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.
In their book, Morality Wars: How Empires, the Born Again, and the Politically Correct Do Evil in the Name of Good, Charles 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