President Obama has nominated former Senator and Vietnam war veteran Chuck Hagel to replace Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defense, and John Brennan to serve as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Although Brennan’s Senate confirmation may meet less resistance, Hagel’s nomination is sure to spark a fierce confirmation battle in the Senate — a battle that would be completely warranted. Hagel, after all, has espoused a deep kinship with the radical anti-war Left, advocated reckless foreign policy positions such as direct talks with terrorists and their leading sponsor, Iran, and demonstrated a nasty hostility to Israel and to Jews in general. To have this kind of individual serving as the head of the U.S. Defense Department is to severely jeopardize the security interests of the U.S., our ally Israel and the rest of the free world.
Hagel has become the darling of the radical anti-war crowd for his virulent attacks on President Bush’s Iraq war policies, his appeasement of Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, and his sharp criticism of enhanced interrogation. Back in 2008, when Hagel’s name was first being floated for a possible cabinet position in the Obama administration, Medea Benjamin, executive director of the far-Left group CodePink, said: “Hagel would be a good choice. I think he’s shown himself to be an outspoken critic of the terrible policies of the Bush administration.”
Just the other day, Michael Moore reflected on Hagel’s stance against the Iraq war and wrote, “thank you, Chuck Hagel.”
How comforting it will be to have the man whom Medea Benjamin and Michael Moore so admire heading the Pentagon.
Hagel is also beloved by Israel-haters and anti-Semites, including the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Iranian regime’s TV network mouthpiece, TVPress, because of the extreme anti-Israel, anti-Jewish views that Hagel has expressed over the years.
Hagel believes that U.S. foreign policy has been skewed too much in Israel’s favor. He ascribed the pro-Israel tilt to the power of what he called the “Jewish lobby,” which he said had the ability to “intimidate” members of Congress. While serving in the Senate, he boasted that he was not sent to Washington to serve as an “Israeli Senator.” This was an obvious swipe at his Senate colleagues who believed in supporting the only true democracy in the Middle East. Hagel was also using the age-old code words of anti-Semites who accuse Jews of dual loyalties.
Hagel showed his complete indifference to the plight of Jews trapped in the Soviet Union in 1999 when he was the only senator out of 100 who refused to sign the American Jewish Committee’s statement against anti-Semitism in Russia. The petition was set to appear as a full-page newspaper ad during then-president Boris Yeltsin’s visit to the United States. In October 2000, Hagel and only three other senators refused to sign a Senate letter in support of Israel. In August 2006, Hagel joined only eleven other senators in refusing to write the European Union asking them to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization.
It’s not as if Hagel doesn’t sign letters dealing with Israel and its enemies when he wants to. For example, although the terrorist organization Hamas has yet to renounce violence and its covenant to destroy Israel, Hagel signed a letter delivered just days before Obama was to take office for his first term as president urging Obama to talk to leaders of Hamas.
Israel is surrounded by enemies determined to destroy the Jewish state. It is also a strategic partner in our own war against global Islamist jihadists – sharing intelligence, developing state-of-the art body armor used by our troops and anti-missile defense systems that are more sophisticated than our own. Yet we are facing the prospect of a Secretary of Defense who goes out of his way to antagonize our only true ally in the Middle East and who cannot bring himself to treat Hamas and Hezbollah as the terrorist enemies of all freedom-loving countries that they surely are.
Some of Hagel’s defenders are blaming pro-Israel groups for supposedly besmirching his character in order to sabotage the nomination. This accusation is absurd. Hagel’s disturbing past statements about Israel and its enemies speak for themselves.
But even if Hagel had not shown the kind of antipathy towards Israel that has won him praise from the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Council on American-Islamic Relations and earned him the “anti-Israel” title on Iranian state TV, Hagel would still be a complete disaster as Secretary of Defense. He is caught in the time warp of the Vietnam syndrome, the national defense paralysis that stemmed from what Ronald Reagan once described as “feelings of guilt as if we were doing something shameful.”
In nominating Hagel, President Obama said that “To this day, Chuck bears the scars and the shrapnel” of his service in Vietnam. While the president no doubt had physical scars in mind, Hagel still carries the mental scars that have instilled in him an instinctive repulsion for doing what will be necessary as Secretary of Defense to defend our country.
“Vietnam was a tough lesson for us to learn,” he told PBS last year. Hagel’s record shows the extent to which the Vietnam syndrome has poisoned his judgment.
For example, Hagel turned on the Iraq war that he originally supported because he could not free himself from the ghosts of the Vietnam war as the battles in Iraq continued. In 2007, when President Bush proposed the troop “surge” in Iraq to turn the tide of war in our favor, Hagel became one of the surge’s most vocal critics. Not surprisingly, Vietnam was not far from his mind. He described the surge as “the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it’s carried out.” Hagel also called the surge “a dangerously wrong-headed strategy that will drive America deeper into an unwinnable swamp at a great cost.” He stands by that assessment, despite all of the evidence following the surge of sharply reduced violence and the defeat of al-Qaeda in Iraq.
Hagel also strongly opposed the enhanced interrogation of suspected al-Qaeda terrorists that took place during the Bush years. These interrogations helped in foiling more terrorist attacks on our homeland, saving countless lives.
For instance, Hagel was asked during a June 2005 CNN interview by John King about a report in Time Magazine regarding the interrogation methods used on Mohammed Al-Qahtani, a detainee who had allegedly tried to enter the United States to take part in the September 11 attacks as the 20th hijacker. It seems that Al-Qahtani was administered some fluids and then denied permission to relieve himself until he first answered some questions. “When Al-Qahtani again requested his promised bathroom break, he is told to go in his pants,” Time reported. “Humiliatingly, he does.”
We are not talking about waterboarding here. Yet Hagel condemned even this relatively mild form of enhanced interrogation. He said that “it’s not only wrong, but dangerous, and very dumb, and very short-sighted… it needs to stop.”
Referring to additional enhanced interrogation techniques used by Al-Qahtani’s interrogators after Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had authorized tougher measures to get valuable intelligence information, Roberts asked Hagel whether requiring “a Muslim man to stand nude, bark like a dog, and have pictures of scantily-clad women around his neck” crosses his threshold of outrage.
“Well, of course it does,” Hagel replied. Again, he invoked his memory of the Vietnam war in which he served. “I was in Vietnam in 1968. I carried a rifle,” Hagel said. “I saw a culture develop that was a very bad culture that ended in disaster for this country.”
Without the sort of enhanced interrogation methods Hagel so roundly condemned, the CIA would never have picked up the intelligence that first gave clues to the identity of the courier who led us to Osama bin Laden’s hideout. Current Secretary of Defense and former CIA chief Leon Panetta confirmed this fact during an interview with NBC News very shortly after bin Laden was killed.
Fast forward to 2013. How would Chuck Hagel’s case of the Vietnam syndrome play out in his dealing as Secretary of Defense with the Iranian nuclear threat? In one word, appeasement. Like Obama, Hagel has called for “unconditional” talks with Iran. But he goes even further than Obama in his appeasement policy. He has opposed economic sanctions, other than the watered-down version approved by the United Nations Security Council. He was one of two senators to oppose the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act in 2001. In 2008, Hagel was reported to have been “solely responsible” for blocking a bill that would have tightened economic sanctions in Iran, according to the Huffington Post.
Hagel appears willing to accept a nuclear-armed Iran as a fact of life that we will just have to learn to live with. He has spoken in favor of “containment not unlike the strategies that the United States pursued during the Cold War against the Soviet Union.” Hagel also thinks that the United States should offer to back off any declaratory support for regime change in Iran. While in the Senate, Hagel even voted against designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization.
The trouble with trying to contain a nuclear-armed Iran through mutual deterrence, as we did with the leaders of the Soviet Union, is that the fanatical Islamists running Iran do not care how many lives of their own people are sacrificed during the chaos they believe is necessary to hasten the return of Islam’s savior, the 12th Imam.
Furthermore, Hagel’s views on a quick exit from Afghanistan and steep cuts in the defense budget reinforce President Obama’s own inclinations. As Max Boot, a leading military historian and foreign-policy analyst, wrote in Commentary Magazine concerning Afghanistan:
With his own record of service as an non-commissioned officer in Vietnam (it may be relevant to note that many NCOs have a low opinion of commissioned officers, especially those with lots of stars on their shoulders), Hagel might very well discount the advice of the officers who know Afghanistan best and instead opt for the position that the White House favors. That could very well be the reason why Hagel is being picked in the first place.
Before President Obama officially announced his nomination of Chuck Hagel for the position of Secretary of Defense and John Brennan for director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Obama said that protecting the security of the American people was his number one priority. In selecting Chuck Hagel to lead the Defense Department, he has clearly — and ominously — failed that test.
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