Friday, February 01, 2013
All the questions
SO MANY QUESTIONS SWIRL AROUND THESE DAYS? THE ECONOMIST, FOR EXAMPLE, WONDERS WHETHER KILLER BARRY O WILL LET JOHN KERRY BE JOHN KERRY? APPARENTLY, KILLER BARRY HAS ORDERED THE CREATION OF A BLOND HILLARY WIG AND HAS IT AND A POWER SUIT WAITING FOR KERRY.
THE HUFFINGTON POST REVEALS THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY TOOK MONEY FROM A LEADING ANTI-TEACHER UNION GROUP FOR THE 2012 CONVENTION LEADING TO QUESTIONS ABOUT WHAT THAT MEANS FOR LABOR GROUPS?
THE WHOLE WORLD WONDERS IF YESTERDAY'S SENATE HEARING INTERRUPTED CHUCK HAGEL'S NAP AND THAT WAS WHY HE WAS SO DAZED AND CONFUSED?
AND, LASTLY, THE ISSUE OF WHY LONDON'S INDEPENDENT BOTHERS TO COVER U.S. GOVERNMENT NOMINEES? NOMINEES. WE THOUGHT IT MEANT THE SAME THING IN ENGLAND BUT APPARENTLY NOT. YESTERDAY WAS THE HEARING ABOUT CHUCK HAGEL'S NOMINATION TO BE THE NEXT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE BUT THE INDEPENDENT PROCLAIMS HIM "OBAMA'S NEW SECRETARY OF DEFENSE" AS THOUGH A SENATE VOTE IS A MINOR DETAIL.
FROM THE TCI WIRE:
In the moment that probably best captured 'support' for Chuck Hagel and his 'team skills' in today's Senate Armed Services Committee, 85-year-old John Warner was pulled out of mouthballs to drone on about Hagel ("of how he will serve the president") this afternoon. Warner left the Senate four years ago. And, if you know Warner (I do), you know if he's talking his time in the Senate, he can't shut up about his attendance record. Some might point out with that voting record, attendance is better focused on. But that's what Hagel had to offer for his defense, a retired US Senator, someone who only got into the Senate to begin with because of Elizabeth Taylor, someone who thought small and played the country mouse in the big bad Senate. That was what Hagel was reduced to: A geriatric with no notable achievements singing his praises. The hair deserves remarking on as well. Hagel probably thought he was wearing a longer Caesar cut but with it bushing out on the sides it looked more like a modified Bea Arthur from The Golden Girls era but with a tad more length in the back, it could have been a Maude. But it seemed more Golden Girl, especially as he stumbled throughout the hearing, often taking long pauses to complete his thought in the midst of a sentence. Is Hagel mentally up to the challenge of being Secretary of Defense?
We've noted before the position needs someone with passion and energy and, for that reason, stated that former US House Rep and Iraq War veteran Patrick Murphy should be considered and US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice should be considered for the post. Those aren't the only two. But watching today as Hagel looked like Bea Arthur and testified like Deputy Dawg, the issue of energy level needs to be raised.
In the questioning, Committee Chair Carl Levin was most concerned with the issue of the relationships between the governments of Iran and the US and whether Hagel could reconcile his various positions over the years on sanctions. Hagel stated he was for sanctions -- when they were multi-lateral. But he admitted he had opposed unilateral sanctions in the past.
Senator Chuck Hagel: As to my records on votes in the Senate regarding unilateral sanctions, I have differed on some of those. I have voted for some as well. Uh, it was always on a case-by-case basis when I, uh, voted against some of those unilateral sanctions on Iran. It was a different time. For example, I believe one was in, uh, 2001, 2002. We were in a different place with Iran during that time. Matter of fact, uh, I recall the Bush administration did not want a renewal -- a five-year renewal of ILSA [the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act of 1996] during that time because, uh, they weren't sure of the effectiveness on sanctions. That, uh, wasn't the only reason I voted against it. It was because I thought that there might be other ways to, uh, employ-employ our, uh, vast ability to harness power and allies. It was never a question of did I disagree with the objective. The objective is, I think, very clear uh-uh to both of us. Uhm, I recall for example in, uh, 2008, Secretary of State [Condi] Rice sending a letter to the Finance Committee, Senator [Max] Baucus requesting that, uh, a sanction resolution, unilateral, in the Finance Committee, not come out of the, uh, Finance Committee because the Bush administration at the time was working with the, uh, Russians specifically but with the Security-Council of the United Nations to try to get international sanctions which, I think, that effort in 2008 led to the, uh, 2010 international sanctions
Committee Chair Carl Levin: Can you give us your view on the size of the US force which might be necessary, or would be necessary, after 2014? The so-called 'residual force,' if you have an opinion on the size. You indicated in your opening statements, two missions for that residual force. Can you also give us your opinion of the size of the Afghan National Security force after 2014 and whether you agree with me and Senator Lindsay Graham on this Committee and others that we ought to reconsider the position that the Afghan National Security Force should be reduced by a third starting in 2014 -- to about 230,000 from what it's current goal is which is about 350,000.
Chuck Hagel: Uh, as you all, uh, know now, General Allen has presented his options to the president for the president's consideration. As far as I know, as of this morning, the president had not made a decision, uhm, uh, on what a residual force -- numbers-wise -- would look like? I have not been included inn those discussions, so I-I don't know other than knowing that he's got a range of options as you do. But I would say that from what the president has told me, what Secretary Panetta has told me, that that decision will be made to assure resourcing the mission and the capability of that mission. As to, uh, what kind of a force structure should, uh, eventually be in place by the Afghans, I don't know enough about the specifics to give you, uh, a good answer other than that I think that has to be uh-uh a decision that is, uh, made certainly with the president of Afghanistan, uh, what we can do to continue to support and train and, uh, protect our interests within the scope of our ability to do that. Obviously, the immunity for our troops is an issue which was an issue in Iraq. All of those consider -- considerations will be -- will be important and will be made if I'm confirmed and in the position to give the President advice on that. I will, with consultations of our commanders on the ground and our chiefs, give him, the best, uh, options that we can provide.
Hagel was willing to say anything. Fortunately for him, the senators were, with few exceptions, willing to play along and nod. Far too much time was spent on Israel -- that includes some very annoying testimony from Senators Jack Reed and Kay Hagen who seemed to be in a competition over who would win Most Loyal To Israel (Hagan won by a hair, if only because she could boast of the most recent visit). Senators -- and those were just two of them -- felt the need to discuss Israel and what Hagel had told them privately and how they were so glad to know that it would be an act of war for Palestine to declare the area their own, that Hagel favored a two-state solution and all the other sop that's always tossed out.
I find Hagel's remark referring to the "Jewish lobby" objectionable. I've stated that before. Hagel addressed that (more than once) in his testimony. He said, on the record, that he mispoke and that it was one time. For me, that one time on the record (answering on the record) was more than enough. I found him to be believable on that issue because he spoke in what I took to be an honest manner. Also true, he proved himself to be a very poor speaker throughout his testimony. When Senator Bill Nelson (I know Bill and like Bill) wasted everyone's time giving Hagel a make up test (after he failed to answer Senator John McCain's basic question), Hagel insisted his opposition to the 'surge' in Iraq, "We lost almost 1200 dead Americans in the surge." The 'surge' was an escalation, an increase, in the number of US troops on the ground in Iraq following the 2006 elections. The 'surge' was a failure. We'll talk about that in a moment but "We lost almost 1200 dead Americans in the surge"? We lost those dead Americans? And we're not searching for them still? "We lost almost 1200 Americans in the surge" is how you word what he was attempting to say.
Let's go back to the surge. It allowed Iraq to be noted for a few seconds by a body that did nothing to stop the Iraq War. Hagel did nothing to stop it and that's on him.
Senator John McCain: Senator Hagel, members of this Committee will raise questions reflecting concerns with your policy positions. They're not reasonable people disagreeing, they're fundamental disagreements. Our concerns pertain to the quality of your professional judgment and your world view on critical areas of national security including security in the Middle East. With that in mind, let me begin with your opposition to the surge in Iraq. 2006, we lost -- Republicans lost -- the election and we began the surge and you wrote a piece in the Washington Post called "Leaving Iraq Honorably." In 2007, you said it's not in the national interest to deepen its involvement. In January, 2007, in a rather bizarre exchange with Secretary Rice, in the Foreign Relations Committee, after some nonsense about Syria and crossing the border into Iran and Syria because of the surge and a reference to Cambodia in 1970, you said, "When you set in motion the kind of policy the president's talking about here, it's very, very dangerous. Matter of fact, I have to say, Madam Secretary, I think the speech given last night by this president represents the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam. If it's carried out, I will resist it." And then, of course, you continued on and on for months afterwards talking about what a disaster the surge would be, even to the point where it was clear the surge was succeeding. In March 2008, you said, "Here the term quagmire could apply. Some reject that term, but if that's not a quagmire, then what is?" Even as late as August 29, 2011, in an interview -- 2011 -- in an interview with the Financial Times, you said, "I disagreed with the president -- Obama -- his decision to surge in Iraq, because I disagreed with President Bush on the surge in Iraq." Do you -- do you stand by that -- those -- those comments, Senator Hagel?
Senator Chuck Hagel: Well, Senator, I stand by them because I made them and --
Senator John McCain: -- stand by -- Were you right?
Chuck Hagel: Well --
Senator John McCain: Were you correct in your assessment?
Chuck Hagel: Well I would defer to the judgment of history to sort that out. But I'll --
Senator John McCain: I think -- this Committee deserves your judgment as to whether you were right or wrong about the surge.
Chuck Hagel: I'll explain why I made those comments and I believe I had but --
Senator John McCain: I want to know if you were right or wrong? That's a direct question, I expect a direct answer.
Chuck Hagel: The surge assisted in the objective. But-but if we review the record a little bit --
Senator John McCain: Will you please answer the question? Were you correct or incorrect when you said that the surge would be the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam? Were you correct or incorrect?
Chuck Hagel: My --
Senator John McCain: Yes or no?
Chuck Hagel: My reference to the surge being --
Senator John McCain: Are you going to answer the question, Senator Hagel? The question is: Were you right or wrong? That's a pretty straighforward question.
Chuck Hagel: Well --
Senator John McCain: I would -- I would like to answer whether you were right or wrong and then you are free to elaborate.
Chuck Hagel: Well I'm not going to give you a "yes" or "no" answer on a lot of things today.
Senator John McCain: Well let the the record show that you refused to answer that question. Now please go ahead.
Chuck Hagel: Well, if you would like me to explain why --
Senator John McCain: No, I actually would like an answer. Yes or no?
Chuck Hagel: Well I'm not going to give you a yes or no. I think it's --
Senator John McCain: Okay.
Chuck Hagel: -- far more complicated than that. As I've already said, my answer is I'll defer that judgment to history. As to the comment I made about the most dangerous foreign policy decision since Vietnam? Was about not just the surge but the overall war of choice going into Iraq. That particular decision that was made on the surge -- but more to the point, our war in Iraq -- I think was the most fundamentally bad, dangerous decision since Vietnam. Aside, uh, from the costs that occurred in this country, uh, in blood and treasure, aside from what that did to, uh, take our focus off of Afghanistan -- which in fact, uh, was-was the original and real focus of a national threat to this country -- uh, Iraq wa-wa-was not -- I always, uh, tried to frame all the different issues before I made a decision on anything. Now just as you said, Senator, we can have differences of opinion, uh, --
Senator John McCain: But --
Chuck Hagel: -- that's essentially why I took the position I did.
Senator John McCain: It's a fundamental difference of opinion, Senator Hagel. And Senator Graham and I and Senator [Joe] Lieberman -- when there were 59 votes in the United States Senate -- spent our time trying to prevent that 60th. Thank God for Senator Lieberman. I think history has already made a judgment about the surge, sir, and you're on the wrong side of it. And your refusal to answer whether you were right or wrong about it is going to have an impact on my judgment as to whether to vote for your confirmation or not. I hope you will reconsider the fact that you refused to answer a fundamental question about an issue that took the lives of thousands of young Americans.
Chuck Hagel: Well, Senator, there was --there was more to it than just flooding a zone.
Senator John McCain: I'm asking about the surge, Senator Hagel.
Chuck Hagel: I know you are and I'm trying to explain my position. The beginning of the surge also factored in what General Allen had put into place in Anbar Province -- the Sunni Awakening. We put over, as you know, a hundred thousand young --
Senator John McCain: Senator Hagel, I'm very aware of the history of the surge and the Anbar Awakening and I also am aware that any casual observer will know that the surge was the fundamental factor, led by two great leaders, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker.
Chuck Hagel: Well I don't know if-if that would have been required and cost us over a thousand American lives and thousands of wounded.
Senator John McCain: So you don't know if the surge would have been required? Okay, Senator Hagel, let me go back -- to to Syria now. More than 60,000 people have been killed in Syria. Do you believe --
The surge was a failure. That Hagel can't answer the question -- regardless of where he stands -- is disturbing. If you can't answer that basic of a question, what questions will you be able to answer before the Congress? We are aware that if Hagel's confirmed, he'll be appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee to provide testimony many times in the future, right?
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