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The Most Dishonest Freeman Defense

10:52 AM, Mar 10, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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The Washington Post has finally reported on the controversy surrounding the appointment of Charles Freeman to head the National Intelligence Council. It seems that the Post also spoke to Charles Freeman, though they don't have any on the record quotes from the appointee. According to the paper, Freeman is claiming he was taken out of context in his views on the Tienanmen Square massacre:

Freeman has also been faulted for statements about the Tiananmen Square uprising in 1989. Critics have said that he faulted the Chinese for not acting earlier in putting down the demonstrations, but Freeman said the remarks were his assessment of how Chinese leaders had seen things.

Freeman's allies are claiming this as well--Blair just offered this defense of Freeman in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The Nelson Report claims that "Unscrupulous opponents have given sections of the memo to gullible commentators with the lie…no other word for it…that it is Freeman talking for himself, with his personal views and analysis of Chinese government actions in 1989." And writing on his blog at the website America's only socialist wire service, IPS, Jim Lobe says of Chris Nelson's assessment "I haven't seen the memo myself, so I must take Chris' word for what it said. But I also have no reason to doubt that he has reported Freeman's original message accurate."

I'd invite Lobe, and Nelson, and Freeman to reread the memo -- it's not hard to find. It's true that Freeman was describing "the dominant view in China" when he said that the regime had been "overly cautious" in responding to the demonstrations. But he added that he found that view "plausible" and went on to write:

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.

THE WEEKLY STANDARD published Freeman's entire email. Freeman described how the Chinese leadership saw those events, and then seconded their assessment. He agreed that the protests were intolerable and that the government had only done what was, in his view, necessary to end the standoff. Freeman wasn't taken out of context, and it's deeply dishonest for Freeman and his friends to claim otherwise.