Hagel Hearing: The War Party’s Waterloo

My Catbird Seat February 1, 2013 3
Hagel Hearing: The War Party’s Waterloo

The country has changed: the dark days of the Bush era, when smear campaigns aimed at anyone who challenged the Lobby’s dominance usually ended in the target’s political destruction, are over. The fury and energy of the anti-Hagel campaign only served to underscore its complete impotence and irrelevance: the country has moved on, even if Bill Kristol hasn’t. If the Iraq war didn’t succeed in totally discrediting Kristol and his fellow neocons, then this hearing – with all the vindictiveness and sheer hate of these people on full display – is their Waterloo.

 

by Justin Raimondo

Antiwar

We have to be thankful to Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of our more theatrical solons, for dramatizing the way in which the Israel lobby intimidates members of Congress: by asking Chuck Hagel if he could name a single Senator who was so intimidated he merely underscored how thoroughly each and every one of them is cowed.

The whole spectacle of this public interrogation, with its tiresomely repetitive demands for pledges of undying loyalty to Israel, brought home the truth of Hagel’s remark.

Ed.note: There goes LINDSAY GRAHAM sucking on the AIPAC teet

http://video.msnbc.msn.com/nbc-news/50655838/#50655838

Of course Hagel couldn’t say that, but the ugly reality resonated in the immense silence that followed this exchange. Interestingly, Hagel didn’t back down: He said "I don’t know." As to what motivates any particular member of Congress on any specific "dumb thing" they do – well, he couldn’t know, could he? But of course, everybody knows about the Israel lobby: and if its power and vindictiveness were ever in danger of being forgotten, then surely the battle over Hagel’s confirmation has reminded us.

To anyone who lives outside the Washington bubble, there was something profoundly weird about the ritualistic invocations of undying loyalty to Israel, a country mentioned 135 times in the course of the hearing: Afghanistan only merited 27, while al Qaeda got 2 and Mali one. One would have thought Hagel had been nominated for Israeli Defense Minister instead of the top civilian in the Pentagon. As he faced the pro-Israel "inquisitors" – as Sen. Angus King put it – the educational value of this political drama was worth far more than all the books and articles one could possibly read.

Speaking of motivation, Graham’s grandstanding was preaching to the choir: the wingnuts in his party don’t think he’s right-wing enough, and this is his way of compensating for what the Tea Party types consider sellouts on immigration and other issues dear to their hearts.

However, it was John McCain’s confrontation with his now ex-friend, the former Senator from Nebraska, that was most telling, insofar as it tells us what this whole brouhaha really is about: the country’s verdict on the Iraq war, and the lingering power and influence of those who lied us into it.

Enraged by Hagel’s observation that the "surge" prefigured the single most disastrous episode in US foreign policy since the Vietnam war, Mad John’s eyes practically popped out of his head. Hagel, sitting there calmly, replied somewhat bemusedly that we’ll "let history judge" who was right about that one.

McCain’s impotence was palpable as he ranted and railed, his red-faced fury assailing Hagel’s stony defiance. If, as one suspects, history’s judgment of the Iraq war will be as harsh as the American people’s, then McCain and his fellow Iraq war dead-enders will be the ones "on the wrong side of history," as the Arizona Senator had the nerve to intone in his scolding lecture – odd coming from such a spectacularly failed presidential candidate. If indeed history has a side — a dubious proposition, at best — at least we can say McCain is on the wrong side of recent history: the American people wanted out of Iraq, they want out of Afghanistan, and they don’t want us meddling in Syria. Yet the tone deaf McCain actually brought up Syria at the hearing, haranguing Hagel and asking "How many more have to die?"

There was a lot of competition as to which Republican senator gave the craziest performance, but I think the prize has to go with the one who came with exhibits, three of them – two of them clips from an Al Jazeera, which Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) helpfully described as a "foreign network, engaged in propaganda." That this was said by someone whose talking points were written by propagandists for another foreign power – namely, Israel – is the kind of irony a wingnut like Cruz is utterly deaf to.

In any case, Cruz presented a severely edited clip of Hagel’s anodyne answer to a question from an Al Jazeera viewer about "moral leadership," which was of no significance – but, according to the esteemed Senator, it was evidence that Hagel believed Israel had committed "war crimes." Go here to look at the entire answer to the question, and the context – which was US-Russian relations, specifically the prospects for nuclear disarmament – rather than the radically abbreviated version played by Cruz. The Al Jazeera announcer intervened in the midst of the questioner’s long disquisition, asking "what is your question about the subject we are discussing, which is nuclear weapons." The questioner then went on to ask about the "lack of moral leadership," and it is clear from the context that Hagel was saying, yes, we need more moral leadership on the issue of nuclear leadership: he said nothing about Israeli war crimes. And while this may be unfortunate, Cruz’s attempt to twist Hagel’s words is contemptible, to say the least.

Citing the same interview, Cruz took the next question from a viewer out of context, averring that Hagel agreed with a caller who said that the "perception and reality" of the US as the "world’s bully" stood in the way of an agreement between the US and Russia on further dismantling of nuclear arsenals. Yet he said nothing about the US being a bully, let alone the world’s bully, and simply went on to utter a harmless bromide about the need to "reach out" and "engage."

Clearly Hagel walked back some of his past positions, in my view unnecessarily – after all, he wasn’t going to convince Sen. Cruz in any event, and it’s important to get the truth on the record. For example, Hagel backed down when Cruz went after his description of Israel’s last attack on Lebanon as a "slaughter," and tried to spin it as a condemnation of Israel. Yet if you look at the entire speech – as Dave Weigel has – it was no such thing. There’s nothing subtle about Cruz’s cherry-picking: it’s crude, and brazen. Not that he cares. A blustering bullying opportunist, whose physical resemblance to Joe McCarthy is an act of justice on Nature’s part, the Republican Senator from Texas cares only about getting that sound-bite on Fox News. In the second round of questioning, Cruz reprised his McCarthyesque performance by declaring that he had "a list of anti-Israel comments" purportedly made by Hagel.

I have in my hands a list! To the irony-proof Cruz, this was a zinger. To the rest of us it was more proof – if that were needed – of the man’s thuggishness.

This entire process has been enormously helpful to those of us who have been trying to open the eyes of the public to the inordinate influence the Israel lobby exerts on Congress and on US foreign policy. A visitor from Mars might imagine he’d landed in the midst of a show trial conducted by some totalitarian regime, with the prisoner in the dock forced to confess and engage in "self-criticism," as the inquisitors looked sternly askance at his recantation.

The Israel Firsters really went out on a limb, this time, and in the end they’ll wind up having sawed it off. Because Hagel is going to be confirmed in spite of their hysterical hate campaign, and what that means is that their power is broken.

No, the Israel lobby isn’t going away: what’s ended, however, is the myth of their invincibility – not to mention the myth of their nonexistence. Remember, it is supposed to be a hate crime of some kind to even mention the Israel lobby, and up until this point the lobbyists and their shills have stoutly maintained that it is a "conspiracy theory" to believe such a thing exists (and also "anti-Semitic"). Now we have Sen. King, independent from Maine, who got in the last word at the hearing when, asking Hagel if he knew who was behind the ads attacking his nomination. Yes, Senator, wouldn’t we like to know!

Among the many darkly comic moments of the hearing, a real howler was introduced at the beginning when Senator Jim Inhofe inquired as to know why Hagel hadn’t bothered replying to a letter sent to him by the resident wingnuts on the committee, listing every organization he’d ever been affiliated with (save the USO) and demanding to know if any of them were recipients of funding from "foreign nations, foreign sovereign funds, [or] foreign corporations."

This is rich, considering the source. While we don’t know exactly where the money for the wide array of anti-Hagel television spots and full page newspaper ads came from – at least $1 million, according to Jim Lobe – many suspect it was due to Sheldon Adelson’s well known generosity when it comes to "pro-Israel" causes. Adelson – who once said he regrets the uniform he wore when he served in the military was American and not Israeli, and whose wife is a dual Israeli-American citizen.

In their effort to "expose" Hagel, the Lobby and its shrinking band of loyal foot soldiers only succeeded in exposing their own weakness. And that is a big step forward for opponents of the War Party. Because it is the Israel lobby that is, today, the main force agitating for war with Iran, and US military intervention in Syria. The Israel lobby is leading the pushback in response to the prospect of big defense cutbacks – because if the American Empire is now contracting, then Israel can no longer huddle under the eagle’s wing. As we have seen in Hagel’s case, it is these lobbyists on behalf of a foreign power who are most aggressive in "policing" the policy establishment in Washington, determined to block those who fail to toe the party line from getting anywhere near the levers of power.

In the past, they might have pulled it off – as they did with Charles Freeman, whom Cruz tried without success to link to Hagel – but not this time. The country has changed: the dark days of the Bush era, when smear campaigns aimed at anyone who challenged the Lobby’s dominance usually ended in the target’s political destruction, are over. The fury and energy of the anti-Hagel campaign only served to underscore its complete impotence and irrelevance: the country has moved on, even if Bill Kristol hasn’t. If the Iraq war didn’t succeed in totally discrediting Kristol and his fellow neocons, then this hearing – with all the vindictiveness and sheer hate of these people on full display – is their Waterloo.


Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (ISI, 2008), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is a contributing editor for The American Conservative, a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute, and an adjunct scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

He writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture.

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3 Comments »

  1. Debbie
    Debbie February 1, 2013 at 8:41 pm - Reply

    As always, Dr. Alan Sabrosky sums it up succinctly:

     

    Hello? The only commitment any US senator should consider is a nominee's commitment to the United States. And Iran's possible acquisition of some nuclear weapons someday pales in the shadow of Israel's existing nuclear arsenal (300-400 nuclear weapons, by best estimates)

     

    Many Jewish groups and columnists, all of whom support Israel, are strongly supporting Hagel. It is "only" the likes of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and the neo-conservatives who brought us the past decade of wars, plus those evangelicals following their lead, who really oppose him.

     

    As a 10-year Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam and an Army War College graduate, the attitude of those "GOP legislators" who see the US as Israel's global muscleman is professionally offensive and ethically insulting. The attitude of those Democratic senators who evaluate a nominee's fitness for office principally if not exclusively in terms of what is good for a foreign country is equally disgusting.

     

    Hagel has been forced by the circumstances attending his nomination to recant most of his earlier positions, and even to apologize for some, despite the fact that all were both honest and accurate. These people who put him in that position need to look in their mirrors, review their oaths of office and remember both their citizenship and their sworn responsibility to the American people – and then reflect on the consequences of betrayal.

     

    – Alan Sabrosky, PhD

     

  2. Rufus Peterson February 2, 2013 at 8:34 am - Reply

    The text version of what happened at the Hagel hearing was mortifying, but the video I've been able to catch revealed a nonchalant Hagel who didn't even blink– as people often do when they're lying or put under pressure. He was like a teen being bored and evasive to his father, and he also took advantage of Graham's fumbling language to act as if he didn't know what he was talking about. This bodes well for acting cool under fire.

     

    Isn't this the same Graham who maintained that Hillary got away with murder? Where were the Republican cameras to catch Hillary spraying bullets out of her Bushmaster? These people play with truth the way kids used to play with marbles. Oh. that Terrorist Revolutionary Guard! (Are they any worse than our own Green Berets or Army Rangers?) John McCain: "We are losing the Latino vote…" Show us a single non-Cuban Latino voter John. Where are they? We get these impolitic remarks from Repugs & Neocons, but they will jump all over anyone else who makes them. They are hypocrites, liars and monsters, and virtually no one holds them accountable for anything they do or say.

     

    These are the true enemies of the American people, not anyone overseas. I'd pay money to watch these people clinically disposed of- taken out of our misery.

  3. Debbie
    Debbie February 4, 2013 at 4:56 pm - Reply

    Paul Larudee is a writer and humn rights advocate in Northern California:

     

    The Chuck Hagel Hearing: “Are you lying?”  “No.”

     

    It was a classic exchange that will become an icon in the annals of the U.S. Senate and beyond.  Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the most loyal friends of Israel in that august body, was questioning his former colleague and now nominee for Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, during the latter’s confirmation hearings.

     

    Referencing a statement that Hagel had made years earlier to the effect that “the Jewish Lobby intimidated Congress”, Graham asked, “Name one person who's intimidated by the Israel lobby in the United States Senate.”

     

    An intimidating request, to be sure, from a Senate spokesperson for the Lobby, when your confirmation is at stake.  If you give up a name, you might kill that person’s career or reputation and your own, as well.  If you say “Charles Percy”, it’s not necessarily true, because Percy was hounded out of the Senate for not being sufficiently intimidated.  You could quote from Paul Findley’s book They Dare to Speak Out, but his examples are also of those who paid dearly for refusing to be intimidated.

     

    You could choose to name yourself, or point out that the request itself is intimidating, but then you have the same problem or are begging the question.  What to do?

     

    In the end, after a pause that ended before it became too pregnant, Hagel replied, “I don’t know,” thus confirming his own submission to the Lobby’s intimidation, but in such a way as to be embarrassingly obvious to all in attendance.  Those who chose to interpret it as the ultimate loss of the last shred of Hagel’s self-respect suppressed a moan of sympathetic pain for him.  Those who found it a brilliant ploy that exposed and ridiculed the tactic must have suppressed a peal of laughter capable of bringing down the house.  I wish it had been me.

     

    In the end, it was the perfect response.  The bully with the brass knuckles could not fault it, but it made clear that Palestinians are not the only ones occupied by Israel.

     

    Thank you, Chuck.

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