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Washington Scene:

                After spending many millions of dollars
                and sending out huge amounts of mail
                only 65 people tops are registered for
                CNI's conference/"march".  Here's why...

MER - Washington - 15 October 1997:

What is The Council For the National Interest... and what is former Congressman Paul Findley really up to?

The latest hocus pocus to come from this little band of mostly elderly and retired church-going folk is a "March on Washington" to protest aid to Israel.  Now it's a cute little gimmick, that's for sure; and aid to Israel is way out of kilter, that's also for sure.  But when taken in the context of the real history of CNI this "march" is not even a good gimmick, has zero credibility here in Washington, and thus probably does more harm than good.  Something of this kind should be done seriously and effectively, or it shouldn't be done at all.

After annual conferences in recent years that have brought only 30 or 40 people together -- most of them retired friends of each other -- this time around CNI has decided to call its yearly reunion a "March on Washington".  Registered to come this year, after all the hoopla and expensive advertising, about 60 people as of today.

Actually it's been one gimmick after another for CNI right from the start - including the name, "Council For The National Interest."

Back a decade ago it was a brother of the King of Saudi Arabia who put up a huge sum of cash "suggesting" that there be an inaugural CNI meeting right away and that it be held at Disney World to coincide with his birthday!

No joke!  There was "His Majesty" presiding in Orlando with everyone on their feet serenading him with Happy Birthday!  Now to get people there, all in haste at the last minute, those willing to join in were all bribed with all-expense paid first-class tickets -- along with their families! -- plus luxurious hotel accommodations too boot!  It was, to quote some of those who mistakenly ended up going, a terrible embarrassment -- at the very least!

Whatever, this kind of "March" hocus pocus imagery doesn't go very far in Washington these days -- hardly anyone here will even know about it, only a handful of the unknowing are likely to be there, and anyone who knows the score knows that no one really takes this kind of thing or CNI seriously.  But Findley and friends will no doubt vociferously report their "March" in glowing terms to the well-healed Arab elite which still to this day haven't a clue what's really going on.

Now there are those, we know very well, who say not to talk about these kinds of things; not to go into these matters no matter how great the problems or how major the deceptions; not to focus on these
distortions and deceptions since at least these are people supposedly who are against aid to Israel.  Don't wash the dirty and stinking wash in public is the constant refrain, for these kinds of depressing and
disturbing realities will only further turn people off and demoralize them even more.

Well... that's not the way MER sees it.  We are all in the pickle we are in partly because for far too long we have not been seriously informed, by others as well as by each other; because we have allowed misinformation and deceptions to go unchallenged; and because we have failed to set up serious institutions that could be counted on, rather than such shame groups.  No matter how bleak and depressing today's reality, it does need to be uncovered and exposed -- more and more in fact -- if things are to possibly get better in the months and years ahead.

Everyone in recent years who has come to work with CNI has left in disgust after finding out what a charade it really is.  From David Bower to Laura Drake to Jerry Levin to Mark Sethman to Michael Jubran to a parade of naive interns, no one has stuck around very long after finding out the reality rather than the gimmickry.

This article that follows was first published back in June.

M I D - E A S T   R E A L I T I E S  -  Washington Mid-East Scene

MER - Washington - 6/29/97:

One of the reasons the Palestinians are in the terrible situation they are is that to this day they are terribly represented in Washington -- most "officials" and "friends" involved with Arafat and the what once was the PLO are second-rate, duplicitous, and/or corrupt.

Arafat's Palestinians -- for now one must truly distinguish among the different factions -- have been miserably represented for decades now in Washington by Hassan Rahman, essentially a petty and corrupt
man who's only claim to fame has been his doing whatever Arafat has told him to.  In the process, as has been the case with other Arafat cronies in other places, Rahman has been allowed to quite literally steal large amounts of Palestinian funds, do little work of any kind, and embarrass the Palestinian people whenever he goes.  Harsh words - true enough.  But the realities of the situation are sometimes harsh; however unusual it may be to simply reveal the truth.


Because of this incompetent and corrupt representation in Washington -- and of course Rahman is not the only one who falls into this category -- Palestinians in other places usually have no idea who they are dealing with from the U.S.  They are as outgunned when it comes to information as they are when it comes to guns.

The Israelis would never tolerate the levels of incompetence, nepotism, and thievery are so tragically commonplace among the Palestinians; they instead spend considerable time and resources collecting information, knowing who is whom, and figuring out how to cajole and manipulate, pressure and bribe, all they encounter.

The latest in a long line of tragic and ridiculous situations for the Palestinians comes in the form of a small group of retired do-gooders calling themselves the Council For The National Interest (CNI) and now visiting occupied and "autonomous" Palestinian areas.


In short, CNI is both a lie and a tragedy.  The organization has always purported to be a "lobby" working for "peace and justice" in the Middle East in opposition to the infamous Israeli/Jewish lobby. While such a lobby is indeed desperately needed, for CNI to even call itself such is outrageously deceitful.  Indeed, CNI has done more to prevent a true lobby of this kind from emerging than to become one!

The simple reality is that CNI is a small and ineffectual bunch of simple-minded folk who have next to zero influence in Washington, no political following of any kind on Capitol Hill, and in fact no lobbying abilities at all -- except when one reads the Arab press that is!

CNI was started more than a decade ago by former Illinois Congressman Paul Findley with some millions provided by the Saudis.  Findley has ever since fronted for the Saudis, essentially becoming a p.r. man
masquerading as an independent crusader and columnist -- always saying and doing of course what he knows his Saudi promoters will applaud.

When CNI began to fizzle around the time of the Gulf War and "peace process", and when Findley didn't want to be bothered anymore with much other than sitting in Illinois and taking a few phone calls, no one
except for a retired Foreign Service Officer on pension from the State Department was interested.  So Findley turned CNI over to Eugene Bird and CNI "annual conferences" in recent years -- never much at any time -- have only managed to round up 25 to 50 people willing to attend.


But worst of all Findley continues to trade on his former Congressman status sending out fund-raising appeals asking unsuspecting folk to give millions to the "important lobbying" and "educational" work CNI does in Washington!  Just last year Findley appealed for $7 million dollars for efforts that could more fairly be valued at about 1% of that!  The CNI offices in downtown Washington rarely have anything going on at them, or even anyone in them -- one can hear the echoes!

Meanwhile Bird and a small bunch of CNI-folk are now off visiting the Middle East on their annual "pilgrimage", deceiving everyone they meet, most especially the Palestinians they claim to support, with their misrepresentations of both themselves and what is really happening in Washington.  This is in fact how they spend a lot of the money Findley raises for them.

CNI and company recently met with a "Palestinian Authority Minister" bragging about how they have introduced legislation in Congress that the U.S. Consulate in East Jerusalem be made the U.S. Embassy of a Palestinian State!  They forgot to mention, however, that nearly anyone can arrange to have nearly any kind of legislation "introduced".  And they forgot to mention that no one in Washington takes either CNI, Gene Bird, or this "legislation" seriously for a minute.

It should come then as no surprise that CNI and its cronies work closely with Hassan Rahman -- wineing, dining, and giving awards and rewards to each other from one banquet to the next, from one meaningless
and disingenuous conference to the next, from one duplicitous Findley fund-raising letter and column to the next.

Indeed, with "friends" like Findley and Bird, and with "representatives" like Rahman, its easier to understand why the Palestinian people are in much worse straights today then they were 10 years ago, before the "Intifada" began, and before CNI started "helping".

P.S. Remember all this when you read the upcoming Palestinian poem, "Watch Me Bleed", coming soon from MER. (c) MER

M I D - E A S T  R E A L I T I E S
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