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Chuck Hagel, Patriot

Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, conservative Vietnam veteran, has long been critical of the way the war in Iraq is being run. Ever since the Democratic victory in the November elections, he seems liberated, more willing than ever to criticize President Bush although they come from the same party. The recent proposal to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq sent him into sharp opposition, and he is one of the sponsors of a resolution against the “surge” that is now working its way through Congress. Speaking in behalf of this resolution before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on January 24, he said this:

    I don’t know how many United States Senators believe we have a coherent strategy in Iraq. I don’t think we’ve ever had a coherent strategy. In fact, I would even challenge the administration today to show us the plan that the president talked about the other night. There is no plan. […] This is a ping-pong game with American lives. […] And we better be damn sure we know what we’re doing, all of us, before we put 22,000 more Americans into that grinder.

He went on to describe what is happening in Iraq and Palestine, not as terrorism, but as resistance born of despair:

    We’re disconnecting the human dynamic, the human element. The people of Iraq are good people. That’s not the issue here. But when people have no hope, when there’s despair, little else matters. And this is not about terrorists who don’t like freedom. Tell that to the Palestinian people who have been chained down for many, many years. […] Terrorism is not a plan, it’s not a belief like democracy or monarchy. It’s a tactic.

Many people have criticized the simplistic, us-vs.-them, good-vs.-evil rhetoric of Bush and his supporters, but this is the first time I have ever heard a leading politician come close to acknowledging the Palestinian people’s right to resist Israeli occupation. You can watch his entire passionate speech thanks to Crooks and Liars.

On almost the same day, an interview with Senator Hagel titled The Angry One appeared in the men’s style magazine GQ. Hagel says of the war in Iraq, “I am not willing to sacrifice more young men and women for a policy that isn’t working.” Of the administration’s claims that progress is being made, he says, “It’s completely untrue, but they say it anyway.” Of Congress, “We’ve abdicated our responsibilities…no probing, no questioning, no oversight.”

Playing back some of the history leading up to the Iraq war, Hagel reminds us that the Bush adminstration didn’t want to ask Congress for authorization at all. Despite the clear separation of powers in the Constitution, the president had to be pressured by senators such as Hagel before agreeing to ask Congress for a vote.

    …why would a president seriously consider taking a nation to war without Congress being with him? […] …finally, begrudgingly, they sent over a resolution for Congress to approve. Well, it was astounding. It said they could go anywhere in the region. […] Wide open. We had to rewrite it. Joe Biden, Dick Lugar, and I stripped the language that the White House had set up….

He describes the administration as “hell-bent on going to war in Iraq” and says that in hindsight, they clearly lied to Congress to get their way. He goes on to discuss what can be done to stop the war, reign in the president’s abuse of power, and begin to repair the damage done to the nation and the world.

    We still have power, starting with appropriations, oversight, the power of the people, the polls. We represent the voters. […] I think we need to exercise oversight of the funding. […] We ought to shut down Guantànamo. There shouldn’t be any secret prisons. Why do we need those? What are we afraid of? Here we are, the greatest nation the world has ever seen. Why can’t we let the Red Cross into our prisons? Why do we deny they exist? […] Why aren’t we dealing with Iran and Syria? […]
    I think these issues are starting to redefine the political landscape. You are going to see alliances and relationships develop that are based on this war. You are going to see a reorientation of political parties. […] We are living through one of the most transformative periods in history. If we are going to make it, we need a far greater appreciation and respect for others, or we’re going to blow up mankind. Look at what zealotry can do. […] We need to move past those divisions and learn to be tolerant and respectful. If we go out there full of intolerance and hatred, we’ll never make it.

UPDATE 1: The empire strikes back, from the Washington Post:

    President Bush today rebuffed congressional opponents who want to stop his plan to increase U.S. troop strength in Iraq, declaring that “I’m the decision-maker” on the war effort and challenging skeptics to produce their own plan for success.
    Bush also vowed forceful action to prevent Iranian operatives in Iraq from harming U.S. troops, but he denied that he wants to expand military action beyond Iraq’s borders….

UPDATE 2: Hagel bitch-slaps Joe Lieberman on Meet the Press. (Senator Joe Lieberman, supposedly a Democrat, has turned into one of President Bush’s biggest supporters on the war.) In his typical condescending way, Lieberman lectures the American people, “In war, ultimately, there are two exit strategies. One is called victory. The other is called defeat.” Hagel answers him:

    The people of the Middle East will determine their fate. Now, when we continue to interject ourselves in a situation that we never have understood…. We need to get out of the fog of where we are…. The terrorist problem isn’t the biggest problem today in Iraq…. It is Iraqis killing Iraqis…. That’s the biggest problem. That’s not going to be solved by the American military.

UPDATE 3: “Hagel Ponders White House Run as War Criticism Raises His Profile,” from the Washington Post.

Comments

Comment from Yahia
Time: January 26, 2007, 15:01

I’m a bit surprised about this quote:
“[…] It is Iraqis killing Iraqis…. That’s the biggest problem. That’s not going to be solved by the American military.”

Isn’t that the purpose??

Comment from Michael Eberhardt
Time: January 26, 2007, 18:18

Charles Hagel does not seem to grasp the gravity, magnitude and significance of Iraq,
in the context of national security of the USA.
If not that then he must be so caught up in his own fastasy of a White House run that he is willing to cynically play politics with the lives of our troops with his foolhardy, unpatriotic resolution against the war. This serves only help demoralize them and encourage the enemy.
Was he wounded in the HEAD?!?!
He is a RINO and should go the way of Lincoln Chafee.

Comment from eatbees
Time: January 26, 2007, 20:20

@Yahia — I’m aware of the theory that the U.S. is setting the Sunni and Shiia against each other on purpose, and can only reply that no sane leadership would do such a thing. What would be the advantage to the U.S. to be in the middle of a civil war? As Senator Hagel said, “That’s not going to be solved by the American military.” So why do it?

That said, I think Bush, Cheney and the rest of them have proven their insanity to the point where it is no longer possible to give them credit for making judgments based on the same reality you and I live in. That is why we need levelheaded people like Hagel to stand in their way, and if necessary, remove them from office. Keep in mind that the Iraq war is a proven failure that is now deeply unpopular with the American people and even the American military.

If you want an example of people who see black as white and wrong as right and sane as insane, and won’t get themselves untangled no matter how much explaining you do, check out the comment right above mine. Unfortunately I share a country with these people, but that’s democracy.

Comment from Yahia
Time: January 30, 2007, 17:33

Eatbees, you say: “What would be the advantage to the U.S. to be in the middle of a civil war?”
Isn’t that exactly what they want? To get their hands on oil easy.

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