Hagel Confirmed as Secretary of Defense – IN YOUR FACE!

Hagel Confirmed as Secretary of Defense –

© David Burton 2013

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     On Tuesday, 26 February 2013, the U.S. Senate confirmed former Republican Senator from Nebraska, Chuck Hagel, as President Barack Obama's next secretary of defense by a 58 to 41 vote, marking an end to one of the most drawn-out fights for a president's Cabinet pick. Only four Republican senators voted for Hagel.

     “Hagel {had} been under fire during the confirmation process for his outspoken opposition to the war in Iraq, criticism of the Israeli lobby's influence in Washington and past statements on Iran. Hagel also didn't do himself any favors by performing poorly in his confirmation hearing.
     “Some Senate Republicans have spoken harshly about Hagel throughout the debate. {Senator John} McCain {(R-Arizona)}, once close with Hagel, - - - had heated exchanges with him over the troop surge in Iraq. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) took his opposition further, accusing Hagel of taking money from North Korea and Saudi Arabia. GOP-leaning outside groups also attacked Hagel over his past statements on Israel.” (Ref. 1)

     “Bad feelings about Hagel stem, in part, from his 2007 comments that the ‘Jewish lobby intimidated lawmakers.’ Republicans who are already uncomfortable with Obama's policies toward Israel are uneasy about a defense secretary holding such views.
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     “Hagel's criticism of the Iraq War, the Patriot Act, and his past positions on Iran and on U.S. military intervention also raised red flags with his opponents.
     “Moreover, he spoke about an ambassadorial nominee in the late 1990s as being ‘openly, aggressively gay,’ remarks for which he has since apologized.” (Ref. 2)

     “During a confirmation hearing in January, Mr. Hagel was pummeled by Republicans on the Armed Services Committee, as he delivered a performance that even the White House acknowledged was lackluster at best.” (Ref. 3) Hardly a strong endorsement of his qualifications or capabilities!

     “Mr. Hagel voted for the resolution that authorized Mr. Bush to take military action in Iraq, but he soured on the war. In a Senate hearing in 2007, he denounced Mr. Bush’s plan to send more troops to Baghdad as ‘the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam.’ He also co-sponsored a resolution with two Democratic senators, Carl Levin of Michigan and Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, that declared the increase to be not in the national interest.” (Ref. 3) This “surge”, recommended by General Petraeus, eventually led to success in Iraq and has since allowed President Obama to declare victory there and remove American forces.

     “On one of the biggest security challenges the administration faces — how to slow or stop Iran’s progress toward a nuclear capability — Mr. Hagel’s views appear somewhat at odds with the president’s.” (Ref. 3) Hagel’s professed views on how to deal with Iran also go counter to nearly everyone else’s position and fly in the face of historical evidence that Iran is not interested in negotiating with the West or the United States.

     “Mr. Hagel has long been an opponent of unilateral American sanctions against Iran — among other American adversaries — viewing them as counterproductive. Notably, he was one of only two senators to vote against the Iran-Libya sanctions act in 2001, arguing that it would undercut efforts to engage with Tehran.
     “But today, the administration describes the policy of tough sanctions against Tehran as the key to its strategy for forcing the country’s leadership to reverse course on its nuclear program.” (Ref. 3) Obviously, someone has to give on this issue. Why anyone would think that that it would be possible to negotiate with the maniacs in Tehran after decades of evidence to the contrary is incomprehensible. Why Obama would pick an opponent to his administration’s tough policy toward Iran as secretary of defense simply defies common sense.

     “As secretary of defense, Mr. Hagel would not be directly involved in designing or enforcing those sanctions; that is the work of the Treasury and State Departments. But he would be in charge of one of the other major elements of pressure: the huge buildup of American naval might, antimissile capability and special operations in the Persian Gulf. That force is intended not only to keep the Strait of Hormuz open but also to make credible Mr. Obama’s threat to use military force to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.” (Ref. 3)

     But, with Hagel as secretary of defense, “the Defense Department would be led by someone who advocated deep cuts to its budget. He's bucked his fellow Republicans in opposing troop surges in Iraq and Afghanistan” (Ref. 4)

     What about the men and women who, effectively, will be led by Chuck Hagel? Representative Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, put it this way:

     “Our troops deserve much better than a man who voted to send them to war when it was popular and then abandoned those very troops when it was unpopular”
     “He was referring to Hagel's 2002 vote authorizing the war in Iraq and his ultimate opposition to it.” (Ref. 4)

An Anti-Semitic Secretary of Defense?

     President Obama’s relations with Israel and its Prime Minister have been rocky. His past association with anti-Semites has not gone unnoticed. Has he now nominated and had confirmed an anti-Semitic secretary of defense – Chuck Hagel? Both the president and Hagel himself say no. If we are to judge Chuck Hagel on some of his reported past statements and actions, the verdict is unclear at best. Below, summarized from Ref. 5, are some troubling reports of Chuck Hagel’s attitudes toward Jews and Israel:

  • Hagel tried to close USO’s highly popular Haifa retreat when he ran the USO from 1987 to 1990. In 1990 alone, 45,000 sailors visited the Israeli port. Chuck Hagel said the Haifa USO was costing the U.S. too much and that if the Jews wanted one, the Jews should do the fundraising. He told the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, which backed the Haifa USO, “Let the Jews pay for it.”
  • Hagel was the only U.S. senator to abandoned Russia’s Jews. On June 20, 1999, the American Jewish Committee published a letter to then–Russian president Boris Yeltsin urging action against rising anti-Semitism. 99 U.S. Senators signed the letter. Only Senator Hagel’s name was absent.
  • Hagel was 1 of only 4 senators to refuse to sign a Senate letter supporting Israel during Yasser Arafat’s terrorist Intifada in 2000. 96 other U.S. Senators signed the letter.
  • Hagel has implied that he has bought on to the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory, i.e., that Jews secretly control governments around the world. He is reported to have said, “The State Department has become an adjunct to the Israeli foreign minister’s office.” and “The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here” on Capitol Hill.” And “I’m a United States senator, I’m not an Israeli senator.”
  • As a U.S. senator from Nebraska, Hagel did not endear himself to its Jewish community. “During his last year in office, we knew he was not going to run again, he never returned any of our calls,” said a Jewish activist. “I have always gotten callbacks, even as a turn-down.” Said the former editor of the Omaha Jewish Press, “He was not the most responsive politician in Nebraska to me personally at the Jewish Press and to the Jewish community as a whole. - - - Hagel’s office never even responded. . . . We would make repeated calls - - -. It was pretty obvious that he and his staff were dismissive.” “He was not the most responsive politician in Nebraska to me personally at the Jewish Press and to the Jewish community as a whole,” said Carol Katzman, the former editor of the Omaha Jewish Press. Nebraska’s representatives otherwise “were all very responsive,” she said. “It didn’t really matter what their party affiliation was, if we were soliciting them for an interview or a greeting ad for Rosh Hashanah or Passover.” However, “Hagel’s office never even responded. . . . We would make repeated calls” that went unanswered, she added. - - - Hagel was the only one we have had in Nebraska who basically showed the Jewish community that he didn’t give a damn about the Jewish community or any of our concerns.”
President Obama Says, “I’ll Show You!”

     Since the record indicates that Hagel is in favor of reducing American military strength rather than maintaining it, one can only wonder at the logic that has led President Obama to the decision to choose Chuck Hagel to be his secretary of defense at such a critical juncture in the dealings with Iran – Iran continues on its path toward the development of nuclear weapons and of missile systems capable of delivering them; Iran has repeatedly threatened to use military force to close the straits of Hormuz to international shipping; Iran continues to be a threat to peace and stability in the Middle-east; Iran continues to characterize the United States as its number one enemy (along with Israel) and its objective is the elimination of this “Great Satan”. Is this really the time to install a secretary of defense that has publically stated his desire to reduce America’s military strength?

     Is the appointment of Chuck Hagel as secretary of state a vindictive “get-even” gesture towards Israel and its prime minister? As it is said, only the future will tell. But, if history is a predictor of the future, the outlook may not be so bright for relations between the U.S., Israel and Jews during President Obama’s second term in office.

     The nomination of Hagel to be secretary of defense by President Obama continues Obama’s “in-your-face” brand of confrontational politics. He, along with then House of Representatives speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and Senate President, Harry Reid, rammed through the controversial “ObamaCare” health reform act; he has relentlessly pursued a divisive program of “them vs. us” in urging the increased taxation of “the rich” to supposedly avoid increasing the taxes on “the middle class”; he has instituted and maintained an aloof, chilly and distant, attitude towards Israel while attempting to ingratiate himself with the Arab and Muslim elements in the Mid-east; instead of working to achieve an economic compromise with conservatives and Republicans, he has adopted and maintained a “it’s-my-way-or-the-highway” position that has kept this country in a state of constant uncertainty; he has consistently blamed conservatives, Republicans and everyone else for all of this country’s woes while assuming no responsibility for any of the failures of his first four years in office; he has spent much of his time in office pointing fingers of blame and railing against opponents of his policies instead of consensus-making and leading.

     Hagel’s nomination and confirmation as American secretary of state may just be Obama’s way of poking his finger in the eye of Israel’s prime minister, Bibi Netnayahu, in retaliation for Netanyahu’s refusal to submit to the president’s demands. After all, Bibi refused to tear down the West Bank settlements as ordered by Obama and Hillary Clinton; Bibi refused to give in to Administration demands for still more unreciprocated concessions to the Palestinians; Bibi refused to jeopardize Israel’s security in order to accommodate the American president. Obama may just be getting even for the prime minister’s refusal to acquiesce to the president’s demands on Israel in order to achieve his stated objective of bringing peace to the Middle-east – no matter what the ultimate cost to the Jewish state might be. After all, who cares about a little country the size of New Jersey with a population of only 7-million in the larger context of possibly winning another Nobel peace Prize and of currying favor with the much larger Arab and Muslim world?

     With his Hagel nomination, Obama has once again thrown down the gauntlet and put forth a nominee with considerable baggage and a lack of demonstrated experience. The king has ordained and his court has obediently acquiesced. The American people deserved better!

  1. Chuck Hagel Confirmed By Senate As Obama's Secretary Of Defense, Luke Johnson, Huffington Post Politics, 26 February 2013.
  2. Hagel confirmed as U.S. defense secretary, bruised after political fight, Halimah Abdullah, CNN Politics, 26 February 2013.
  3. Chuck Hagel, The New York Times, 26 February 2013.
  4. Nominated as Pentagon chief, Hagel vows to fight 'distortions' , Josh Levs, CNN Politics, 8 January 2013.
  5. Hagel’s Anti-Semitism, Deroy Murdock, National ReviewOnline, 22 February 2013.


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