Paul Findley and CNI

11 03 2014

Paul Findley and CNI – Myths Masking Failed Reality

    Last week an aging long-ago defeated former Congressman took to the podium at the Press Club in Washington to give the opening address to an organization he started long ago – The Council for the National Interest (CNI).  His message was simplistic and as usual in accord with his long-time patron which provided the funds to start CNI, Saudi Arabia.   This time Findley was pushing the so-called Saudi Peace Initiative and the “Two-State Solution”.  He’d been trying for months, Findley told his flock, to get his petition to Obama to suspend US funds to Israel until they agree.  Please sign on and I’ll keep trying Findley repeated…sounding more like a school teacher or a preacher than a serious policy person.  Oh my!

Oh my indeed!  I can still remember outside the White House in October 2000, at one of the largest Muslim political rallies ever in the U.S., when Findley urged all Muslims to vote for George Bush rather than Al Gore because Bush the Republican were good for Arabs and Muslims — and we know where that lead!

Findley founded CNI with the claim it would be a serious counter-lobby to the Israeli Lobby.  Somewhat mysteriously to many at the time he handed out first-class airline tickets to friends and family to join him in sunny Florida to launch the organization.   It turned out that Findley had already sold himself to the Saudis, the money initially poured in, and the Saudi King even sent his brother to Florida to bask in all the hoopla!    Ever since, in effect, Findley has been a lobbyist for the Saudis along with such others as John Duke Anthony and his National Council on U.S. Arab Relations (NCUSAR) and those other former Arabist diplomats who stated The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (WRMEA).

I know all this because as a very young journalist involved in matters of U.S. foreign policy and the Middle East I then knew Findley well.   On the back cover my quote endorsing his signature book appears at the top right under that of George Ball.   I too was offered the first-class all-expenses-paid junket to the CNI founding but already sensing what was happening declined.   In later years my syndicated column, as well as Findley’s appeared in The Saudi Gazette, but when they tried to tell me what to say and what to do I chose the opposite course of Findley and ended my involvements with them.   Political prostitution has never been my thing.

     It was long-time Saudi Ambassador Bandar bin Sultan who provided the money and support to launch the collection of Saudi-affiliated organizations in the 1980s including CNI as well as WRMEA and NCUSAR.

As for Findley’s mantra that CNI would be a serious counter-part to the Israeli Lobby — total failure as my quick report last week sketched.

Meanwhile, the story of how CNI died, and then was resurrected in even more limited form, has yet to be told.  For the moment I’ll just quote the former Chairman of the CNI Board who told me in a whisper a few years ago, “CNI has died, we just haven’t buried it yet”.