“Why do you think the Iranian foreign ministry so strongly supports your nomination to be the secretary of defense?”
This offensive question, addressed to nominee Chuck Hagel by Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe, was a moment to make Tea Partiers proud.
It was a true Freudian moment: a hunting group of disparate solons, led by an organized pack of tired white men attempting to take down a decorated Vietnam War hero who had been nominated by President Obama to become America’s next secretary of defense.
A vulgar spectacle, ugly and unbecoming of America, televised worldwide. Such ignorant invective directed toward our president’s nominee while ignoring America’s true national security challenges.
All this while displaying disregard for Syria’s civil war, concerns over recent Israeli airstrikes in or near the Syrian border, concern over Iran’s nuclear activities, French intervention in Mali, the desperate attempts in Egypt to hold onto democratic gains and with Libya becoming a failed state over-run by bands of armed jihadists.
All this invective and bitterness toward Hagel because John McCain and his fellow neoconservative travelers can’t accept the fact that their mythology about the Iraq War has been repudiated — that their embrace of an interventionist, neo-colonialist policy has left America weaker and more vulnerable, and that we now know that American exceptionalism cannot be projected merely through the barrel of a gun.
All this because these senators are totally disconnected from global realities and fail to realize that the manner in which American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been prosecuted have turned most Muslim societies against American policy interests.
All this with disregard of the relentless drones attacks on targets in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, without regard for international law and conventions, turning whole nations against us.
All this because they fail to realize America’s unfettered support for Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestinian land has turned much of the world against us — and diminished opportunities for a two-state solution.
Chuck Hagel, who voted for the Iraq War authorization, was right when he said Iraq was the, “most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam,” and he was right about the Iraq surge.
Witness un-democratic Iraq today: a dictatorial Shiite government (which replaced a Sunni dictator), supported by regional power Iran, in deadly conflict with its indigenous Sunnis and Kurds.
The surge, a face-saver, reduced violence long enough for America to declare victory and get out of a war that it had unjustly begun, and which so tragically failed.
The naïveté of a president who lacked discernment and the hubris of the men who talked him into a war scarred us. The thousands of Iraqi and American lives lost, the millions of refugees and displaced Iraqis who will never regain any security, and the trillions of U.S. dollars spent will never be fully justified.
As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently said, “There are some people in politics and in the press who can’t be confused by the facts. They just will not live in an evidence-based world. And that’s regrettable. It’s regrettable for our political system and for the people who serve our government in very dangerous, difficult circumstances.”
Witness the distortion over Hagel’s Israel views: although he is, like most Americans, a supporter of Israel, he has become, by failing to honor the expectations of America’s Greater Israel Lobby, suspect, and is now unfairly enduring the wrath of some of Israel’s most virulent supporters.
When he was a senator, Hagel told David Aaron Miller, “I’m a United States senator. I’m not an Israeli senator. I support Israel, but my first interest is I take an oath of office to the Constitution of the United States, not to a president, not to a party, not to Israel.”
I don’t see the problem. With regard to any other country that would be a praiseworthy sentiment; with regard to Israel such sentiments are a potential deathblow.
Opposition to Hagel is unrelenting. Groups like the Emergency Committee for Israel and the Zionist Organization of America are lobbying U.S. senators against Hagel, as are Republican donors like Sheldon Adelson.
Christians United for Israel, founded by Pastor John Hagee, rallied 400 Christian activists from 46 states to come to Washington to lobby against Hagel. Texas Sen. John Cornyn, at Hagee’s request, was the first senator to come out against Hagel, saying, “I cannot support a nominee for defense secretary who suggests we should be tougher on Israel and more lenient on Iran.”
I know that for Israel wars in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982 and 2006, wars of attrition, two intifadas, walls, barriers, military zones and occupation have not made it more secure.
I know that for America, from the 1953 coup of Mossadegh in Iran through wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, drone attacks and the assassination of Osama bin Laden have not made us more secure.
Perhaps it’s time to find another path.
I know it’s unpopular to consider that U.S. policy toward Israel and Palestine should be guided by U.S. interests, that it’s naïve to think that enemies should negotiate with each other before bombing each other, and I really know it’s irrational to think that Hamas and Hezbollah are forces in regional politics that should be talked to and that pretending they don’t exist limits American strategic policy options.
Maybe those are other paths.
I hope Chuck Hagel, an enlisted man who knows the true value of blood and treasure, makes it. In Afghanistan and Iraq, America realized the limits of hard power. It’s time now for America to value the potential of soft power as well, to understand that no one stands alone in today’s global environment.
An America that serves truth, that protects its Constitution and its own strategic interests and assets first, protects its allies best.
Find another path: That is how we serve peace.
This column appeared originally in the Portsmouth Herald.