions against the Belarusian leadership, but not against the Russian one.


The fate of some other people dealing with the regime is even worse.

Over the last ten years tens of thousands of people have been killed in Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan, North Ossetia, Kabardino-Balkaria.

In Autumn 1999 several hundred people died in the series of apartment bombings across the country — from Moscow to Buynaks in Dagestan. In the contrast to the claims from the FSB that those bombings have been organized by Chechens, the local militia was able to detain several people who tried to bomb the apartment block in the city of Ryazan. They turn out to be the agents of the FSB. Then the FSB has announced that there were "anti-terrorist exercises" with the goal to put explosives into the basement of the apartment building. After the story became widely known, the detained FSB agents have been freed by the order from Moscow and finally disappeared, while apartments’ bombings stopped unexpectedly as they started.

Since November 1998 several presidential hopefuls, politicians, journalists, lawyers who were either in opposition to or independent of the current political regime, have been directly assassinated or died in the very suspicious circumstances. Among them are the leader of the Democratic Russia party and the member of the parliament Galina Starovoitova, journalist and editor Artem Borovik, journalist and member of the Yabloko party Larisa Yudina, the governor of the Krasnoyarsk region general Alexander Lebed who came third in the 1999 presidential election, the leader of the Army Movement, member of the parliament general Lev Rokhlin, the leader of the Liberal party of Russia Sergei Yushenkov, one of the organizers of the Liberal party of Russia Vladimir Golovlev, journalist and one of the leaders of the Yabloko party, the member of the parliament Yuri Shekochikhin, ethnographer Nikolay Girenko, journalist and writer Anna Politkovskaya, journalist and military expert Ivan Safronov, the deputy head of the Central Bank of Russia Andrei Kozlov, the member of National Bolshevist party Yuri Chervochkin, journalist, editor and one of the leaders of the Ingush national movement Magomed Yevloyev, lawyer Stanislav Markelov, journalist Anastasia Baburova.

Since March 1999 the wave of political assassinations moved beyond the Russian border. In March 1999 Vyacheslav Chornovol, leader of the People’s Ruch and a candidate for the Ukrainian presidential election that autumn, died in the car accident near Kiev that has been identified by the Ukrainian security service as the assassination organized by FSB. In February 2004 Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, the former Chechen President, and his 15-year old son have been bombed in Doha by two officers with diplomatic passports from the Russian embassy in Qatar, Mr. Yandarbiev has died. In September 2004 Victor Yushenko, the presidential candidate in the Ukrainian presidential election in November 2004, has been poisoned and barely survived. In November 2006 the former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko has been poisoned by polonium in the downtown of London and died.

Wars against other Nations

Since 2004 the Russian political regime embarked on a series of wars of different kinds against foreign nations. The list of wars waged in the last 5 years is not a short one:

Russian-Byelorussian Gas War 2004,
First Russian-Ukrainian Gas War, January 2006,
Russian-Georgian Energy Supply War, January 2006,
Russian-Georgian Wine and Mineral Water War, March-April 2006,
Russian-Georgian Spy War, September-October 2006,
Russian-Estonian Monuments and Cyber War, April-May 2007,
Russian-Georgian Conventional War, April-October 2008,
Russian-Azerbaijan Cyber War, August 2008,
Second Russian-Ukrainian Gas War, January 2009,
Anti-US full fledged Propaganda War, 2006-2009.

The Russian-Georgian War that started last year was under preparations by the Russian authorities at least since February 2003. This is one of the most serious international crises for at least last 30 years that constitutes one of the most worrisome developments of our days. This war has brought:

a) The first massive use of the military forces by Russia beyond its borders since the Soviet Union’s intervention against Afghanistan in 1978;
b) The first intervention against an independent country in Europe since the Soviet Union’s intervention against Czechoslovakia in 1968;
c) The first intervention against an independent country in Europe that led to unilateral changes of the internationally recognized borders in Europe since the late 1930s and early 1940s. Particular similarities of these events with the events of the 1930s are especially troubling.

Uniqueness of the current political regime in Russia

One of the most important characteristics of the current political regime in Russia is that the real political power in the country belongs neither to one person, nor family, nor military junta, nor party, nor ethnic group. The power belongs to the corporation of secret police operatives. The political system in which secret police plays an important role in the political system is not very special. VChK-OGPU-NKVD-MGB-KGB in the Communist USSR, Gestapo in Nazi Germany, SAVAK in the Shah’s Iran had enormous powers in those tyrannical regimes. Yet, none of those secret police organizations did possess supreme power in the respective countries. In all previous historic cases secret police and its leaders have been subordinate to their political masters — whether they were Stalin, Hitler, or Pehlevi, regardless how monstrous they have been. The political regime in today’s Russia is therefore quite unique, since so far there was probably no country in the world history (at least in the relatively developed part of the world in the XXth and the XXIst centuries) where a secret police organization did capture all political, administrative, military, economic, financial, and media powers.

It does not mean that all population of the country or even all staff of the government agencies do belong to the secret police. Many of them are professional and honest people who genuinely alien to the Chekist/Mafiosi structures. Nevertheless, it is not they who do have control over the state, and not they who are in charge of the key decisions in the country.


Even a brief look on the US-Russia relations over the last 10 years reveals quite a striking fact of the permanent retreat of the American side on almost all issues in the bilateral relations.
Ten years ago then the Clinton administration has expressed publicly and energetically its concern on violation of basic human rights in Chechnya. The Russian side has suggested to the partner not to intervene in the internal Russian issues. The US administration has finally followed the advice.

After that over the years the US administrations have expressed concerns, dissatisfaction, protests on number of issues: on destruction of freedom of mass media in Russia, on imprisonment of Mr. Khodorkovsky and takeover of Yukos, on destruction of the rule of law, electoral system, political opposition, NGOs, property rights, including not only of the Russian but also US companies (for example Exxon), on political assassinations, on aggressive behavior versus Russia’s neighbors, finally on outright aggression of the Russian army against sovereign state and the UN member Georgia, that led to effective annexation of two Georgian territories Abkhazia and South Ossetia, creation of the Russian military bases and deployment of regular Russian forces over there.

In all those cases the Russian side has suggested the US to shut up, and in all those cases the American side followed this advice sooner or later. There were no sanctions whatsoever for any behavior of the Russian authorities.

Recently the US has even resumed the NATO-Russia cooperation in less than 6 months after the Russian aggression against Georgia, after the rudest violation of the international law and order, the UN Charter and the UN Resolution #3314 of December 14, 1974.

The recent suggestion "to reset the button" in the US-Russia relations and "to start the relations with the blank list" is met with poorly hided joy and satisfaction on a part of the Russian Chekists. For them it means achievement of many goals that they dreamt of. This "the so called Munich statement" is interpreted by them as a de-facto acceptance by the current US administration of the idea that has been put forward by the Russian leadership last summer — the idea of the de-facto restoration of the Russian Chekists’ (secret police) influence and power over the post-Soviet space under the title of having the areas with the so called privileged interests. This idea is already being under hasty implementation with the creation of the $10 bn fund and substantial Russian credits given to Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, Ukraine, recent agreement of creation of joint fast reaction troops of 7 nations of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, establishing substantial financial and personal control over mass media in the FSU countries, permanent attempts to change the political regime and western orientation of Ukraine and finishing the conquest of Georgia.

Policy of the proclaimed "cooperation", "movement from competition to collaboration", "improvement of relations" with the current political regime in Russia has very clear consequences. Such type of behavior on the part of the US administration can not be called even a retreat. It is not even an appeasement policy that is so well known to all of us by another Munch decision in 1938. It is a surrender. It is a full, absolute and unconditional surrender to the regime of the secret police officers, chekists and Mafiosi bandits in today’s Russia. It is a surrender of the hopes and efforts of the Russian democrats as well as peoples of the post-Soviet states who dreamed to get out of the system that controlled and tortured them for almost a century — back to the Chekists’ power. But it is even more. It is a clear manifestation to all democratic and liberal forces in Russia and in other post-Soviet states that on all internal and external issues of their struggle against forces of the past the United States now abandons them and takes the position of their deadly adversaries and enemies. And therefore it is an open invitation for new adventures of the Russian Chekists’ regime in the post-Soviet space and at some points beyond it.

The very term for such type of policy has not been chosen by me, it is borrowed from the title of this hearing, namely, collaboration. Therefore the term chosen for the agents of the US administration’s policy in the coming era is "collaborationists". Collaboration between two governments today could be only on the Russian regime’s terms and for fulfillment of the Russian government’s goals. From the European history of the XX century we know what means if a revisionist power has a clear-cut goal to restore influence and control over its neighbors while other powers chose not to defend victims of the attacks, but instead try to collaborate with an aggressor.

We know the consequences of the collaborationist policy — those who retreat and surrender will get not peace, but war, war with unpredictable and nasty results. It might be also not a one war.
When the world will get there, we need to remember that we had a warning.

Thank you.

Fact Sheet on the President's Education Proposals

Office of the Press Secretary
March 10, 2009

"In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity, it is a pre-requisite. That is why it will be the goal of this Administration to ensure that every child has access to a complete and competitive education – from the day they are born to the day they begin a career."
- President Barack Obama
Address to Joint Session of Congress, February 24, 2009

Providing a high-quality education for all children is critical to America’s economic future. Education has always been the foundation for achieving the American dream, providing opportunity to millions of American families, newcomers, and immigrants. Our nation’s economic competitiveness depends on providing every child with an education that will enable them to compete in a global economy that is predicated on knowledge and innovation.

Progress toward this goal requires a race to the top to reform our nation’s schools. It requires holding schools accountable for helping all students meet world-class standards aligned to the demands of the 21st century workforce. It requires solutions for schools to close the achievement gap, and strategies to accelerate the learning of those that are the furthest behind. It requires new reforms to promote effective teaching and attract the best and brightest into the profession. It requires a national strategy to confront America’s persistent dropout crisis, and strengthen transitions to college and career.

President Obama’s agenda will improve outcomes for students at every point along the educational pipeline.

Early Education: A Strong Foundation for Success

Research demonstrates that the years before kindergarten comprise the most critical time in a child’s life to influence educational outcomes. It’s time that our nation make the early investments that will transform lives, create opportunity and save money in the long term

· President Obama is committed to helping states develop seamless, comprehensive, and coordinated "Zero to Five" systems to improve developmental outcomes and early learning for all children.

· In the 2010 budget, Early Learning Challenge Grants will encourage states to raise the bar on the quality of early education, upgrade workforce quality, and drive improvements across multiple federal, state, and local funding streams.

· Incentive grants to states will support data collection across programs (Head Start, child care, Pre-kindergarten, and other early learning settings), push for uniform quality standards, and step-up efforts for the most disadvantaged children.

K-12: Fostering a Race to the Top

To excel in the global economy, we must adopt world-class standards, assessments, and accountability systems to upgrade the quality of teaching and learning in America’s classrooms.

· The President encourages an end to the practice of low-balling state reading and math standards, and will promote efforts to enhance the rigor of state-level curriculum to better foster critical thinking, problem solving, and the innovative use of knowledge needed to meet 21st century demands.

· He will push to end the use of ineffective "off-the-shelf" tests, and promote the development of new, state-of-the-art data and assessment systems that provide timely and useful information about the learning and progress of individual students.

· With funding provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the U.S. Department of Education will work with states to upgrade data systems to track students progress and measure the effectiveness of teachers.

Teachers are the single most important resource to a child’s learning. America must re-invest in the teaching profession by recruiting mid-career professional and ensuring that teachers have the world’s best training and preparation. We must take action to improve teaching in classrooms that need it most, while demanding accountability and performance.

· The President will teacher quality by dramatically expanding successful performance pay models and rewards for effective teachers, scaling up federal support for such programs in up to an additional 150 school districts nationwide.

· He supports improved professional development and mentoring for new and less effective teachers, and will insist on shaping new processes to remove ineffective teachers.

· The President supports a new, national investment in recruiting the best and brightest to the field of teaching, and will invest in scaling-up innovative teacher preparation and induction models.

Driving Innovation and Expecting Excellence

America’s schools must be incubators of innovation and success. Where charter schools are successful, states should be challenged to lift arbitrary caps and make use of successful lessons to drive reform throughout other schools.

· President Obama will encourage the growth of successful, high-quality charter schools, and challenge states to reform their charter rules and lift limits that stifle growth and success among excellent schools.

· The President supports rigorous accountability for all charter schools, and will encourage higher-quality processes for the approval and review of charter schools, as well as plans to shut-down charters if schools are failing to serve students well.

America’s competitiveness demands a focus on the needs of our lowest-performing students and schools. Our middle- and high- schools must identify students at-risk of dropping out, and we must scale-up models that keep students on a path toward graduation. Reform in America’s lowest-performing schools must be systemic and transformational. For some, partnerships and additional support can bring about change and drive improvement. Others may need to move beyond the late 19th century and expand the school day.

· The President supports a national strategy to address the dropout crisis in America’s communities, and efforts to transform the nation’s lowest-performing schools. 2,000 of the nation’s struggling high schools produce over half of America’s dropouts. The President will invest in re-engaging and recovering at-risk students, including those enrolled in the middle school grades.

· The FY 2010 budget will support the development and scaling of effective dropout prevention and recovery models – such as transfer schools that combine education and job training for high school students that are far behind.

· President Obama supports the acceleration of America’s lowest-performing schools, and will make a robust investment toward recovery for schools failing standards under the No Child Left Behind Act.

Restoring America’s Leadership in Higher Education

Our competitiveness abroad depends on opening the doors of higher education for more of America’s students. The U.S. ranks seventh in terms of the percentage of 18-24 year olds enrolled in college, but only 15th in terms of the number of certificates and degrees awarded. A lack of financial resources should never obstruct the promise of college opportunity. And it’s America’s shared responsibility to ensure that more of our students not only reach the doors of college, but also persist, succeed, and obtain their degree.

· President Obama’s FY 2010 budget makes a historic commitment to increasing college access and success by restructuring and dramatically expanding financial aid, while making federal programs simpler, more reliable, and more efficient.

· The President will restore the buying power of the Pell Grant for America’s neediest students and guarantee an annual increase tied to inflation. His plan will end wasteful subsidies to banks under the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program, and re-direct billions in savings toward student aid.

· And it will dramatically simplify the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA), making it easier to complete and more effective for students.

· The President supports strengthening the higher education pipeline to ensure that more students succeed and complete their college education. His plan will invest in community colleges to conduct an analysis of high-demand skills and technical education, and shape new degree programs for emerging industries.

The Gaza Aid Package: Time to Rethink U.S. Foreign Assistance to the Palestinians

The Gaza Aid Package: Time to Rethink U.S. Foreign Assistance to the Palestinians. By James Phillips
Heritage, March 9, 2009
WebMemo #2333

Full article w/references here

The Obama Administration has announced a huge aid package of $900 million to help ease the humanitarian plight of Palestinians in Gaza and to shore up the bankrupt Palestinian Authority (PA). This surge of soft power is aimed at strengthening Palestinian moderates and helping to clear the way for revived Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. But as long as Hamas remains free to rain rockets down on Israel, these ambitions remain little more than wishful thinking.

Since the 1993 Oslo peace accords, the U.S. has showered $2.2 billion in bilateral aid on the Palestinians, in addition to more than $3.4 billion for humanitarian aid funneled to the Palestinians through dysfunctional U.N. organizations since 1950. This aid has:
  • Subsidized the welfare of Palestinian refugees;
  • Contributed to a culture of victimization and shrill anti-Israeli and anti-Western radicalism; and
  • Freed up some Palestinian groups to focus on destroying Israel rather than on providing for and advancing the long-term interests of the Palestinian people.
Given the searing economic crisis that the United States presently faces, the Obama Administration should:
  • Significantly reduce these overly ambitious aid goals;
  • Halt the funding of U.N. agencies that do not adequately screen their workers for terrorist connections or permit external audits; and
  • Tighten restrictions on the disbursement of aid to ensure that the aid will not be diverted for hostile purposes.
A Soft-Headed Soft Power Approach to Middle East Peace

Last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the Obama Administration's pledge of $900 million in aid at an international donors conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. The aid package includes $300 million for humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, $200 million in budget support for the PA, and $400 million to support the PA's Palestinian Reform and Development Plan in the West Bank.

The Obama Administration maintains that this massive aid package will not end up in the pockets of Hamas and other terrorist groups. It plans to funnel assistance through the PA, NGOs, and U.N. agencies. But the PA remains a weak and problematic institution hobbled by corruption, despite recent reforms. And U.N. agencies often have their own agenda as well as an anti-American and anti-Israeli tilt.

The largest U.N. body involved with facilitating aid to the Palestinians is the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), a notoriously opaque and dysfunctional institution that has been infiltrated by Hamas supporters and other Palestinian radicals.[1]Even though it receives over a third of a billion dollars in international funding every year, and despite recurrent reports of inefficiency and corruption, UNRWA is not externally or publicly audited. Such lack of accountability is particularly troubling for an organization that has been chronically dogged by controversy.

There are numerous reports documenting that UNRWA has been infiltrated by Hamas terrorists. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), at least 16 UNRWA staff had been detained by Israeli authorities for security-related crimes, and three had been convicted in military courts of terrorism-related activities.[2]UNRWA's leadership has admitted in the past that Hamas, which the U.S. government has designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, has been able to infiltrate the U.N. agency. Peter Hansen, then-commissioner-general of UNRWA, sparked a political storm in 2004 when he remarked in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that "I am sure that there are Hamas members on the UNRWA payroll, and I don't see that as a crime. Hamas, as a political organization, does not mean that every member is a militant, and we do not do political vetting and exclude people from one persuasion as against another."[3]

Specific examples of radicals working for UNRWA are readily available. For instance, Said Sayyam, the Hamas minister of interior, worked as a teacher at UNRWA schools in Gaza, while the headmaster of another UNRWA school, Awas al-Qiq, was the leader of a cell that build rockets for the Islamic Jihad terrorist group. Several other UNRWA employees left their jobs to run in the 2006 Palestinian elections as Hamas candidates. Despite the fact that the United States is the biggest single donor to UNRWA, that agency continues to resist reform and refuses external audits of its operations. Incredibly, the UNRWA Web site that includes information on its "Special Gaza Appeal" instructs donors to send money through the Commercial Bank of Syria, which has been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department for money laundering and suspected involvement in moving money to terrorist groups.[4] Clearly, the UNRWA bureaucracy takes an extremely lax attitude on fighting terrorism and should not be trusted to handle aid provided by the U.S. government.

No Taxpayer Subsidies for Terrorist Groups

Given the penetration of UNRWA and other NGOs by terrorist groups, the United States must be absolutely sure that its aid does not end up being diverted. Congressman Mark Kirk (R-IL) has warned that "to route $900 million to this area, and let's say that Hamas was only able to steal 10 percent of that, we would still become Hamas's second-largest funder after Iran."[5]

Congress needs to scrutinize the Obama Administration's aid plans to make sure that there is absolutely no chance that funds provided by American taxpayers end up being pocketed by members of terrorist groups--a development that would violate section 301c of the Foreign Assistance Act. The Senate should pull funding for UNRWA and the Palestinian Authority from the $410 billion spending bill currently before Congress. And both houses of Congress should hold hearings and exercise their oversight powers to make sure that future aid to the Palestinians is dispensed on a more modest scale via closely vetted NGOs, not through corrupted U.N. bodies operating at cross-purposes with U.S. foreign policy goals.

James Phillips is Senior Research Fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation.

Another Semi-Defense of, Ahem, Tim Geithner

Another Semi-Defense of, Ahem, Tim Geithner. By Noam Scheiber
The New Republic,

It is, to massively understate the point, not exactly popular to defend Tim Geithner these days. And I certainly have concerns about what he's up to, and the direction the financial rescue is headed. But I think it's worth making at least one broad point on the guy's behalf. (God knows he could use it. When was the last time SNL not only parodied a Treasury secretary, but did it in a sketch that was funny?)

At the risk of sounding trite, I'd just say it's pretty easy for me and other commentators to insist that some form of nationalization is the only possible solution to the bank crisis. I happen to honestly think it is, as do many others. But it costs us nothing to say. We wouldn't have to deal with the logistical, political, and managerial nightmare of pulling it off, during which time thousands upon thousands of things could go wrong. And if some subset of those things did go wrong, we wouldn't be in charge of wading through the wreckage. If you were, your calculus would almost certainly be different from the guy who tosses off a few sentences and hits "publish" on his blog--sometimes before taking a shower in the morning. (That would be, uh, me.)

I couldn't help thinking this when I read Alan Blinder's column in Saturday's Times. Blinder ticked off some of the potential hitches with nationalization, including these:

First and foremost, the Swedish government had to deal with only a handful of banks; we have more than 8,300. Numbers matter, because deciding where to draw the nationalization line isn’t easy. Presumably, no one wants to nationalize all the banks, thousands of which are healthy. But where do you stop, once you start?

Suppose we nationalized four banks. Bank Five would then find itself at a severe disadvantage in competing for funds with the government-backed quartet. Forced to pay higher interest rates to attract depositors and other creditors, its profitability would suffer. Soon, Bank Five might start looking like a candidate for nationalization, too — followed by Banks Six, Seven and so on. ...

As stock traders began to contemplate the nationalization of Banks Five, Six and Seven, their share prices would tank, and short-sellers might consign the companies to an early grave.

Now, I have some ideas about why these fears are overblown, and how you could defuse them. (Transparency on the bank's balance sheets would be a good place to start, so people knew which banks were bona fide nationalization candidates.) But, if you're the guy who has to make the call--and deal with the s**tstorm that erupts if those fears turn out to be right, are you really going to take the word of a handful of bloggers and columnists? Even the top academic economists in the world? Paul Krugman has some great points in response to Blinder. But, if I'm Geithner, and I'm staring at such enormous downside risks, even an outsider as sharp as Krugman isn't going to set my mind at ease.

Don't get me wrong. At some point Geithner's going to have to do something truly comprehensive. And if he doesn't, or that something fails, he will rightly be blamed. And the longer he puts it off, the more likely failure becomes (all things being equal).

Also, as I've said before, I'm really glad people like Krugman are out there keeping the administration honest in the meantime.

I'd only caution against assuming the people at Treasury must be idiots if they can't see what looks obvious to you and me. It's just not so simple.

--Noam Scheiber

WaPo: State Sec Clinton undercuts own human rights reporting

Some Friends. WaPo Editorial
Hillary Rodham Clinton undercuts the State Department's own human rights reporting.
WaPo, Tuesday, March 10, 2009; A12

SECRETARY OF STATE Hillary Rodham Clinton continues to devalue and undermine the U.S. diplomatic tradition of human rights advocacy. On her first foreign trip, to Asia, she was dismissive about raising human rights concerns with China's communist government, saying "those issues can't interfere" with economic, security or environmental matters. In last week's visit to the Middle East and Europe, she undercut the State Department's own reporting regarding two problematic American allies: Egypt and Turkey.

According to State's latest report on Egypt, issued Feb. 25, "the government's respect for human rights remained poor" during 2008 "and serious abuses continued in many areas." It cited torture by security forces and a decline in freedom of the press, association and religion. Ms. Clinton was asked about those conclusions during an interview she gave to the al-Arabiya satellite network in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Her reply contained no expression of concern about the deteriorating situation. "We issue these reports on every country," she said. "We hope that it will be taken in the spirit in which it is offered, that we all have room for improvement."

Ms. Clinton was then asked whether there would be any connection between the report and a prospective invitation to President Hosni Mubarak to visit Washington. "It is not in any way connected," she replied, adding: "I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family. So I hope to see him often here in Egypt and in the United States." Ms. Clinton's words will be treasured by al-Qaeda recruiters and anti-American propagandists throughout the Middle East. She appears oblivious to how offensive such statements are to the millions of Egyptians who loathe Mr. Mubarak's oppressive government and blame the United States for propping it up.

The new secretary of state delivered a similar shock in Turkey to liberal supporters of press freedom, now under siege by the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. According to the State Department report, "senior government officials, including Prime Minister Erdogan, made statements during the year strongly criticizing the press and media business figures, particularly following the publishing of reports on alleged corruption . . . connected to the ruling party." That was an understatement: In fact, Mr. Erdogan's government has mounted an ugly campaign against one of Turkey's largest media conglomerates, presenting it with a $500 million tax bill in a maneuver that has been compared to Russia's treatment of independent media.

Ms. Clinton was asked by a Turkish journalist what she told Mr. Erdogan when he complained about the State Department report. She answered: "Well, my reaction was that we put out this report every year, and I fully understand . . . no politician ever likes the press criticizing them." "Overall," she concluded, "we think that Turkey has made tremendous progress in freedom of speech and freedom of religion and human rights, and we're proud of that."

In fact, as the State Department has documented, Turkey is retreating on freedom of speech. In Egypt, the human rights situation also is getting worse rather than better. By minimizing those facts, Ms. Clinton is doing a disservice to her own department -- and sending a message to rulers around the world that their abuses won't be taken seriously by this U.S. administration.

Jinpa: It's Not Hard for China to Satisfy Tibet - We are seeking autonomy, not independence

It's Not Hard for China to Satisfy Tibet. By Thupten Jinpa
We are seeking autonomy, not independence.
WSJ, Mar 10, 2009

Today, Tibetans all over the world -- at least, those outside their homeland -- will mark the 50th anniversary of the Lhasa uprising of 1959. That event culminated in the flight of the Dalai Lama and thousands of Tibetans into exile in India.

This year's commemoration must invoke somber reflection on the part of all stakeholders. Fifty years is a long time. China's great revolutionary leaders who were active in 1959 -- Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping -- have long since gone. Many of the older generation of Tibetans who fled Tibet in the wake of the 1959 uprising, including my own parents, also are no more. Yet for Tibetans the tragic legacy of the 1950s still lives on, most painfully in the continued separation of the Tibetan people from our beloved Dalai Lama.

Surely the time has come to close this sad chapter, to resolve the longstanding dispute, and to allow the reunion of the Tibetan people with their cherished leader. Last year's disturbances across the Tibetan areas brought attention to the depth of the Tibetan dissatisfaction with the status quo. Similarly, the widespread protests against the Olympic torch relay in many cities across the world -- Asia, Europe and North America -- conveyed the wish of so many people in the outside world to see the Tibetan issue resolved.

Why is the Tibet question so intractable that no leader in Beijing has managed to resolve it so far? First there is the complexity of history, with claims and counterclaims pertaining to the ownership of Tibet. Second, in dealing with the Tibetans, Beijing is confronted with a people whose sense of a united nationhood stretches back at least as far as the seventh century. During that period, China's Tang emperor was compelled to offer a princess as a bride to the Tibetan Emperor Songtsen Gampo. With a language, culture and origin myths of their own, the Tibetans have a powerful sense of their distinction and a deep historical consciousness. These are aspects of the Tibetan identity that will continue to be passed from generation to generation, regardless of the political contingencies of a given period.

Yet now is the best time in a long time to achieve a just solution. During Mao's era, one might argue, the People's Republic of China had to spend much of its time addressing problems arising from its birth and growth into a modern nation. Deng's priority was to take China through a careful transition into an effective market economy. Perhaps neither felt he could afford to give the Tibetan issue the commitment and attention necessary for its successful resolution. Today, China is an increasingly confident nation gradually emerging as an important global power, which, given its antiquity, size and economy, is its rightful place. So Beijing today is well-placed to resolve the longstanding issue of Tibet.

What then might be the best way to proceed? For both sides, there is not much to gain from invoking history to contest the legitimacy of each other's claims. For the Tibetans, the facts on the ground are such that, whether we like it or not, today Tibet is part of China. Tibetans need to understand that any proposed settlement that fails to respect the territorial integrity of modern China will be unacceptable to any government in Beijing.

Beijing, meanwhile, needs to recognize the legitimacy of the Tibetan people's aspiration to protect the integrity of our language, culture and identity. Although Beijing recognizes Tibetan language and culture formally, policies in Tibet still undermine the survival of that identity. Beijing could allow Tibetan to be the language of primary education as well as introducing it in the governmental and public services in the Tibetan-speaking areas. Greater religious freedom is also crucial, including allowing Tibetans to again display images of the Dalai Lama in their homes. Beijing must also ensure that the demography on the Tibetan plateau is not threatened in a manner that makes the survival of the Tibetans as a people impossible. These steps could go a long way toward assuring Tibetans that China acknowledges and respects their distinctiveness.

If these basic premises are honored on both sides, all other issues will be details. This is exactly the principle upon which the Dalai Lama's efforts over the last three decades are based. This also appears to be the spirit behind Deng's now famous statement, made to the Dalai Lama's envoy, that "except for Tibet's independence everything can be discussed."

Beijing has already nominally accepted this solution by designating the Tibetan areas as the Tibet Autonomous Region, Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and Tibetan Autonomous Counties in other provinces like Gansu, Sichuan and Qinghai. It needs only to implement fully the letter of its own laws. The Tibetan side has also been ready to work from this premise. In October, at the eighth round of meetings since renewed contacts began in 2001 between Beijing and the Dalai Lama's representatives, the Dalai Lama's side offered a substantive proposal entitled Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People, which envisioned how such an arrangement could be implemented. At an important subsequent gathering in Dharamsala, the Tibetan exile representatives reaffirmed their full support to the Dalai Lama's approach.

Beijing now has the opportunity to exercise magnanimity and bring this sad chapter on Tibet to a dignified close. Failure to reach a solution while the Dalai Lama is alive will only serve to make the dispute even more intractable. The legitimacy of Beijing's rule in Tibet may be questioned for many more decades to come.

Mr. Jinpa is the principal translator for the Dalai Lama.

Conservative view: "Global Warming: The President Politicizes Stem-Cell Research - Taxpayers have a right to be left out of it

The President Politicizes Stem-Cell Research. By Robert P George and Eric Cohen
Taxpayers have a right to be left out of it.
WSJ, Mar 10, 2009

Yesterday President Barack Obama issued an executive order that authorizes expanded federal funding for research using stem cells produced by destroying human embryos. The announcement was classic Obama: advancing radical policies while seeming calm and moderate, and preaching the gospel of civility while accusing those who disagree with the policies of being "divisive" and even "politicizing science."

Mr. Obama's executive order overturned an attempt by President George W. Bush in 2001 to do justice to both the promise of stem-cell science and the demands of ethics. The Bush policy was to allow the government to fund research on existing embryonic stem-cell lines, where the embryos in question had already been destroyed. But it would not fund, or in any way incentivize, the ongoing destruction of human embryos.

For years, this policy was attacked by advocates of embryo-destructive research. Mr. Bush and the "religious right" were depicted as antiscience villains and embryonic stem-cell scientists and their allies were seen as the beleaguered saviors of the sick. In reality, Mr. Bush's policy was one of moderation. It did not ban new embryo-destructive research (the president had no power to do that), and it did not fund new embryo-destructive research.

"Moderate" Mr. Obama's policy is not. It will promote a whole new industry of embryo creation and destruction, including the creation of human embryos by cloning for research in which they are destroyed. It forces American taxpayers, including those who see the deliberate taking of human life in the embryonic stage as profoundly unjust, to be complicit in this practice.

Mr. Obama made a big point in his speech of claiming to bring integrity back to science policy, and his desire to remove the previous administration's ideological agenda from scientific decision-making. This claim of taking science out of politics is false and misguided on two counts.

First, the Obama policy is itself blatantly political. It is red meat to his Bush-hating base, yet pays no more than lip service to recent scientific breakthroughs that make possible the production of cells that are biologically equivalent to embryonic stem cells without the need to create or kill human embryos. Inexplicably -- apart from political motivations -- Mr. Obama revoked not only the Bush restrictions on embryo destructive research funding, but also the 2007 executive order that encourages the National Institutes of Health to explore non-embryo-destructive sources of stem cells.

Second and more fundamentally, the claim about taking politics out of science is in the deepest sense antidemocratic. The question of whether to destroy human embryos for research purposes is not fundamentally a scientific question; it is a moral and civic question about the proper uses, ambitions and limits of science. It is a question about how we will treat members of the human family at the very dawn of life; about our willingness to seek alternative paths to medical progress that respect human dignity.

For those who believe in the highest ideals of deliberative democracy, and those who believe we mistreat the most vulnerable human lives at our own moral peril, Mr. Obama's claim of "taking politics out of science" should be lamented, not celebrated.

In the years ahead, the stem-cell debate will surely continue -- raising as it does big questions about the meaning of human equality at the edges of human life, about the relationship between science and politics, and about how we govern ourselves when it comes to morally charged issues of public policy on which reasonable people happen to disagree. We can only hope, in the years ahead, that scientific creativity will make embryo destruction unnecessary and that as a society we will not pave the way to the brave new world with the best medical intentions.

Mr. George is professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton and co-author of "Embryo: A Defense of Human Life" (Doubleday, 2008). Mr. Cohen is editor-at-large of The New Atlantis and author of "In the Shadow of Progress: Being Human in the Age of Technology" (Encounter, 2008).

WaPo: President Obama lifts the limits on federally funded research but puts off key moral questions

Stem Cell Questions. WaPo Editorial
President Obama lifts the limits on federally funded research but puts off key moral questions.
WaPo, Tuesday, March 10, 2009; A12

PRESIDENT OBAMA did the right thing yesterday when he reversed President George W. Bush's limitations on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. The potential for cures and treatments of debilitating diseases with these versatile cells is enormous. But this type of experimentation is thick with ethical and moral questions, many of which Mr. Obama put off answering.

"We will develop strict guidelines, which we will rigorously enforce, because we cannot ever tolerate misuse or abuse," the president said yesterday at the White House. But he offered little indication of where he would draw those lines. In effect since August 2001, Mr. Bush's limits were offered as a compromise between the needs of scientists and the moral and ethical convictions of those troubled by the stem cell extraction process that destroys the embryos. Mr. Bush permitted federal funding of experimentation, but only on stem cell lines that existed at the time of his announcement. In practice, those 21 viable stem cell lines proved too few, and many scientists said the restrictions were holding back research. The breakthrough in 2007 that made human skin cells function like embryonic stem cells has great potential. But there are still questions about the efficacy of that approach. Mr. Obama says he wants all types of experimentation in this arena to be done "responsibly."

Mr. Obama will allow federal funding to be used for stem cell research on lines derived from embryos since 2001 and into the future. He has directed the National Institutes of Health to devise within 120 days the guidelines that will regulate how this research is conducted. But will research be performed only on stem cell lines grown from the thousands of frozen embryos in fertility clinics that have been slated for destruction? Mr. Obama didn't say. The 1995 legislation known as the Dickey-Wicker Amendment bans federal money from being used to create or destroy human embryos for research, but not research on stem cells from such embryos once they have been created.

Aside from saying, "As a person of faith, I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering," the president has not given a hint as to where he stands on some thorny questions. Should Dickey-Wicker be repealed? He leaves it up to Congress to decide that. Where does he stand on growing human embryos for experimentation in general and using them for stem cells in particular? It's unclear.

The White House said that Mr. Obama doesn't want to prejudge the NIH guidelines but that this will not be the last we'll hear from Mr. Obama on this subject. We hope not. Some of these ethical questions need to be dealt with in the political arena, and not just by scientists.

Executive order on human embyonic stem cells

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
March 9, 2009
- - - - - - -

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy. Research involving human embryonic stem cells and human non-embryonic stem cells has the potential to lead to better understanding and treatment of many disabling diseases and conditions. Advances over the past decade in this promising scientific field have been encouraging, leading to broad agreement in the scientific community that the research should be supported by Federal funds.

For the past 8 years, the authority of the Department of Health and Human Services, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to fund and conduct human embryonic stem cell research has been limited by Presidential actions. The purpose of this order is to remove these limitations on scientific inquiry, to expand NIH support for the exploration of human stem cell research, and in so doing to enhance the contribution of America's scientists to important new discoveries and new therapies for the benefit of humankind.

Sec. 2. Research. The Secretary of Health and Human Services (Secretary), through the Director of NIH, may support and conduct responsible, scientifically worthy human stem cell research, including human embryonic stem cell research, to the extent permitted by law.

Sec. 3. Guidance. Within 120 days from the date of this order, the Secretary, through the Director of NIH, shall review existing NIH guidance and other widely recognized guidelines on human stem cell research, including provisions establishing appropriate safeguards, and issue new NIH guidance on such research that is consistent with this order. The Secretary, through NIH, shall review and update such guidance periodically, as appropriate.

Sec. 4. General Provisions. (a) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(b) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) authority granted by law to an executive department, agency, or the head thereof; or
(ii) functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity, by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

Sec. 5. Revocations. (a) The Presidential statement of August 9, 2001, limiting Federal funding for research involving human embryonic stem cells, shall have no further effect as a statement of governmental policy.

(b) Executive Order 13435 of June 20, 2007, which supplements the August 9, 2001, statement on human embryonic stem cell research, is revoked.

March 9, 2009.

Obama's National Intelligence Crackpot - What does the Jewish lobby have to do with China's dissidents

Obama's National Intelligence Crackpot, by Bret Stephens
What does the Jewish lobby have to do with China's dissidents
WSJ, Mar 10, 2009

On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal published a letter from 17 U.S. ambassadors defending the appointment of Charles Freeman to chair the National Intelligence Council. The same day, the leaders of the 1989 protests that led to the massacre at Beijing's Tiananmen Square wrote Barack Obama "to convey our intense dismay at your selection" of Mr. Freeman.

If moral weight could be measured on a zero to 100 scale, the signatories of the latter letter, some of whom spent years in Chinese jails, would probably find themselves in the upper 90s. Where Mr. Freeman and his defenders stand on this scale is something readers can decide for themselves.

So what do Chinese democracy activists have against Mr. Freeman, a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia? As it turns out, they are all, apparently, part-and-parcel of the Israel Lobby.

In a recent article about Mr. Freeman's nomination in the Huffington Post, M.J. Rosenberg of the left-wing Israel Policy Forum writes that "Everyone involved in the anti-Freeman effort are staunch allies of the lobby." Of course: Only the most fervid Likudnik mandarins could object to Mr. Freeman's 2006 characterization of Mao Zedong as a man who, for all his flaws, had a "brilliance of . . . personality [that] illuminated the farthest corners of his country and inspired many would-be revolutionaries and romantics beyond it." It also takes a Shanghai Zionist to demur from Mr. Freeman's characterization of the Chinese leadership's response to the "mob scene" at Tiananmen as "a monument to overly cautious behavior on the part of the leadership."

Mr. Freeman knows China well: He served as a translator during Richard Nixon's historic 1972 visit to Beijing. More recently, Mr. Freeman served on the advisory board of CNOOC, the Chinese state-owned oil giant. Is this also a qualification to lead the NIC?
But the Far East is by no means Mr. Freeman's only area of expertise. For many years he has led the Middle East Policy Council, generously funded by Saudi money. It's a generosity Mr. Freeman has amply repaid.

Thus, recalling Mr. Freeman's special pleading on behalf of Riyadh during his stint as ambassador in the early '90s, former Secretary of State James Baker called it "a classic case of clientitis from one of our best diplomats." Mr. Freeman has also been quoted as saying "It is widely charged in the United States that Saudi Arabian education teaches hateful and evil things. I do not think this is the case." Yet according to a 2006 report in the Washington Post, an eighth grade Saudi textbook contains the line, "They are the Jews, whom God has cursed and with whom He is so angry that He will never again be satisfied." Maybe Mr. Freeman was unaware of this. Or maybe he doesn't consider it particularly evil and hateful.

Whatever the case, Mr. Freeman has been among the Kingdom's most devoted fans, going so far as to suggest that King Abdullah "is very rapidly becoming Abdullah the Great." No sycophancy there.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Freeman was a ferocious critic of the war on terror. Not surprising, either, was his opinion about what started it: "We have paid heavily and often in treasure in the past for our unflinching support and unstinting subsidies of Israel's approach to managing its relations with the Arabs," he said in 2006. "Five years ago we began to pay with the blood of our citizens here at home."

This is not a particularly original argument, although in Mr. Freeman's case it becomes a kind of monomania, in which Israel is always the warmonger, always slapping away Arab hands extended in peace. Say what you will about this depiction of reality, there's also a peculiar psychology at work.

Then again, as Middle East scholar Martin Kramer points out, Mr. Freeman's recent views on the causes of 9/11 contradict his view from 1998, when he insisted that al Qaeda's "campaign of violence against the United States has nothing to do with Israel." What changed? Mr. Kramer thinks Mr. Freeman was merely following the lead of his benefactor, Citibank shareholder Prince Al-Waleed, who opined that 9/11 was all about U.S. support for Israel, not what the Kingdom teaches about the infidels.

Is Mr. Freeman merely a shill? That seems unfair, even if it's hard to square his remorseless "realism" in matters Chinese with the touching solicitude he feels for Israel's victims (who, by his count, must be numbered in the tens of millions). James Fallows of the Atlantic has argued that Mr. Freeman's "contrarian inclination" would serve him well in the NIC post. But the line between contrarian and crackpot is a thin one, and knowing the difference between the two is a main task of intelligence.

Adm. Dennis Blair, the Director of National Intelligence who asked Mr. Freeman to serve, is testifying today in Congress. Somebody should ask him if any of Mr. Freeman's views quoted above meet the definition of "crackpot," and, if not, why?