Let us be clear. The United States can verify absolutely nothing about the use of chemical weapons (CWs) in Syria. Any suggestion to the contrary is entirely false.
Don’t take it from me – here is what US officials have to say about the subject:
A mere 24 hours after Washington heavyweights from the White House, Pentagon, and State Department brushed aside Israeli allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and the White House changed their minds. They now believe “with varying degrees of confidence” that CWs have been used “on a small scale” inside Syria.
For the uninitiated, “varying degrees of confidence” can mean anything from “no confidence whatsoever” to “the Israelis told us” – which, translated, also means “no confidence whatsoever.”
Too cavalier? I don’t think so. The White House introduced another important caveat in its detailed briefing on Thursday:
“This assessment is based in part on physiological samples. Our standard of evidence must build on these intelligence assessments as we seek to establish credible and corroborated facts. For example the chain of custody is not clear so we cannot confirm how the exposure occurred and under what conditions.”
“The chain of custody is not clear.” That is the single most important phrase in this whole exercise. It is the only phrase that journalists need consider – everything else is conjecture of WMDs-in-Iraq proportions.
I asked a State Department spokesperson the following: “Does it mean you don’t know who has had access to the sample before it reached you? Or that the sample has not been contaminated along the way?”
He responded: “It could mean both.”
Chuck Hagel expands on that jaw-dropping admission: “We cannot confirm the origin of these weapons.” Although he goes on to conclude anyway: “but we do believe that any use of chemical weapons in Syria would very likely have originated with the Assad regime.”
Four-year-olds shouldn’t have confidence in the US intelligence community at this point. Yet we are supposed to believe that the Syrian government must be behind a chemical weapons attack because Hagel says so.
Let’s consider the facts. The Syrian government has clearly stated it would not use chemical weapons during the crisis “regardless of the developments” unless “Syria faces external aggression.”
The US and other western states have warned for more than a year now that as the government of Bashar al-Assad begins to “topple,” the likelihood of using CWs as a desperate last measure will increase.
The White House reiterated this point yesterday: “Given our concern that as the situation deteriorated and the regime became more desperate, they may use some of their significant stockpiles of chemical weapons.”
Assad’s government is clearly not on its last leg. If anything, the Syrian army has made tremendous gains in the past few weeks by thwarting rebel plans to storm Damascus, pushing them out of key surrounding suburbs, and cutting off their supply lines in different parts of the country.
This recent reversal of fortunes tends to validate the observations of those who have met with Assad and say the president remains confident that he can repel rebel forces whenever and wherever he chooses to do so.
Which frankly removes a major “motive” from any calculation by the Syrian government to use chemical weapons against civilians.
The constant reference to CWs in this conflict is suspect – there is no conceivable military advantage to be gained from the use of these munitions. Writing for Foreign Policy in December, Charles Blair says using CWs against rebels makes no tactical or strategic sense:
“The regime would risk losing Russian and Chinese support, legitimizing foreign military intervention, and, ultimately, hastening its own end. As one Syrian official said, ‘We would not commit suicide.’”
In fact, there is plenty of evidence that the government has calibrated its military responses throughout this conflict to avoid scenarios that would create a pretext for foreign military intervention on “humanitarian grounds.”
Just as there is evidence aplenty that rebel forces will go to great lengths to create a pretext for foreign intervention that would help them oust Assad.
On March 19, a suspected chemical weapons attack near Aleppo prompted the Syrian government to ask the United Nations to launch an investigation. Witnesses reported the “smell of chlorine in the air,” which led to speculation that this could have been a rebel-led attack given that opposition militias had seized Syria’s only chlorine gas bottling plant, east of Aleppo, that August.
The use of chlorine gas-based explosives by insurgents was seen not so long ago in Iraq, where attacks against both authorities and civilians are traceable to 2006. US military spokespeople, at the time, claimed that insurgent tactics had become deadlier, seeking to draw maximum attention and impose widespread suffering.
The Iraq connection and insurgent tactics there are important to the Syrian conflict because of the influx of jihadist rebels flooding over the Iraqi border, bringing with them experience and know-how from fighting the US occupation. That border also allegedly hosts training camps for groups in both countries allied with al-Qaeda – a development that has come to light since a recent announcement linking al-Nusra Front to al-Qaeda’s central group.
The White House’s allegations on Thursday specified a sarin gas connection to at least one other suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria. Even if this were true, a clear-cut connection linking the use of a CW explosive to the Syrian government is not at all inevitable. In 2004, an IED roadside bomb – a common insurgent tactic – containing the nerve agent was detonated in Iraq. There are no guarantees whatsoever that chemical munitions have not found their way into the hands of rogue elements – or in fact that they are not producing them in small quantities themselves.
At this point, almost everything being discussed in relation to chemical weapons inside Syria is conjecture – and to be honest – highly suspect.
The Times of London (which is behind a paywall so I cannot link to it) just published a detailed and timely “investigation” of an alleged CW attack in Aleppo, claiming: “the Syrian regime prefers to gas its opponents in this small-scale way, testing the elasticity of President Obama’s ‘red line.’”
The article then goes on to describe the harrowing account of what appears to be a sarin gas attack from a victim, witnesses, and medical staff. But experts are now questioning these accounts, saying that the evidence is “far from conclusive.”
In reference to the video of the alleged CW attack referenced by The Times, Jean Pascal Zanders, a senior researcher at the European Union Institute for Security Studies, tells McClatchy News that there are red flags in the footage.
“Why only one person?” he said, referring to the video showing one patient it said was a victim. “Why do I find the hospital setting, again, unlike what I would expect in a case of chemical exposure? Why is the guy ‘foaming’ in the hospital, considering the rapid action of sarin.” Zanders explained that without an antidote, death is possible within one minute after exposure to sarin.”
The Times article then gets even stranger. To quote:
“In the chaos of Syria’s civil war, no hospital in the rebel-held areas has the facilities to test which gas was used. Yet medical sources in northern Syria have told The Times that in the immediate aftermath of the attack a team from “an American medical agency” arrived at the hospital in Afrin. They took hair samples from the casualties for testing at ‘an American laboratory.’
It is likely that these samples formed part of the evidence cited by the US Defence Secretary yesterday.”
Really? A CW attack takes place in the middle of the night in Aleppo, and in its “immediate aftermath” an “American medical agency” arrives to collect samples for testing?
In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Free Syrian Army Chief of Staff General Salim Idriss says that Israel is knowledgeable about the Syrian government’s use of CWs, because the Mossad has agents in the country: “Israel has this information because there are many, many members of security services who are now very active in Syria.”
Idriss is, of course, referencing the statements by Israel this week that kicked off all the recent speculation on Syrian CWs:
Israeli army intelligence analyst Brig. Gen. Itai Brun has been quoted far and wide on this issue, mainly referencing the April Aleppo incident highlighted by The Times and debunked by experts.
It is likely that all the speculation in the past few days revolves around an incident that is looking more and more like the “false flag” operations anti-rebel Syrians have been warning about this past year. Given where the “evidence” is coming from, and the alleged presence of a western or American “medical agency” present on the ground, it is quite remarkable that Washington went full-press on this.
It is almost as bad as the account in 2011 of a middle-aged, Iranian-American, ex-car dealer who, by virtue of some familial relationship with a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, decided to collude with a Mexican drug cartel to plot the assassination of the Saudi ambassador in Washington at a popular DC eatery.
Having just passed the ten year anniversary of an Iraqi invasion and occupation based entirely on false and falsified data on Weapons of Mass Destruction, western media needs not to be asking about “red lines” as much as for iron-clad evidence.
Sharmine Narwani is a commentary writer and political analyst covering the Middle East. You can follow Sharmine on twitter @snarwani.
- Israel spy agency has presence in Syria, says senior rebel general
- Chemical inspection stalled: UN team can’t be trusted ‘politically’ without Russian experts – Syrian information minister
I guess it goes to show you how limited the debate over warmaking is when politicians whose records are mostly pro-war can be portrayed as war skeptics.
That’s what is happening with Barack Obama’s new cabinet picks: Sen. John Kerry for secretary of State and former Sen. Chuck Hagel as Defense secretary. In today’s New York Times (1/9/12), Elisabeth Bumiller has a piece headlined, “For Two Nominees, Vietnam Bred Doubts on War,” where she claims:
Between them, Senator John Kerry and Chuck Hagel have five Purple Hearts for wounds suffered in Vietnam, shared a harrowing combat experience in the Mekong Delta and responded in different ways to the conflict that tore their generation apart.
But in nominating one as secretary of State and the other as Defense secretary, President Obama hopes to bring to his administration two veterans with the same sensibility about the futilities of war.
Bumiller goes on to report that Hagel and Kerry supporters say their Vietnam experiences means they “question the price of American involvement overseas.” That would make a certain kind of sense. But their actual records do very little to support this claim.
After quoting Hagel’s criticism of the ongoing Afghan War, Bumiller writes:
Like Mr. Kerry, Mr. Hagel voted for the resolution authorizing the invasion of Iraq but became an early opponent of the Bush administration’s execution of the war.
So both of them voted to authorize the Iraq War, and supported the invasion of Afghanistan. Kerry supported the Panama invasion and NATO’s war in Serbia. And during his presidential campaign in 2004 he talked about possibly increasing the number of troops in Iraq.
Hagel’s record, as I noted already, has been more supportive of U.S. warmaking than not. If anything, their records suggest they are willing to criticize U.S. wars after they’ve voted to support them. This might be in line with the White House’s thinking, but it shouldn’t be confused with an overall skepticism towards U.S. wars and their “futilities.”
Elsewhere in the paper, David Sanger argues that Kerry and Hagel would be part of a “new national security team deeply suspicious of the wisdom of American military interventions around the world.” They “bear the scars of a war that ended when the president was a teenager,” and–along with Obama’s CIA pick John Brennan–”have sounded dismissive of attempts to send thousands of troops to rewire foreign nations as wasteful and ill-conceived.”
True–except when they haven’t.
“The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here.”
“I’m not an Israeli senator. I’m a United States senator.”
Chuck Hagel’s most famous words may give hope to some that Obama’s nomination of him for Secretary of Defense is a sign that the influence of Israel is waning. Hagel has even been cautious about war with Iran and has indicated he prefers talking over shooting.
Take a look at his voting record and some of his stances while senator. Not exactly progressive. He voted for going into Afghanistan. He also voted to go into Iraq before he said he was somewhat against that war and did a little criticizing of the Bush administration. Patriot Act? No problem. He twice cast his lot for it.
FISA? Yep, he likes spying.
Hagel’s campaign contributors included a lot of bankers and we all know how well they like war and military contractors.
Proper disclosure has not been one of his strong suits. Could his own electronic voting machine company have ‘aided’ in his senate campaign wins?
For the first ten weeks of 1996, Hagel served as chairman of American Information Systems (AIS), a voting machine company which later changed its name to ES&S. He also had holdings in the firm’s parent group, McCarthy Group Inc., worth between $1 and $5 million. In November 1996, Hagel was elected to the Senate, the first Republican elected from Nebraska since 1974. He came from behind twice during his run (according to polls), first against well known Republican Attorney General Don Stenberg in the primary, and then against popular Democratic Gov. (and eventual senator) Ben Nelson. In fact, one Nebraska newspaper described his victory as a “stunning upset.” In January 1997, the Washington Post called Hagel’s victory, “the major Republican upset in the November election.” According to Bev Harris of Blackboxvoting.org, a group aimed at “consumer protection for elections,” Hagel won virtually every demographic group, including many largely African-American communities that had never before voted Republican. AIS was responsible for counting approximately 80% of the votes in the election.
In a disclosure form filed in 1996, Hagel did not report that he was chairman of AIS during 1996 or go into detail regarding the company’s underlying assets. Rather, he cited his holdings as an “excepted investment fund,” which is exempt from detailed disclosure rules.
Hope and change with Hagel? It seems somewhat odd that Obama would pick such a controversial Republican for the cabinet post. It’s often said that no one reaches these positions without being bought and/or blackmailed. No word on if Hagel would approve of the military being used against the American people and I doubt the question will come up in the confirmation hearings.
With all the corruption in the merging of government, banks and corporations and the continued influence of the jewish lobby, even if Hagel is ‘approved’ I’m not holding my breath that it will be anything but business as usual.
How bad has it gotten for the US antiwar movement? After the president its most prominent leaders supported in 2008 took George W. Bush’s war on terror and institutionalized it, they have been at a strategic loss, unable to kick their dogmatic, electoral-minded tactics to the point that they are now engaged in an awkward campaign to get a conservative Republican appointed to administer Barack Obama’s wars. Indeed, after getting a commander-in-chief of its own, the down-and-out antiwar movement is now angling to get its own defense secretary.
The logic behind the leftists for Chuck Hagel campaign — sometimes unstated — is not so much that he’s a great guy, but that the people attacking him are even worse. And to be fair, they’re right. Most of the people blasting the former Nebraska senator hail from the belligerent far right, primarily employed by neoconservative media outlets like the Weekly Standard and Washington Post. Their critique is that Hagel is no friend of the Jewish state, and perhaps even anti-Semitic, because he once made comments critical of its influential lobby in DC and opposed Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon (an undeniably good thing). He’s also talked about giving diplomacy a shot with Iran, when the proper line is supposed to be “nah, fuck those guys.”
Hagel has also come under fire from military lobbyists for his stated desire to cut bloat at the Pentagon, though it’s worth remembering that Bush/Obama secretary of defense Robert Gates pledged the same thing while burning through the biggest military budgets in world history. In other words, the usual sky-is-falling crowd is making much ado about nothing with respect to a guy who, outside of a few maverick-y speeches over the years, adheres to the Washington consensus as much as the next old white guy. Their goal? Maybe a nice little war with a third-rate power and a bit larger share of the GDP. But like executives at Goldman Sachs, they know they’re going to be pretty much fine no matter who is in office.
It would be one thing to simply point this out; that yes, some of the charges against Hagel can politely be called “silly.” One can disagree about the wisdom of Israeli wars, for instance, without being a raging anti-Semite, and indeed much of the Israeli establishment would privately concede their 2006 war was a bust. And with politicians talking of slashing Social Security, you damned well better believe it’s not a gaffe to say maybe we ought to take a quick look at where half the average American’s income tax goes: the military. Such a defense might have some value.
Unfortunately, that’s not what the pro-Hagel campaign is doing. Instead, they’re billing the fight over Hagel’s nomination as a defining battle of Obama’s second term. If Hagel wins, the argument goes, AIPAC loses, opening up the foreign policy debate in Washington and increasing the possibility of peace in our time. If his nomination goes down, however, that reinforces the idea that the hawkish foreign policy consensus in Washington shall not be challenged and that even the mildest criticisms of Israel cannot be tolerated. Some even suggest that who administers the Defense Department could decide if there’s a war with Iran or not, perhaps forgetting the chain of command.
Indeed, most of Hagel’s defenders aren’t defending his occasionally heterodox views on Israel and unilateral sanctions (he’s cool with the multilateral, 500,000-dead-children-in-Iraq kind), but rather trumpeting his commitment to orthodoxy. The Center for American Progress, for instance, has released a dossier detailing “Chuck Hagel’s Pro-Israel Record,” noting his oft-stated verbal and legislative commitment to the “special relationship.” Some of his former staffers have also issued a fact sheet showing that all of Hagel’s alleged heretical views are well within the hawkish mainstream.
Further left on the spectrum, it’s not much different. The Washington-based group Just Foreign Policy, for instance, has revived Democratic rhetoric from 2004 to pitch the fight over the potential Hagel nomination in black and white terms of good and evil.
“The Obama-hating Neocon Right is trying to ‘Swift Boat’ the expected nomination of Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense,” the group states in a recent email blast to supporters. Neoconservatives have been “making up a fantasy scare story that Hagel . . . is ‘anti-Israel,’” it continues, helpfully informing us that the Hagel the neocons make out to be such a reasonable guy is indeed a fantasy. Finally, it ends with an appeal: “We cannot stand idly by as the neocons stage a coup of our foreign policy,” followed by a petition supporting Hagel’s nomination hosted by MoveOn.org sure to defeat any military coup.
In a blog, the group’s policy director, Robert Naiman, likewise pitches the battle over Hagel’s nomination in terms of Obama vs. The Warmongers. “Hagel represents the foreign policy that the majority of Americans voted for in 2008 and 2012: less war, more diplomacy,” he writes, pointing to past statements he’s made about the wisdom of a war with Iran.
Of course, the unfortunate truth is that American’s didn’t vote for “less war, more diplomacy,” as comforting as that thought may be, because they haven’t had the chance. In this past election, Obama often ran to the right of Mitt Romney, his campaign frequently suggesting the latter would not have had the guts to kill Osama bin Laden. The DNC ridiculed Romney for suggesting he’d consider the war’s legality before bombing Iran. “Romney Said He Would Talk To His Lawyers Before Deciding Whether To Use Military Force,” read the press release, as if that’s a bad thing. Obama, bomber of a half-dozen countries, never forgot to mention the “crippling” sanctions he’s imposed.
And J Street, the group that just co-sponsored a rally with AIPAC backing the Israeli state’s latest killing spree? Ask a resident of Gaza how “pro-peace” it is.
But, in order to create a sign-this-petition! narrative, one often can’t do nuance. So Naiman doesn’t. In another post, this one highlighting Hagel’s establishment support, because antiwar activists care about that sort of thing, he casually refers to former ambassador Ryan Crocker as among the “diplomacy champions and war skeptics” backing the former senator. This would be the same Ryan Crocker appointed by George W. Buish who has said “it’s simply not the case that Afghans would rather have US forces gone,” and dismissed the killing of at least 25 people in Afghanistan, including children, as “not a very big deal.”
That should give you a good idea of the obfuscation going on in the antiwar campaign for a Pentagon chief. This is a problem. If you’re going to play the role of the savvy Washington activist and get involved in the inside baseball that is fights over cabinet appointments, ostensibly to reframe the debate more than anything – we must defeat AIPAC! – you ought not go about reinforcing adherence to orthodoxy and the perceived value of establishment support and credentials. And you ought not cast as heroes of the peace movement people that really shouldn’t be. That’s actually really dangerous.
Yet, some would rather play down Hagel’s pro-war credentials for the all-important narrative. So we cast him as a staunch opponent of a war with Iran, ignoring his repeated assertions that we must “keep all options on the table” with respect to the Islamic Republic, including killing men, women and children. In a piece he coauthored with other establishment foreign policy figures, Hagel’s opposition to war amounted merely to a call to consider its costs – and its benefits.
For instance, “a U.S. attack would demonstrate the country’s credibility as an ally to other nations in the region and would derail Iran’s nuclear ambitions for several years, providing space for other, potentially longer-term solutions,” the senator and his friends wrote. “An attack would also make clear the United States’ full commitment to nonproliferation as other nations contemplate moves in that direction.” Ah, but he mentioned there could be “costs” (though none of those he mentioned were “dead people”). Such is brave, antiwar opposition in Washington.
But that’s the cynical game played in DC by some of the would-be movers-and-shakers on the outskirts of the policy conversation: cynically play down a politician’s faults to please funders, other politicians and one’s own sense of savvy self-satisfaction. It’s how the antiwar movement ended up dissolving and largely getting behind a president who more than doubled the number of troops in Afghanistan. People were presented a rosy image of a candidate who was on their side and they concluded their work was done upon his election. The same thing threatens to be the case with Chuck Hagel. Indeed, as The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg notes, “who better to sell the president’s militant Iran position than someone who comes from the realist camp?”
When I privately raised some of these concerns with Naiman, he got snooty quick, just as he did with other writers who questioned whether the quest to “defeat AIPAC” should be conducted by stressing why AIPAC should love the guy. To me, Naiman wrote that if I had concerns about the antiwar movement taking ownership of a defense secretary, “There are plenty of organizations that pursue an ultra-left, ideological purist line. Why don’t you give them your support and be happy?”
We live in an an age where ideological purity is defined as being uncomfortable with an antiwar organization throwing unequivocal support behind a conservative Republican to head the Pentagon. It’s an amazing world.
Rather than engage in the reactionary politics of supporting what one perceives to be the least-evil administrator of war, those on the antiwar left and right ought to be truth tellers. Let’s not sugar coat this: The problem isn’t just AIPAC and the neocons, but the Center for American Progress and the neoliberals. Dumbing down the reality only serves to bolster one faction of the war party. And it kills antiwar movements.
- Why are neocons so down on Chuck Hagel? (salon.com)
There’s a not-so-subtle war raging against former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, a twice-wounded Vietnam veteran, who is rumored to be President Obama’s choice as Secretary of Defense. When word leaked out articles and editorials appeared in newspapers such as the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times. The Wall Street Journal has run two Op Eds—both highly critical of Hagel—and another, an evenhanded article by Peter Nicholas and Julian E. Barnes (12/21) covering the growing Republican opposition. So far, for the New York Times, it is apparently a minor and inconsequential story on the Washington scene: two articles, the second essentially irrelevant, but no editorial denouncing or supporting Hagel’s possible candidacy. Not even an Op Ed, attacking or defending Hagel’s reputation.
Mark Landler’s initial Times article on December 19 was fair enough, raising the question of whether Hagel is sufficiently supportive of Israel and whether there is in fact an Israel lobby which has the power to coerce politicians. In an interview with Aaron David Miller, a veteran American diplomat writing a book, Hagel once unfortunately mentioned the Jewish rather than Israel lobby, a mistake for which he promptly apologized, given that the lobby contains many non-Jews. But he also said, “I’m a United States senator, not an Israeli senator.”
The article went on to quote the ubiquitous Abraham Foxman of the ADL (aren’t there any other Jews available for quotes? Landler did manage to find a lesser known group called the Israel Project to quote, apparently not a Hagel backer). He also cited anonymous Jewish “leaders,” many of whom represent “pro-Israel” groups, few of whom have any paid members though they seem to present themselves as speaking for all American Jews, which by no means is the case. Landler did quote Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street, another pro-Israel group which, like the Israel Policy Forum, supports Hagel. Landler’s follow-up piece two days later dealt almost entirely with Hagel’s negative past record on gay rights.
But that’s hardly why Hagel’s been assailed with such vehemence. Yes, he has long seen the Pentagon budget as far too swollen and yes, he has called for a go-slow approach to Iran. “He has a checkered past on Israel,” Foxman told Landler. “At the least, it’s disturbing; at worst, it’s troubling.”
But the key reason why neoconservatives and American Jewish organizations who rarely if ever seriously question any Israeli policies are furious may be that Hagel dared mention out loud the words “Israel lobby” which supposedly “intimidates” politicians, editors and journalists. As a former AIPAC writer, M.J. Rosenberg, who is now viewed as a turncoat by some of the same people who condemn Hagel, put it this way: “The reason is because he dared to refer to the existence of the Israel Lobby.” Then, too, to those of Hagel’s critics who believe Israel’s interests are America’s as well, it renders him potentially anti-Israel.
Hagel does have some defenders. The New Republic’s John Judis, William Buckley’s biographer, wrote “Don’t Let Chuck Hagel’s Hardline Israel Critics Sink His Nomination. In the Atlantic, James Fallows takes aim at neoconservatives and others in “The Bogus Case Against Chuck Hagel.” The uproar caught Michael Cohen’s eye in The Guardian (12/20), writing: “…it was the self-appointed protectors of Israel who determined Hagel suspect because he finds the efforts of the pro-Israel lobby to punish any public official who diverges from the notion that Israel can do no wrong somewhat problematic.” Cohen adds that “the ‘pro-Israel’ lobby is both predominantly Jewish and intimidating to politicians is a surprise, of course, to no-one who lives inside the Beltway.”
Yet where is the Times in all this? Trembling in editorial fear or busy assigning a team of crack reporters to investigate? To date, in addition to the two articles there have been no editorial, no Op Eds, no news analyses. Is not the existence of a powerful pro-Israel pressure group newsworthy? Perhaps even a well-researched magazine piece like the one that recently carved up Oliver Stone’s book “The Untold History of the U.S.”? If the NRA, oil lobby, Cuban lobby and all the other lobbies aren’t off-limits why is the Israel lobby? How and in what forms does it operate? To what extent does it or doesn’t it play a significant role in shaping American foreign policy? Peter Beinart’s book “The Crisis of Zionism” (which didn’t receive a rave review in the Times’ Book Review) is not especially loved in many quarters (he was recently banned from speaking in Atlanta) because he denies that American Jews are no longer victims but do have power, “and that without moral vigilance, Jews will abuse power just as hideously as anyone else.” So why is the Times consistently silent about these issues?
And if the Times is absent from the conversation the same may be said about our President, who recently allowed Susan Rice to withdraw from a possible role as Hillary Clinton’s successor before withering, often unfair Republican criticism? To their credit, Nicholas and Barnes in the WSJ give ample space to Zbigniew Brzezinski who blames the President for permitting the disparagement of Hagel to mushroom. “I find that, unfortunately, a symptom of being not willing to stand up for people you want to surround yourself with. That’s not a good way to protect presidential territory.”
Nor is it a good way for the Times to protect its journalistic territory—and integrity.
Murray Polner served as editor of Present Tense for 18 years, a magazine published by the American Jewish Committee. He is the author and editor of four books about Jewish life and culture.