Knowing the Real Chuck Hagel
The only real complaint aimed at Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is that he is of like mind as the President. He would not rush into a war as did Rumsfeld or McNamara. His confirmation hearings are beginning as I write this.
Republicans, and some Democrats, whose campaigns are partially funded by lobbies for those companies who produce war material, must protect their benefactors. It is just possible that Hagel may reduce some Defense Department waste. That would be a tragedy for those who get rich as the result of the deaths of thousands in senseless wars.
Hagel is a decorated Vietnam veteran and a 2 term Republican Senator from Nebraska. If he is our next Secretary of Defense, he will be the first from the enlisted ranks to serve in the position. His criticism, coming from the likes of Lindsay Graham, should become an endorsement. Graham said he lacked “mainstream thinking”. I have never been, and do not like those who follow. Graham affirmed what is wrong with politics in America, we have lots of followers, and few leaders.
Having served as an enlisted man in Vietnam, he has a different perspective than those who were far back from the front lines. “I made myself a promise that if I ever got out of that place and was ever in a position to do something about war — so horrible, so filled with suffering — I would do whatever I could to stop it. I have never forgotten that promise.”
He is by no means a pacifist, he’s a realist. About Iraq: “We blundered into Iraq because of flawed intelligence, flawed assumptions, flawed judgments, and ideologically driven motives,” he wrote in his 2008 memoir, “America: Our Next Chapter: Tough Questions, Straight Answers.”
“We must not repeat these errors with Iran and the best way to avoid them is to maintain an effective dialogue. Preventing an Iranian nuclear weapon is in the interest of both the United States and the world community.”
I was born in 1946. My existence is the product of a man discharged from the Navy at the end of WWII, and a mother who was “Rosie the Riveter”, working for Boeing during the war. The United States was forced into defending ourselves, and entering the Second World War. Since that time, we have been involved in senseless conflicts, and, as history will testify, lost most of them.
We went into Korea to protect the south from the invading communists of the North. None of our business. We simply lost thousands of men and women, and killed thousands of the enemy. The only people who profited were those invested in the industrial military complex.
Vietnam was a bigger mistake. I enlisted in the summer of 1964. I had a pre-existing medical condition, but the recruiter said it wouldn’t matter. I was discharged for medical reasons in 1965, about the time Vietnam became a major conflict. I have many friends who served, and some who never returned alive. The thousands of lives lost accomplished nothing. In fact, we ran from the country with our tails between our legs. The war did accomplish one thing, it divided us.
The first Gulf War, “Operation Desert Storm”, appeared honorable. Kuwait did not have the means to protect itself against Sadaam Hussein and the Iraqi Army. At the end of the conflict, our government, led by the first George Bush, failed to ensure that those who supported us in the region were protected from retaliation by Hussein. Thousands of Shiites were massacred by the Iraqi dictator. We spent billions of dollars, and Hussein was still in power. We had a net gain of zero.
The invasion of Iraq was utter folly. I sat in a room as “W”’s “Shock and Awe” mission killed thousands of innocent men, women, and children, and destroyed much of the city. There were smiles on many faces, not mine. We waged war on a people under false pretenses. We lost another war, and thousands of our finest young men and women. And the cost was trillions to the American economy.
We’re still in Afghanistan. Once again, we didn’t learn from history. The Russians were defeated and forced to leave the country, and we will soon be as well. But not soon enough.
So, if we have a Secretary of Defense who chooses not to shoot first and aim later, what’s wrong about that? Believing in negotiation, and sanctions, before rushing into another conflict without exhausting all other methods just makes common sense.
We should have learned from our failures by now. Chuck Hagel’s record in excellent. Simply blocking his confirmation based on the insistence of lobbyists is un-American. We will not be weakened by Chuck Hagel, we will be strengthened. We will have a man who lacks the arrogance of a few who went before him. We will have a man who considers the implications of decisions made by the President, himself, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and how they will affect the American people for years to come.
Columnist-The Guardian Express