By Tom Cotton
Wall Street Journal
December 21, 2012
Chuck Hagel, who is reportedly on the White House’s shortlist of nominees for secretary of defense, served our country admirably in Vietnam. But he is not the right person for the Pentagon.
Our fighting men and women deserve a leader who will not only honor their service, but also advocate for them and honor their accomplishments. Regrettably, the former senator’s dismal record on Iraq suggests that he will do none of those things—for he abandoned the very troops he once voted to send to war. I would know, because I was one of them.
Over Thanksgiving weekend in 2006, two years before his retirement as the Republican senator from Nebraska, Mr. Hagel penned a column for the Washington Post entitled “Leaving Iraq, Honorably.” He asserted that “there will be no victory or defeat for the United States in Iraq,” and “the time for more U.S. troops in Iraq has passed.” Rather, Mr. Hagel argued, we “must begin planning for a phased troop withdrawal.”
Imagine my surprise at the senator’s assertions, having just returned that week from combat in Baghdad as an infantry platoon leader with the 101st Airborne Division. My soldiers had fought bravely to stabilize that city, protect innocent civilians and defeat al Qaeda. Those soldiers were proud of their accomplishments. No one had told us during our time in Baghdad that we would achieve “no victory.” Readers might have shared my surprise at Mr. Hagel’s words if he had mentioned his earlier vote supporting the war.
The troops recognized the folly of Mr. Hagel’s proposed withdrawal. The fighting in Baghdad that year had certainly been hard, with progress slow and frustrating. Yet the solution to those of us on the front lines was plain. We needed more troops and a new strategy focused on securing the civilian population. That counterinsurgency strategy would help win the support of Iraqis, who would then help flush out terrorists and militias and allow for political reconciliation.
We needed, in other words, the “surge.” In his lowest political moment, President George W. Bush had his finest hour. He kept faith with the troops he had sent to war. Mr. Hagel, on the other hand, called the surge “the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam” and broke faith with those troops. In the Senate, he helped in early 2007 to delay emergency funding for the war. He then voted for a measure to force withdrawal from Iraq.
Perhaps most astonishing, Mr. Hagel voted in 2007 against designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization. The IRGC was directly responsible for the deaths of numerous American soldiers in Iraq. In addition to its terrorist attacks around the world, the IRGC smuggled a particularly lethal kind of roadside bomb into Iraq known as an explosively formed projectile, or EFP.
An EFP consists of a tube packed with explosives and topped by a metal plate. The heat from the explosion inside the tube turns the plate into a molten slug, which could penetrate not just the Humvees in which my soldiers and I rode, but even an M1A1 Abrams tank.
The use of EFPs in Iraq more than doubled in 2006, making them among the most feared enemy weapon during our tour. For example, two new soldiers arrived in my platoon and received the usual on-boarding brief. One soldier asked about roadside bombs. I told the two new men to stay alert for indicators and to trust their armor; my platoon had hit numerous bombs, but we had all survived to that point. The other soldier then asked, “What about EFPs?” I paused and could only respond: “Just hope it’s not your day.”
The Iranians continued smuggling explosively formed projectiles into Iraq well after my platoon departed in 2006, but apparently Mr. Hagel deemed these acts of war insufficient to call the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps exactly what it is—a terrorist organization. (Though his vote, it must be said, is of a piece with his long-standing dovish views toward Iran.)
Even after the surge had succeeded, Mr. Hagel could not bring himself to celebrate our military’s accomplishment. In late 2008, with casualties down by 85%, Mr. Hagel still questioned the surge’s success. He credited the Anbar Awakening of Sunni tribal leaders against al Qaeda (as if the surge didn’t encourage them), Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s stand-down (as if the surge didn’t scare him) and improved intelligence systems (as if the surge didn’t introduce them).
Though his record on Iraq alone should disqualify Mr. Hagel from leading our troops in a time of war, his views on current issues are no less alarming and show he has not learned from his errors. Unlike the current secretary of defense, Mr. Hagel seems willing to accept devastating cuts to defense spending, calling the U.S. military “bloated” and in need of being “pared down.” He also has expressed a desire to accelerate the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan (a war for which he also voted).
This is not the record of a leader who can be counted on to stand by our armed forces. While Mr. Obama has every right to choose his secretary of defense, I urge him not to nominate Mr. Hagel. If he is nominated, I urge the Senate not to confirm him. Our fighting men and women deserve so much better.
II Israel-Basher/Iran Apologist Hagel under consideration for Defense Secretary by Obama
By Mort Klein and Dr. Daniel Mandel
December 18, 2021
Credible and widespread reports that former Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) is likely to be nominated by President Barak Obama for Secretary of Defense has rightly shocked Israel’s supporters and those who want to prevent Iran obtaining a nuclear weapons capacity. Little wonder: Hagel has accrued a record on Capitol Hill as an apologist for Iran and anti-Israel terrorist groups and for relentless hostility to Israel.
In October 2000, when Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority (PA) launched a terror war against Israel after rejecting without counter-offer a plan for Palestinian statehood accepted by Israel, Hagel was one of only four senators who refused to sign a Senate letter in support of Israel.
In July 2001, Hagel was in a minority of only two senators to vote against extending the original Iran-Libya sanctions bill, designed to deny both regimes revenues that would assist their weapons of mass destruction programs.
In November 2001, Hagel was one of only 11 senators who refused to sign a letter urging President George W. Bush not to meet with Yasser Arafat until his forces ended terrorist violence against Israel.
In April 2002, Hagel was one of only 10 senators to oppose banning the the import to America of Iraqi oil until Iraq stopped compensating the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. In November 2003, he failed to vote on the Syria Accountability Act (passed by 89 to 4) imposing sanctions on Syria for its support of terrorism and occupation of Lebanon. In June 2004, Hagel refused to sign a letter urging Bush to highlight Iran’s nuclear program at the G-8 summit.
In July 2006, at the outbreak of the Lebanon war, Hagel argued against giving Israel the time to break Hizballah, urging instead an immediate ceasefire. The following month, he was one of only 12 Senators who refused to formally call upon the European Union to declare Hizballah a terrorist organization. The same year, he gave an interview to former Middle East negotiator, Aaron David Miller, which appeared in Miller’s 2008 book, The Much Too Promised Land, in which he said that “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people” on Capitol Hill.
In 2007, Hagel declined to support the bipartisan Iran Counter Proliferation Act aimed at targeting governments and businesses that assist Iran’s nuclear program. The following year, a congressional aide told the Huffington Post that Hagel was he was “solely responsible” for blocking an Iran sanctions bill.
In 2009, Hagel signed a letter urging President Obama to begin direct negotiations with Hamas, a U.S. designated terrorist group committed in its Charter to the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews. Just last week, the Atlantic Council, which Hagel chairs, published an article entitled ‘Israel’s Apartheid Policy,’ equating Israel with South Africa’s historic racist policy. Hagel also serves on the board of directors of Deutsche Bank, which is currently under probe in Washington for possible violations of sanctions Hagel opposed as senator.
Even staunch Democrats and supporters of Obama and his Middle East policies are alarmed by Hagel. Former New York City Democratic mayor Ed Koch said last week that Hagel, “would be a terrible appointment … most of the Jewish leaders who have expressed themselves [think likewise and would indicate] that President Obama is seeking to put space between Israel and his administration.”
In 2007, when Hagel was considering a presidential bid, even the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) said that Hagel “has a lot of questions to answer about his commitment to Israel.” And though silent now, despite requests for comment on a Hagel nomination, former NJDC executive director, Ira Forman, who headed Obama’s reelection campaign’s outreach to Jewish voters, said in 2009 – after Hagel was named co-chairman of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board – that “If [Hagel] was taking a policy role, we’d have real concerns” and that the NJDC would oppose his nomination.
If Hagel becomes Defense Secretary it will prove to be dangerous for the interests of both the U.S. and Israel.
Morton A. Klein is National President of the Zionist Organization of American and Dr. Daniel Mandel is Director of the ZOA’s Center Middle East Policy and author of H.V. Evatt & the Establishment of Israel (2004).
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