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Casualties of War

The Man Behind the Image

A new biography captures the unflinching life of war photographer Tim Hetherington.

We stood along the Abas Ghar ridgeline, eating meals out of envelopes, surrounded by tall, narrow cedar trees that shot straight up into the cloudless sky. We were several days into Operation Rock Avalanche, a six-day mission with the 173rd Airborne Battle Company in the Korengal Valley—in 2007 one of the most dangerous places in Afghanistan. We were all exhausted from days of walking like mountain goats up and down the treacherous landscape, looking for the invisible enemy and their hidden weapons while lugging our sleeping gear, food, water, and warm layers. Every other day, a resupply aircraft would zip in overhead and dump a bundle of water, military meals, and anything else nearby, and we would restock our packs and continue trudging along. The troops carried hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and we carried our cameras.

 

 

Reporter Elizabeth Rubin and I had just linked up with photographers Tim Hetherington and Balazs Gardi, and the rest of Second Platoon, from our position with the over watch team on the mountain above. The sun was peeking through the trees, creating pockets of warmth amid the cold mountain air. The guys were busy trading M&M’s and Skittles out of their MREs when the first burst of gunfire pierced the calm. I was off trying to find a place to pee, and by the time I rolled down the mountain to rejoin the others, our quiet mountain picnic had turned apocalyptic. Lieutenant Piosa, the Second Platoon commander, and his men were positioned behind the thin trees in the forest that blanketed the ridge, unloading endless rounds of ammunition into the green infinity, while bullets sprayed us from three directions. I was scrambling to fetch my cameras and helmet and to link up with my colleagues to begin photographing. I found Elizabeth huddled behind two soldiers, filming, and I dug in behind her. I hadn’t shot a single frame yet of the biggest ambush we had faced the entire mission and was chastising myself for being a horrendous war photographer. I looked over to my right, and there was Tim, steady and poised, filming the battle as if he were invisible. There was not an ounce of fear evident in his posture. I remember distinctly looking at him in that moment, and he looked up at me with one of his wide, easy smiles. I so envied his courage and ability to focus in the midst of chaos.

 

 

Armed Forces

Cracking Down on Military Rapes

U.S. legislators renew their push for civilian oversight of military-sexual-assault cases.

According to the U.S. military, there are 19,000 rapes and sexual assaults each year in the armed forces—most of them unreported—with hardly any cases ending in convictions or even in prosecution. According to the Department of Defense’s own data, 85 percent of victims do not report the crime, mostly out of fear that no one will believe them, or that they’ll suffer retaliation (as many victims say they endure after they report assaults.) As Protect Our Defenders, a human-rights organization dedicated to survivors of military sexual assault, has stated, most cases aren’t prosecuted because of fear of retaliation, and only 2,500 victims reported attacks in 2011. (The numbers for last year will be out at the end of this month.) 

Now, U.S. legislators are renewing the push to change those dismal statistics. On Wednesday, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-California), Rep. Walter Jones (R-North Caroliana), and Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) held a press conference to reintroduce bipartisan legislation—backed by 83 co-sponsors—for the Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention Act (STOP), which would create an independent office for reporting, investigating, and adjudicating military-sexual-assault cases outside of the normal chain of command. Their goal is to reform the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) by involving civilian oversight.

The timing comes on the heels of the ongoing scandals at Lackland Air Force Base and Aviano Air Base in Italy. At Aviano, Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin overturned the sexual-assault conviction of fellow fighter pilot, Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, who had been sentenced to a year in prison and dismissed from the armed forces by a jury of senior officers. Franklin, acting within his authority, overruled the jury verdict and freed Wilkerson, reinstating him back into the Air Force. Nancy Parrish, president of Protect Our Defenders, said, “The military process is essentially equivalent to allowing a mayor, governor, or the president to decide whether or not to charge and prosecute the accused, carefully select a jury, then lessen a sentence or override the outcome if the result is not what they desire.”

The DOD is taking military sexual trauma (MST) seriously, and progress has been made. Earlier this month on April 5, it was announced that victims of sexual assault who have sought counseling will no longer have to report that fact when undergoing a background check for access to classified information. “We want to encourage individuals to get the help that they may need,” announced Charles Sowell, the assistant director for special security at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, in a briefing. “What we understood through communications with DOD and several congressional members was that victims of sexual assault, some number of them, were not seeking mental-health counseling because they were concerned they might [lose] their security clearances.”

Jennifer Norris, a rape survivor during her time in the Air Force, was ecstatic to hear about the change. When it was time to renew her security clearance, she had to answer “yes” on question 21, about whether she’d received counseling for her sexual trauma. That response ultimately ended her military career. During a recent phone conversation, she explained what had happened: “At first I got a phone call from investigators that they needed me to sign a release so they could have access to my records at the VA, where I was receiving counseling. My initial reaction was to say ‘yes’ because I didn’t have anything to hide. Over the next few days I started feeling very uneasy about people reading those records. Rape is a very personal thing, and I didn’t want those conversations available to people I didn’t know.” Norris continued, “I found out that I could rescind my decision and once I did that, I lost my clearance for not complying.”

Rear Admiral Dixon Smith, commander of the Navy’s southwest region, who is in charge of 10 Navy installations in a six-state area, is very concerned about sexual assaults in his ranks. In a meeting he arranged to pull together a group of San Diego leaders, Admiral Smith expressed the need to raise civilian awareness, hoping to learn from large civilian organizations and businesses that face similar challenges in creating workplaces intolerant of sexual harassment. Listening to him talk and engaging in conversation with him, I felt his passion and deep concern for what he calls, “one of the most significant near-term challenges to our sailors’ ability to be ready … sexual assault, a crime that happens to about two sailors every day.” He went on to say, “Sexual assault creates an unsafe workplace and degrades the readiness of our ships and squadrons.”

When Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld came to visit Marines in Fallujah, John Kael Weston pressed him on U.S. policy—and wishes he had gone further that day.

A lot of articles will be written this week about our experience in the Iraq War from primarily a U.S.-centric point of view. My goal is different: to help convey the stories of ordinary Iraqis and how our voluntary war affected them, and still does, even as Washington and the American public have largely moved on. These vignettes, which will run across consecutive days this week, include: The Teamster (Bassam)The English Teacher (Abbas)The Highway Patrolman (Waleed), and The Last Grand Mufti (Hamza).

Rumsfeld visits Camp Fallujah

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld visits Camp Fallujah, December 2004. (John Kael Weston)

Let's hope one day Iraqis will write their own books about the Iraq War. When they do, their stories in their words should be required reading for all.

The Secretary of Defense

Donald Rumsfeld glared the whole time.

Years later, I still wonder whether I should have said more. The squinty-eyed Illinois native—and former Princeton wrestler renowned for his quick “fireman’s carry” takedowns—stood before me in a muddy corner of Camp Fallujah under wet, leaden skies in December 2004. His frontline visit happened on short notice, an implied though unacknowledged mea culpa of sorts. He brought a lot of reporters with him. Weeks earlier, with the Iraq war still young—like most who would fight and die in it—the media revealed that the defense chief’s killed-in-action (KIA) condolence letters were auto-penned. The final death tally would reach 4,487 Americans and well over 100,000 Iraqis.

The Last Grand Mufti

Fallujah’s greatest religious figure proved a valuable ally in quieting the streets until he was quieted himself. John Kael Weston remembers a man whose death he blames on our wrongheaded policies.

A lot of articles will be written this week about our experience in the Iraq War from primarily a U.S.-centric point of view. My goal is different: to help convey the stories of ordinary Iraqis and how our voluntary war affected them, and still does, even as Washington and the American public have largely moved on. These vignettes, which will run across consecutive days this week, include: The Teamster (Bassam)The English Teacher (Abbas), The Highway Patrolman (Waleed), and The Last Grand Mufti (Hamza). I also describe my interaction outside Fallujah with former secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, a primary architect of our “shock and awe” war.

The final piece in the series is forward-looking. I interview an Iraqi, Ameer, from Baghdad, who worked at the American Embassy and now lives in the U.S. He supported the invasion and continues to believe it was the right decision, with some caveats.

Let's hope one day Iraqis will write their own books about the Iraq War. When they do, their stories in their words should be required reading for all.

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Fallujah Council and local leaders; Sheikh Hamza, grand mufti, front row, second from right, 2005. (John Kael Weston)

The Last Grand Mufti

The junior imams showed up first. They always did. Those with the real power waited for a few days before meeting with us. Al Qaeda in Iraq led by mastermind Abu Musab al Zarqawi had intimidated the top Muslim leaders out of their mosques to the outskirts of Fallujah. Even Sheik Hamza Abbas al Isaawi, the grand mufti of Fallujah, had to leave his spiritual home, like a pope banished from Rome.

The Iraqi Patrolman

In the latest of his series marking the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War, John Kael Weston remembers an Iraqi highway patrolman whom he met at the height of the battle for Fallujah.

A lot of articles will be written this week about our experience in the Iraq War from primarily a U.S.-centric point of view. My goal is different: to help convey the stories of ordinary Iraqis and how our voluntary war affected them, and still does, even as Washington and the American public have largely moved on. These vignettes, which will run across consecutive days this week, include: The Teamster (Bassam), The English Teacher (Abbas), The Highway Patrolman (Waleed), and The Last Grand Mufti (Hamza). I also describe my interaction outside Fallujah with former secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, a primary architect of our “shock and awe” war.

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Lt. Waleed and Lt. Col. Colin McNease, Fallujah, 2004. (Colin McNease)

The final piece in the series is forward-looking. I interview an Iraqi, Ameer, from Baghdad, who worked at the American Embassy and now lives in the U.S. He supported the invasion and continues to believe it was the right decision, with some caveats.

One day let's hope Iraqis will write their own books about the Iraq War. When they do, their stories in their words should be required reading for all.

"My God, My Glock, and my Gallant"

Above hardpan deserts, red dawns chased away Orion, the Hunter, day after night. U.S. Marines, no longer in Kansas or Montana or Texas, were strangers in a strange, faraway land and in the business of killing Arabsif some Arabs did not kill them first. We were in the midst of a duel.

Marine 1st Lt. Therrell Shane Childers was killed in Iraq on March 21, 2003, in the wartime equivalent of a drive-by shooting. Michael Daly on the first man to die for a mistake.

He was the first man to die for a mistake.

Marine 1st Lt. Therrell Shane Childers became the first American combat casualty of the war in Iraq ten years ago tomorrow, on March 21, 2003, shortly after his unit secured Pumping Station No. 2 at the Rumaila oil fields 20 miles north of the border with Kuwait. A pick-up truck loaded with Iraqi soldiers appeared seemingly out of nowhere and Childers was hit once in the stomach. It was the wartime equivalent of a drive-by shooting.

Childers and Gutierrez

2nd Lt. T Therrel Shane Childers, left, and Lance Cpl. Jose Gutierrez. (The Sun Herald/AP; Moises Castillo/AP)

Childers was 30 years old and the son of a career Navy man. He had wanted to be a Marine since he was five, when he saw the Marine guards at the embassy in Tehran while his father was stationed in Iran. The approaching Islamic revolution caused the family to be evacuated in 1978. His father, Joseph Childers, had been briefly held hostage the following February, in a scenario that would now be familiar to anyone who has seen the movie Argo.

The family was living in Mississippi when Therrell Childers enlisted in the Marines at the age of 17. He was subsequently selected an officer training program. He had the distinction of becoming a “mustang,” a Marine enlisted man elevated to officer. He kept rock-hard fit by running, swimming and biking as if in a perpetual triathlon. He often said his dream was to lead a platoon into combat.

After 9/11, Childers would have been more than willing to lead his men in tracking down Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. He trusted the wisdom of his leaders when they said national security would best be served by sending him into Iraq. He did not stop to ponder whether the Bush administration was just using 9/11 as a pretext to go after Saddam Hussein. He did not wonder aloud at the irony of going into battle against the same army that had been battling the fanatics in Iran who had briefly held his father prisoner.

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This new HuffPo/Open Gov poll on American views on Iraq is something to behold. Key nuggets:

1) Nearly half (45%) of Americans do not personally know someone who served in combat in Iraq.

2) Only a sixth of Americans can say they or someone in their immediate family personally served in Iraq. 

3) 80 percent of Americans do not know someone who was injured in Iraq.

4) 89 percent of Americans do not personally know anyone killed in Iraq.

This survey certainly bolsters the general premise - if you're willing to totally ignore the silly conclusions - of Charles Murray's Coming Apart. When such a broad swath of Americans haven't the slightest bit of a personal connection to a war, how can we expect them to make informed choices about public policy?

Honest Answers

Our Lost Decade

A Marine officer who served two tours in Iraq looks back at 10 years of war, death, and destruction, and asks: What have we learned? By Benjamin Busch.

“Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly, yet our purpose is sure.”

—President George W. Bush, March 19, 2003

IRAQ

Jerome Delay/AP

Today marks the 10-year anniversary of our second invasion of Iraq, and the questions that were never answered about our nearly nine-year occupation are no longer being asked. Americans, our allies, and the Iraqi people are still owed an honest answer from the leaders who created the war and kept us in it: why were we there?

Hundreds of thousands of Americans protested at the start of the war, but bombing inevitably began on March 19, 2003. The next day U.S. and British forces drove through a breach in the high berm dividing Kuwait from Iraq. I entered as part of the invasion force sent to disarm Iraq. Colin Powell told the U.N. that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and was linked to 9/11. Rumsfeld said we would be done within a few months at a cost of around $50 billion. Paul Wolfowitz said Iraq could pay for its own reconstruction with oil revenue. Dick Cheney said we would be greeted as liberators. President Bush declared an end to major combat operations 44 days later under a banner that read “Mission Accomplished.” We were not briefed on a post-hostilities plan, and even Saddam Hussein managed to evade capture for another seven months.

IRAQ WAR

Bruce Adams/AP

That’s what an Iraqi English teacher asked former State Department official John Kael Weston in 2007. As he handed out blood money, Weston writes about not having the answer then—or now.

A lot of articles will be written this week about our experience in the Iraq war from primarily a U.S.-centric point of view. My goal is different: to help convey the stories of ordinary Iraqis and how our voluntary war affected them, and still does, even as Washington and the American public have largely moved on. These vignettes, which will run across consecutive days this week, include: The Teamster (Bassam), The English Teacher (Abbas), The Highway Patrolman (Waleed), and The Last Grand Mufti (Hamza). I also describe my interaction outside Fallujah with former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, a primary architect of our “shock and awe” war.

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John Kael Weston

The final piece in the series is forward-looking. I interview an Iraqi, Ameer, from Baghdad who worked at the American Embassy and now lives in the U.S. He supported the invasion and continues to believe it was the right decision, with some caveats.

One day let's hope Iraqis will write their own books about the Iraq War. When they do, their stories in their words should be required reading for all.

Finding Words For Fiasco

“What does fiasco mean?” asked the round English teacher, Mr. Abbas, with dark eyebrows arched. He waddled when he walked, books under arm and sheets of paper in hand–a happily disheveled image that made me grin. Iraq had become defined by rage and revenge. Adrenaline followed by grieving on all sides. Abbas represented a chance at better relations. He wanted to help. Half a year earlier, he presciently said Sunnis had begun to “awaken” (his word) in Anbar Province. Longstanding Marine outreach efforts to tribal leaders, including in Amman, were finally paying off.

Iraq’s Truckers

The Jimmy Hoffa of Iraq

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Helicopters transport Ambassador John D. Negroponte to the Green Zone from Camp Fallujah in November 2004. (John Kael Weston)

When State Department officer John Kael Weston arrived in Iraq in 2003 he found himself negotiating with the head of the country’s truckers. The first in Weston’s series exploring the lives of Iraqis he encountered during his time.

A lot of articles will be written this week about our experience in the Iraq war from primarily a U.S.-centric point of view. My goal is different: to help convey the stories of ordinary Iraqis and how our voluntary war affected them, and still does, even as Washington and the American public have largely moved on. These vignettes, which will run across consecutive days this week, include: The Teamster (Bassam), The English Teacher (Abbas), The Highway Patrolman (Waleed), and The Last Grand Mufti (Hamza). I also describe my interaction outside Fallujah with former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, a primary architect of our “shock and awe” war.

The final piece in the series is forward-looking. I interview an Iraqi, Ameer, from Baghdad who worked at the American Embassy and now lives in the U.S. He supported the invasion and continues to believe it was the right decision, with some caveats.

One day let's hope Iraqis will write their own books about the Iraq War. When they do, their stories in their words should be required reading for all.

The Teamster

I arrived in Iraq in the summer of 2003 from the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York City only to be assigned, as I saw it, the role of Jimmy Hoffa on behalf of the Coalition Provisional Authority. My Iraqi counterparts would not be Foreign Ministry officials, but Iraq’s truckers. I liked the unexpected challenge ... in a way. I just didn’t want to meet the same fate as the elder Mr. Hoffa.

Pudgy and bearded with baseball mitt-size hands and trained as a mechanic, Bassam had risen to be a chief representative of Iraq’s hundreds-strong teamster high command. This group controlled massive fleets of Volvo trucks crucial in supplying the country and therefore maintaining stability. He and his men moved food—tons of it, daily. Wheat flour, rice, sugar, beans, salt, cooking oil, and tea were common staples. Iraqis depended on them to feed their families ever since the U.N. had authorized stiff economic sanctions following the 1991 Gulf War. Bassam himself loved eating three-foot-long Tigris River carp, called masgouf—a bony, local delicacy also favored by Saddam and, it was rumored, former French president Jacques Chirac, who had the fish flown to Paris.

10 Years Later

I Watched Iraq Fall

As the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-led Iraq invasion nears, reporter Janine di Giovanni remembers watching the iconic statue of Hussein tumble—and the nearly immediate aftershocks.

A few hours after Baghdad officially fell, I saw a group of young American soldiers scaling an enormous statue of Saddam Hussein and roping his great iron neck in a noose to pull down. It was a dramatic moment. Hundreds of people gathered, some horrified and still frightened, trained in repression and the Republic of Fear that Iraq had been. Some brave souls screamed the first cry of “freedom” they were able to express in years of dictatorship.

Iraqi Dictator Saddam Hussein

U.S marines and Iraqis are seen on April 9, 2003 as the statue of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is toppled at al-Fardous square in Baghdad, Iraq. (Wathiq Khuzaie/AP)

After, some of the soldiers—many in their late teens and early 20s—came to my room in the Palestine Hotel to use my satellite phone to call their families. They had come up from Kuwait and had been in the desert for weeks. They had no clue about Iraqi history or politics. They were dirty and tired and sandy. They borrowed my container of stashed water and took improvised showers.   They ate some of my biscuits while they politely waited for their turn on the phone.

“Hey Grandma!” said one Asian-American soldier who had been the first up the statue. “That was me who pulled down Saddam!”

It was a rather jubilant moment—if one did not look out my side window and see the looting of Baghdad had begun. I did look, and I saw Iraqi men running with office furniture on their heads and men smashing windows to rob storefronts, taking fistfuls of goods. Comically, and rather metaphorically, an Iraqi man was dragging the head of Saddam—the one from the statue—down a street with a rope, like a dog on a leash.

I went to look for my Iraqi driver, but he had disappeared. My translator was also gone. So was the much-feared minister of information, who had made my life hell for the two months I lived in Baghdad under the Saddam regime in the run-up to the invasion. Anyone who had been part of that now felled system had wisely run for the hills.

Disaster

Under Obama, VA’s Problems Get Worse

Despite Obama’s pledge to fix the ‘broken VA bureaucracy,’ benefits claims are taking longer than ever to process, reports Aaron Glantz of the Center for Investigative Reporting.

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ ability to quickly provide service-related benefits has virtually collapsed under President Barack Obama, according to internal VA documents obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting and authenticated by the agency. 

Veterans

Cpl. Todd Love, who lost both legs and his left arm in an IED explosion in Afghanistan, rolls his wheelchair on stage at an amphitheater before a veterans benefit concert in Alpharetta, Georgia, October 31, 2012. (David Goldman/AP )

Those documents, which the VA has yet to share with Congress or the public, show that the delays new veterans face before receiving disability compensation and other benefits often are far longer than the agency has publicly acknowledged. The documents also offer insight into some of the reasons for those delays.

The agency tracks and widely reports the average wait time: 273 days. But the internal data indicates that veterans filing their first claim, including those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, wait nearly two months longer, between 316 and 327 days. Those filing for the first time in America’s major population centers wait up to twice as long—642 days in New York, 619 days in Los Angeles, and 542 days in Chicago.

The ranks of veterans waiting more than a year for their benefits grew from 11,000 in 2009, the first year of Obama’s presidency, to 245,000 in December—an increase of more than 2,000 percent.

As a candidate, Obama had promised to revamp a “broken VA bureaucracy,” but the documents reveal that many of the administration’s attempts—including efforts to boost staffing and computerize claims processing—have fallen apart in the implementation. Calls to the White House press office were not returned.

The first major casualty of sequestration has hit the Army and Marine tuition assistance programs. Earlier this month, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus released a statement saying that the program would be closed until to new enrollees until further notice. On Thursday, the Army followed suit, saying in a statement that

Due to the current fiscal challenges, the Secretary of the Army has approved the suspension of Tuition Assistance (TA) effective 1700 EST Friday, 8 Mar 13. The suspension applies to all components and will remain effect until the fiscal situation matures.

Effective 1700 EST 8 Mar 13, Soldiers will no longer be permitted to submit new requests for Tuition Assistance through the GoArmyEd portal.

The tuition assistance program allows active-duty military personnel to obtain vocational training, college education, and high school equivalency programs on their own time. The Air Force is considering taking the same action.

Service, Not Subservience

Sexual Violence in the Ranks

With women now serving in combat roles, it’s high time the military does more to ensure they don’t live in fear of sexual abuse, writes Eryn Sepp.

I have a confession to make. I used to belong to a group that has killed and maimed thousands of women since I joined in 2004. Within this same organization, numerous sexual assaults on its own women occur year after year, often unchecked and unreported. I turned a blind eye. I tried to convince myself I wasn’t involved. I even blamed the victims—anything to keep from becoming one of them.

I wasn’t in a gang. I wasn’t brainwashed in some fundamentalist cult. Nor was I one of the hundreds of thousands of women forced into prostitution every year by human traffickers. I was a sergeant in the United States military.

What can we do when a trusted national institution responsible for restoring peace and upholding democratic values allows any violence—especially sexual violence—to proliferate within its ranks? This is the question our military’s leaders should be grappling with this week. Recent reports and profiles of rampant sexual assault of recruits by their instructors in initial entry training.

Today marks International Women’s Day, and the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women is asking us all to be aware of and consider the 2013 theme of “elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.”

On this International Women’s Day, I call on our military leaders to recognize that eliminating and preventing sexual violence within the ranks involves much more than simply improving reporting, cracking down on offenders, or enforcing a “battle-buddy” system. It requires a cultural shift that can only happen from within the organization, starting with leadership.

The irony of this year’s theme in our domestic context is readily apparent. Because of the Department of Defense’s decision to lift the 1994 ban on women serving in combat roles, women will now have equal opportunity to stand up for the American values and institutions that should protect all women against sexual violence. But as we charge women with this duty, we must take steps to ensure that they do not live in fear of the threat of sexual abuse within the military.

Those who have served tend to be less hasty to pull the trigger on military interventions, write Peter D. Feaver and Christopher Gelpi.

As Democratic lawmakers push ahead with Chuck Hagel’s nomination, critics and supporters alike have emphasized both his veteran status—if confirmed, he will be the first former enlisted man and the first Vietnam veteran to serve —and his relatively dovish views on military force.  His early opposition to the Iraq war, his opposition to the possible use of force against Iran, and especially his reluctance to intervene militarily on missions that have a humanitarian or nation-building dimension to them have all been cited by both his proponents and his opponents as reasons either to confirm him or to deny him.

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Chuck Hagel (R) and other dignitaries participate in a wreath laying ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial March 26, 2007 in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty)

One point on which the boosters and critics seem to agree is that it’s unusual and distinctive for a military veteran to be dovish on the use of force. But that’s a mistake: In fact, Senator Hagel’s views are more typical of military veterans and their active duty counterparts than the current confirmation debate seems to suggest.

Over a decade ago, we surveyed elite military, elite civilians, and the general population about their views on a wide range of foreign policy and national security issues. We wound one especially noteworthy pattern: Civilian elites were more supportive of using military force, and for a wider range of scenarios, than were military elites (defined as up and coming mid-range officers at key stages of their career). We asked, for instance, about the importance of using the military to “meet humanitarian needs abroad.” Civilian elites who had never served in the military were five times as likely as military elites to call this “very important.”  To be sure, military elites still tended to rate such missions as “somewhat important,” but such differences in enthusiasm for humanitarian missions are significant when making difficult decisions about the use of force.

The views of veterans like Senator Hagel – who served in the enlisted ranks – generally fell somewhere in between the civilian elite non-veterans and military officers, but tended to be closer to their military counterparts. 

Watch the highlights from Chuck Hagel's Jan. 1 Senate confirmation hearing.

The Hero Project

Hero Summit 2013

The Second Annual Hero Summit

The Second Annual Hero Summit

See who’s attending and what’s on tap at the October 10 event in Washington, D.C.

Syria

Veteran's Perspectives on Syria and Intervention

A Veteran’s Case Against Attacking

A Veteran’s Case Against Attacking

No to Syria. Army veteran Brian Van Reet argues against intervention.

No Guarantees

Taking Out Syrian Chemical Weapons

Syria

How to Use Special Ops In Syria

Syria

Interview With a Syrian Soldier

Syrian Soldier

My Part in This War

The VA

Neglecting Our Veterans

Interactive Map Tracking Wait Time For Veterans’ Disability Claims

Interactive Map Tracking Wait Time For Veterans’ Disability Claims

This map, created by the Center for Investigative Reporting, displays 58 VA regional offices and the number of backlogged claims by week on a national, regional and local level. This application will update itself every Monday to show each office's change in pending claims.

Watch This

Highlights of the 2012 Hero Summit

Best Moments from the Hero Summit

Best Moments from the Hero Summit

From Adm. William McRaven to columnist Nicholas Kristof to Bono, WATCH VIDEO of the summit’s must-see moments.

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