Hagel Confirmed Despite Petulant Senators

by James M. WallHagel salutes cropped

Former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel assumed command of the Pentagon this week.

Hagel was sworn in after an extended and contentious encounter with neocon, petulant Republican senators, each in his or her own way, determined to damage both the nominee and President Obama.

Not since Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy hunted non-existent communists in Dwight Eisenhower’s executive branch, has the country seen such a vitriolic legislative performance.

Paul Craig Roberts wrote for Global Research, “lawmakers owned by the Israel Lobby” shamed America by their attacks on Hagel.

The most embarrassing behavior of all came from the craven Lindsay Graham, who, while in the act of demonstrating his complete subservience by crawling on his belly before the Israel Lobby, dared Hagel to name one single person in the US Congress who is afraid of the Israel Lobby.

If I had been Hagel, I would have written off the nomination and answered: “You, Senator Graham, and your 40 craven colleagues.”

This would have indeed, “written off his nomination”. Hagel, however, refused to take the bait Graham offered. 

The morning after the Senate approved his confirmation, Hagel went to his Arlington, Virginia, headquarters, where he was greeted (picture above) by USMC Lt. General Thomas Waldhauser, who will serve as Hagel’s Senior Private Military Assistant.

Jonathan Tobin put his neoconservative spin on Hagel’s confirmation process, writing in Commentary

The pressure put upon Hagel during the lead-up to his confirmation hearing as well as the difficulty he found himself in when questioned by the Senate Armed Services Committee wasn’t merely the usual grind nominees are subjected to.

The process reaffirmed a basic truth about the strength of the pro-Israel consensus that was placed in doubt by the president’s choice: support for the alliance with the Jewish state isn’t merely mainstream politics, it is the baseline against which all nominees for high office are measured.

On his War in Context site, Paul Woodward described Tobin’s conclusions as evidence that the US alliance with Israel “is the sine qua non of American politics”.

Which is to say, the alliance is “something absolutely indispensable”. Religiously conservative pro-Israel voices affirmed the alliance with the fervor only absolutists could muster. One example:

The Family Research Council, formerly part of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family organization, warned supporters that Hagel’s confirmation shows America is forgetting about “God’s covenant with Abraham: to bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse her.”

For Commentary, Tobin describes what the alliance involves in his above-the-radar language rarely used in public in US political discourse:

For anyone to be considered for high political office in the United States of America, they must first demonstrate their alliance with Israel.

Woodward explains the power of the alliance:

Alliance with Israel isn’t merely mainstream American politics — and the key word here is “mainstream”, which the dictionary defines as “a prevailing current or direction of activity or influence.”

The strength of the Christian Zionist movement notwithstanding, to identify alliance with Israel as mainstream in American politics says much less about the concerns of most Americans than it says about the way Washington works.

In other words, the degree to which alliance with Israel is mainstream says far more about the influence of the Israel lobby than anything else.

And to say that alliance with Israel is “the baseline against which all nominees for high office are measured” is to say that Washington has gatekeepers and their overriding concern is not what is good for America but what is good for Israel.

Dana Milbank writes in the Washington Post that in a political fight they knew they would not win, Hagel’s Republican opponents are elated over the attacks on Hagel:

“He will take office with the weakest support of any defense secretary in modern history, which will make him less effective on his job,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), pointing out that 15 senators had made the same point in a letter to President Obama.

Cornyn’s colleague, Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), told Fox News Sunday the good news about the next defense secretary:

You’re going to have 40 votes against him, or 35 votes [the final negative total was 42], and that sends a signal to our allies as well as our foes that he does not have broad support in the U.S. Congress, which limits his ability to carry out his job.

Neoconservative Republicans are rejoicing because the Pentagon is now in the hands of a leader they claim to have personally weakened.

What led such arch patriotic politicians to reach this conclusion?

Juan Cole offers an answer:

The GOP senators have their own foreign policy, and it isn’t the same as that of President Obama or Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

For them, the US is a 900 pound behemoth that can boss the world around with its high-tech military at will. Their foreign policy is to shoot first and ask questions later, to cowboy it all alone, to never have regrets and never question American supremacy. They believe in a civilizational hierarchy, with Americans at the top of it, and for some of them ‘Americans’ means white Americans.

The final confirmation success for Hagel was a foregone conclusion when it became clear that influential members of the Zionist left would support him.

New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer announced he was satisfied that Hagel was not an enemy of Israel, and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote an endorsement he called, “Give Chuck a Chance”.

Friedman’s column appeared Christmas Day, 2012. In the spirit of the season he was charitable while clearly retaining his liberal Zionist stance..

Friedman begins his analysis this way:

In case you haven’t heard, President Obama is considering appointing Chuck Hagel, a former United States senator from Nebraska and a Purple Heart winner, as the next secretary of defense — and this has triggered a minifirefight among Hagel critics and supporters.

I am a Hagel supporter.

I think he would make a fine secretary of defense — precisely because some of his views are not “mainstream.” I find the opposition to him falling into two baskets: the disgusting and the philosophical. It is vital to look at both to appreciate why Hagel would be a good fit for Defense at this time.

The disgusting is the fact that because Hagel once described the Israel lobby as the “Jewish lobby” (it also contains some Christians). And because he has rather bluntly stated that his job as a U.S. senator was not to take orders from the Israel lobby but to advance U.S. interests, he is smeared as an Israel-hater at best and an anti-Semite at worst.

If ever Israel needed a U.S. defense secretary who was committed to Israel’s survival, as Hagel has repeatedly stated — but who was convinced that ensuring that survival didn’t mean having America go along with Israel’s self-destructive drift into settling the West Bank and obviating a two-state solution — it is now.

I am certain that the vast majority of U.S. senators and policy makers quietly believe exactly what Hagel believes on Israel — that it is surrounded by more implacable enemies than ever and needs and deserves America’s backing.

But, at the same time, this Israeli government is so spoiled and has shifted so far to the right that it makes no effort to take U.S. interests into account by slowing its self-isolating settlement adventure. And it’s going to get worse. Israel’s friends need to understand that the center-left in Israel is dying.

When the hearings and voting ordeal finally ended, Hagel was sworn in. On his first day on the job he spoke to his Pentagon staff in words that demonstrated a man determined not only to reach out to current allies, but to find new allies.

Next up for final confirmation, John Brennan as new CIA chief. Senate members want to hear more from Brennan about the US government’s drone program as a method for assassinating terror suspects.

The drone program is our latest technological method used to kill those we believe seek to do us harm.

morality warsIn their book, Morality Wars: How Empires, the Born Again, and the Politically Correct Do Evil in the Name of GoodCharles Derber and Yale R. Magrass introduce the concept of “immoral morality”, which empires have used to justify their conduct as empires.

The authors of this book have studied the hegemonic behavior of three empires, Roman, British and American. They conclude that each of the three empires had its own unique moralization rationale to justify its behavior, because an empire is:

“inherently exploitable and unaccountable. Naked force—the barrel of a gun—can secure such force but not sustain it: only moral and spiritual stories captivating hearts and minds can do that.”

Derber and Magrass maintain that as “hegemonic power grows, so, inevitably must the moral stories we describe in this book”.

It must be noted that the Bush-Cheney wars were carried out to “spread democracy for the good of the nations under attack”, just one of the moral stories utilized to mesmerize the American public.

Morality tales are used to justify the existence of hegemonic power. To illustrate this practice, Derber and Magrass write:

Think of the slave South, one of the most moralistic American regimes. Southern moralists filled Southern churches and town halls with ringing affirmations of the goodness of slavery.

One Southern author wrote: “Although they are inferior, we took them to our homes and taught them Christianity and how it protects, supports and civilizes him”.

Moral stories that justify immoral behavior are cover stories for the practice of “immoral morality”.

During the Vietnam war, the US destroyed a village to save it. Death by drones, a Bush practice which continues under Barack Obama, will neither save a village nor win any “hearts and minds”.

Obama’s continuation of the Bush assassination drone program has been a major blot on his record of moral leadership.

No amount of transparency, and no moral stories of the “good that drones do”, will change the fact that drone warfare is immoral.

The start of Obama’s second term is the right time for him to instruct his new team at Defense, State and the CIA, to terminate this  practice of technological, sophisticated delivery of death.

The photo above of Chuck Hagel is by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

About wallwritings

James M. Wall is currently a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine. Jim launched this new personal blog April 24, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to jameswall8@gmail.com Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years.
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9 Responses to Hagel Confirmed Despite Petulant Senators

  1. AWAD PAUL SIFRI says:

    Congratulations, Jim. You not only stood steadfast for Hagel throughout this ordeal, but, you also were confident that, at the end of the game, Hagel would be confirmed. You stood by your conviction and you were absolutely right.
    On the positive side, the Hagel ordeal demonstrated that persistance pays off and that, if an American President insists on putting America FIRST, instead of Israel, he can still win, even in today’s America.

    On the other hand, the Israel Lobby, the Neocons, and many Republicans were able to achieve the following: Confirm to the American people that their servitude to Israel – Not alliance with Israel – ranks higher than US interests.

    They have descended to such record-low levels that they are ecstatic to humiliate and disparage an American Patriot and now Chief of the Pentagon, at the expense of America’s dignity, morality, and image around the world.

    America’s interests are divergent from those of Israel, contrary to Israel’s continued deception. More and more Americans are finding out, and truth is escalating.and spreading.

  2. MIKE G says:

    It is a sad day when an American can not be appointed to a political position without the blessing of israel.

  3. I am afraid that on this rare occasion, Commentary’s Tobin is absolutely right. Hagel’s pathetic performance before the Senate Un-Israel Affairs Committee inquisition left Hagel “damaged goods,” and, more importantly, will serve to deter any member of Congress openly criticizing Israel or AIPAC again.

    At the moment, there is not a single one that dares do that. Sure, a half dozen members of the House will vote against one or more AIPAC drafted resolutions or pieces of legislation while 400 plus vote for it, but they will not speak a word about it in public. And since the death of Robert Byrd, it’s been 100 to 0 with Bernie Sanders indistinguishable from Lindsay Graham.

    This situation, it should be noted, is aided and abetted by almost all sides in what might be called the Middle East peace and justice movement which, when it comes to criticizing, let alone discussing, the obvious power and pernicious influence of the American Jewish establishment over US Middle East policy, is in the same state of denial it has been for decades.

    When the Hagel issue is talked about as it will be at the so-called “Expose AIPAC” conference in Washington on Saturday, on the eve of AIPAC’s annual Nuremberg rally there that begins on Sunday–with 3/4 of the members of Congress present–they will hail it a great victory for “the movement” and an indication that the Lobby is a “paper tiger.”

  4. Jim, your well-rounded reporting is appreciated, as usual.

    I beg to differ with optimists who now breathe “Whew” and expect that Hagel can be an effective US SECDEF in applying some brake on the “entangling alliance.” Schumer — he who personally did in Chas Freeman in 2009 — made sure that he made Hagel crawl before him in obeisance to Zionist Israel and thus before the entirety of the traitorous Zionist Lobby prior to announcing his satisfaction with Hagel’s nomination. Likewise, the Armed Services Committee’s grilling left a heap of ashes suffocating any independence Hagel might have been inclined to demonstrate as SECDEF; his words (or lack of any resolute words) will be the stuff of any Senate or House Israel-firster’s denunciation of anything but the (bi)party line regarding the Holy Land or the larger Middle East.

    Regarding the Graham cracker’s disgusting, shifty-eyed performance as he humiliated a fumbling Hagel: How I wish that Hagel could have had the fortitude of answering the above Paul Craig Roberts’ portrayal of Graham as “…dar(ing) Hagel to name one single person in the US Congress who is afraid of the Israel Lobby” by responding “Well, Senator Graham, you and I — both with military-service backgrounds where the absolute promise is ‘never leave a soldier on the battlefield” — and close to 100 percent of the other 533 members of the Senate and House have never, for 46 years, demanded and assured the conduct of a proper investigation of the Israeli Air Force and Navy’s massacre of the crew and destruction of the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967. I feel personal shame and revulsion for shirking my duty, as a military veteran and as a Senator, to push for — to demand — that investigation. I hope, Senator Graham, that your commissioned-officer status and your current political career leave you with similar shame and revulsion. Any country in the world other than Israel would have found itself immediately condemned and the object of military, diplomatic and economic retaliation, with a proper investigation in due course. With those unassailable few facts, I submit to you, Senator Graham, that the USS Liberty is one case where the ‘fear’ of the Israel Lobby have stained and besmirched the honor of our military and our country to this day — all because we have been ‘afraid’ to call for a principled, transparent investigation.”

    I think Hagel would have had the entire defense establishment at his back (imagine if he had had one or two Liberty survivors who silently stood in the hearing room as Hagel spoke!), a sordid episode in our history would have been exposed and, yes, properly investigated, and Graham would have been exposed as a charlatan with no clothes to hide his treason. But, as I began above, How I wish….

  5. Fred says:

    Let’s hope that Hagel will do everything he can to keep the US from attacking Iran or assistine Israel in the attack it wants. The Israel Firsters in Congress are pushing hard for war with Iran, and want the US to lead the attack. Such a premeditated attack would be yet another War Crime by Israel and the US.

    Israel and the US are heavily armed with nuclear weapons. Iran has none. Iran signed th NPT and has called for a nuclear fee zone in the mideast. Israel has refused to even attnd the conference, so it was cancelled.

  6. Pingback: Hagel Confirmed Despite Petulant Senators | My Catbird Seat

  7. William Gepford says:

    A man’s character, truly, will be known by his commitments and his peresistence in sticking to them, I believe Hagel is that kind. Thanks again Jim for the commentary and your commitments.

  8. Harris W. Fawell, Memer of Congress (retired) says:

    Jim: My congratulations to you for your firm support of Hagel throughout his ordeal of defending himself from the full force of the Israel lobby, the Neocons and, alas, of too many Republican Senators’ during his confirmation hearing for Secretary of Defence. I also salute the Presicent for standing up to what he knew would be an ordeal that Hagel was sure to suffer. But the President and Hagel weathered the storm and thus Hagel takes of the office of Secretary of Defense strengthened, I believe, by what the President had to know would be many meaningly accusations levelled against him.
    Harris W. Fawell, Member of Congress, retired (1998)

  9. Pingback: U.S. Arms Deal Will Increase Israel’s Kill Power | From the Trenches World Report

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