Politics

02.19.13

The Attacks on Chuck Hagel

So now the Washington Free Bacon is just publishing single-sourced recollections of people who heard Chuck Hagel give a speech back in such-and-such a year who say he said X but don't have the exact quotes handy and on that basis demanding that Hagel prove he didn't say what these people seem to think he said.

I'm not going to link to that, sorry; you'll have to look for it yourself if you're so inclined. In the more recent case, there's a real-time email from a guy who was in attendance at a Hagel speech at Rutgers in 2010 in which the guy, Kenneth Wagner, writes that Hagel said Israel risks becoming an apartheid state if it didn't allow the Palestinians to form a state. Wagner put nothing in quote marks, so there is no attributed direct quote.

Amusingly, while the Washington Emancipated Pork Belly hasn't really yet found an instance of Hagel definitively saying this, Dave Weigel did find an instance of Ehud Barak saying it. Barak said this as Israel's defense minister. So the head of Israel's defense department can say this, but the head of America's cannot. If indeed he said it at all.

Meanwhile, Michael Hirsch, eminently trustworthy on such issues, argues that Hagel was the prescient one back in the Bush era:

Yet as much as Hagel raised concerns about backsliding in the actual theater of the war against al-Qaida, he also worried presciently about U.S. overreach, as well as alienating allies around the world that were critical to fighting a global struggle against transnational terrorists. Hagel foresaw that unless Washington was more careful about the exercise of hard power, we would find ourselves in the very crisis we are in today, with a $600 billion-plus defense budget that the president and Congress have now mandated be cut by $500 billion over the next decade. Hagel saw that, in Iraq, America was taking on an already weakened leader who the senator said probably didn't have weapons of mass destruction, and at the same time empowering another regime (Iran) that badly wanted WMDs--a dire development further documented on Monday by The Washington Post, which reported that the Iranian-backed Shiite group Asaib Ahl al-Haq, the "League of the Righteous," is exerting new political power in Iraq.

Hagel also delivered some of the earliest warnings about the potentially disastrous effects of George W. Bush's ill-grounded "Axis of Evil" speech, in which the president needlessly alienated Tehran only days after the Iranians had actually delivered up aid and support to stabilize post-Taliban Afghanistan. Ironically, Bush's own officials on the ground in Afghanistan, such as Dobbins, had testified to Iran's measured policies at the time. They noted that at a 2002 donor's conference in Tokyo that occurred only a week before the Axis of Evil speech, Iran pledged $500 million--at the time, more than double the Americans' contribution-- to help rebuild Afghanistan. "Iran actually has been quite helpful in Afghanistan," Hagel, then a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Congressional Quarterly on Feb. 1, 2002. "And we're giving them the back of our hand." Hagel added: "We're not isolating [the Iranians]. We're isolating ourselves.... We ought to be a little more thoughtful. That [axis] comment only helps the mullahs."

I wrote last week that Hagel was starting to seem like more trouble than he was worth, but obviously one would hate to see his attackers--especially Ted Cruz, with his McCarthyish, prove-you-didn't-take-dirty-money ploy--get his scalp.