AFTER 9-11 AND UP TO THE TIME OF THE IRAQ INVASION, Senator Chuck Hagel was one of the very few voices of sanity in senior Republican circles.
Although I don’t have his earlier statements on hand to hyperlink to this post (I’ll try and dig some up), I heard Chuck Hagel speak to a small group organized by Jack Janes and the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies where Hagel outlined a set of crucial “questions” that the Bush administration had failed to answer in its war against terror and the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Hagel supported his president in the end, particularly after the invastion started, but few know that his views were sensible and raised many of the questions Kerry is now posing. In fact, I think Hagel lodged more of an internal battle over foreign policy inside the Republican Party than the Democrats did in Congress before the Iraq War.
Around this same time, I had the opportunity to participate in a small lunch with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer at the German Ambassador’s home — and I was struck by how nearly identical Fischer’s recited roster of unanswered questions about the war were to Hagel’s.
In the room with Fischer that day were host German Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, James Steinberg, Sandy Berger, Robert Kimmitt, Leon Fuerth, Ted Koppel, and others — and many were pretty tough on Germany’s and Fischer’s resistance on the Iraq War. But Chuck Hagel at that time was pretty much hitting the same buttons inside the Republican Party.
Today, in an AP story on Kerry’s statement that Bush is not being straight on Iraq, Chuck Hagel is again the hero and saying the right things.
In the AP report:
Bush also faced tough assessments of Iraq from quarters that typically would echo the commander in chief. The head of the Army Reserve said his force of part-time soldiers has yet to fully adapt to the demands of a global war on terrorism. And a Republican senator, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, said the situation in Iraq is deteriorating.
“The worst thing we can do is hold ourselves hostage to some grand illusion that we’re winning,” said Hagel, a Vietnam War veteran. “Right now we’re not winning. Things are getting worse.”
John Kerry needs to point out that Bush’s own team is deeply concerned about Iraq — and he ought to go give Chuck Hagel the kind of bear hug Bush gave John McCain.
For $6.21 and a lot of real or assumed Nebraska state spirit, you can attend the famous six-decade old “Nebraska Breakfast” which Senator Hagel hosts in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. It’s best to get there by 7:30 a.m., and the next breakfasts are on September 22nd and 29th.
Hagel deserves kudos and strong applause for giving serious thought to the health of America’s national security circumstances and for raising the right questions despite the Bush team’s attempts to squash them.
Suffice it to say, I don’t expect to see Chuck Hagel signing any Committee on the Present Danger manifestos.
— Steve Clemons