After an ugly and contentious process, the Senate on Tuesday confirmed former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., as secretary of defense — an appointment that will affect tens of thousands of military personnel in Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region.
Congratulations, senator, but we are concerned to say the least.
Hagel’s biggest critics, including heavyweight Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, worry about his skeptical views on the Iraq War and the 2007 surge that quelled violence, turned the war in our favor and probably saved American lives.
It’s hard to fault Hagel, a Vietnam War veteran, for questioning our invasion of Iraq. The war’s direct nexus to our country’s vital interests has always been unclear. Smart individuals should invoke skepticism any time a president wants to send American men and women into harm’s way at a cost of hundreds of billions to the American economy. Here in Colorado Springs, we frequently see the pain and suffering of women and children who have lost husbands and fathers to fighting in the Middle East.
What we can’t understand is Hagel’s opposition to a war he voted for in 2002, helping help then-President George W. Bush obtain full Congressional approval to invade Iraq.
Sen. Hagel, when you vote for a war you become part of that war. You take responsibility for helping send husbands, fathers, wives, sons and daughters to faraway countries to risk their lives for a cause you apparently believe in. When a politician votes for war, he had better commit to wining it quickly and bringing home our troops.
But that’s not what Hagel did, as the war progressed. Instead, he got cold feet about the whole thing and decided we should only kinda-sorta be there. When war generals told the president they needed more equipment and troops, because the war was not going our way and Americans were getting killed, Hagel balked. He voted against the 2007 surge, which our troops needed to survive and prevail. The time for academic debates about our involvement, and “why are we here” discussions was back in 2002, when Hagel said yes.
Hagel explains the bait-and-switch by assuring us he voted for the war with “reservations.” Great. Send them to war, then leave them there without a commitment to prevail because of the way one feels about a past decision. That’s the kind of bad leadership that risked Hagel’s life in Vietnam.
Sen. Hagel, our government must never send Americans to war without a commitment to giving them all of the equipment and troops they need to succeed. Our troops cannot be treated as expendable pawns in a political chess match.
Concerns about Hagel’s intellectual integrity were magnified during his confirmation hearing, when he bumbled, stumbled, refused to answer questions and basically made even the worst media version of Sarah Palin look like Einstein on an IQ-enhancing performance drug.
Then there’s this bit of wisdom, from Hagel’s interview with Middle East analyst Aaron David Miller:
“The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here (on Capitol Hill),” Hagel said.
The “Jewish lobby,” Senator? Perhaps you’re talking about those who defend our essential and tactically advantageous alliance with Israel.
Hagel’s hostility toward “the Jewish lobby” is so intense that he has full support of Louis Farrakhan, the anti-Semitic leader of the Nation of Islam. Farrakhan praised Hagel’s anti-Jewish sentiment Monday at the Saviours’ Day convention in Chicago. After praising Hagel, Farrakhan blasted Jews for controlling the media.
Trying to gain confirmation, Hagel has expressed regret for his “Jewish lobby” comment, just as he regrets voting for war and just as he concedes he may have been wrong to oppose actually trying to win it.
Nothing is more important to the general welfare of the American republic than having a military led with integrity, intelligence and superb judgment. We aren’t seeing those traits in a man who won’t answer simple questions and constantly regrets past words and decisions. Prove us wrong, Sen. Hagel. We hope to someday regret our serious misgivings about your appointment.