Hagel offers himself as secretary of Israel’s defense

Saïd Zulficar – Courtesy Shamireaders Feb 1, 2013

The first few hours of Chuck Hagel’s confirmation hearing have been sickening. I thought he was named to be United States Secretary of Defense, not Israel’s defense. The most urgent questions were about Israel, and many came from liberal Democrats insisting that Hagel is pledged to going to war against Iran if it acquires a nuclear weapon.
Hagel was suitably craven. “I’ve said that I’m a strong supporter of Israel.. I’ve said that we have a special relationship with Israel… Ive never voted against Israel in my career… I’ve been to Israel many times,” he told Jack Reed of Rhode Island.
While Kirsten Gillibrand of New York made no bones about “the most urgent issues– Israel and Israel’s security issues… We are fundamentally tied to [Israel].” Then Gillibrand demanded that if there has to be a continuing resolution in the event of a budget crush, the Pentagon will take pains to keep money going to Israel for its Iron Dome missile defense.
Does she believe this or is this just now the religion of Washington?
Hagel repeatedly asserted that he regards Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Revolutionary Guard of Iran as terrorist organizations. He abandoned every bold stand he has taken on Israel. Roger Wicker of Mississippi said he was reversing himself for political expediency, and that a week after Hagel had told the Omaha World Herald that he opposed unilateral sanctions against Iran, he reversed that position in a letter to progressive Democrat Barbara Boxer.
But the most revealing part of the spectacle was watching Hagel stand up to John McCain when McCain said he had been wrong to oppose the Iraq surge in 2007 and the Afghanistan surge in 2009, and then watch Hagel fold pathetically when Lindsey Graham asked him to condemn Israeli settlements.
So: it was alright for Hagel to criticize the U.S. But not alright to criticize Israel.
Here’s Hagel’s spine with McCain 
“Do you stand by those comments?” McCain asked.
“I stand by them because I made them.”…
“I want to know if you were right or wrong.
“Im not giving you a yes or no answer. I think it’s far more complicated than that. I’ll defer that judgment to history.”
But when Graham the former military prosecutor badgered Hagel as though he were un-American when Hagel told Aaron David Miller that the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people on Capitol Hill and gets Congress to do “dumb” stuff, Hagel ate his words.
The critical moment in this exchange comes when Hagel refuses to say what dumb stuff the Congress did. In the Miller interview, he was surely referring to the license that the Congress gave to Israel to keep building settlements, savaging the two-state solution.
Graham: Name one person in your opinion who’s intimidated by the Jewish loby in the US Senate.
Hagel I don’t know…
Graham: I cant think of a more provocative thing to say about the relationship of the us and Israel… [Next, tell me one dumb thing Congress did because of the pressure.]
Hagel: I have already stated that I regret [the statement].
Graham: You can’t name one senator intimidated, give me one example of dumb things pressured to do… One thing!…
Hagel: Well I cant give you an example.
Graham: Do you agree with me that you shouldn’t have said that?
Hagel: Yes I agree with you.
But Hagel repeatedly criticized Israel for building settlements and wrecking the two state solution — back when. But not now. So, again, it is OK for Hagel to criticize the US troop increases in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he can’t say a word against settlements.
Graham drew more blood when he savaged Hagel for being one of four senators in 2001 to fail to sign a letter expressing solidarity with Israel during the Second Intifada and denouncing Arafat and the Palestinian Authority. .
“It was  a very big deal. At a very important time. The lack of signature from you sends chills up my spine. “ Graham said. `
Graham asked Hagel to reconsider the letter, to say whether he would tell the world at large and Israel that he had made a mistake in not signing. And Hagel said he would have a look at the letter.
Then Richard Blumenthal, the progressive Connecticut Senator, said he also wanted Hagel to reconsider that letter.
This hearing is a wonderful event because it demonstrates the power of the Israel lobby in our political life. But, you say, Lindsey Graham is a South Carolina senator; he is operating out of his nationalist understanding of imperial interest; the Israel lobby cannot also reach him? But I think it has. I think Zionism has so influenced the American discourse, via political money and thinktanks and columnists and editors, that it has folded Israel’s war against Hezbollah, Hamas, the Palestinians and Iran into our outlook on the Middle East. The conflation of American and Israeli interests has become an article of faith in the establishment. Graham is the latest example of a Scoop Jackson, the national security hawk/intellectual who has listened to neocons and merged the two nations’ futures. 
Now it’s the afternoon, and Hagel is walking away from his comment that Israel keeps Palestinians “caged up like animals.” He regrets that statement too. Pathetic.

Under fire from Republicans, Hagel ends marathon confirmation hearing

Tim Curry – NBC News Jan 31, 2013

Former Sen. Chuck Hagel, President Barack Obama’s choice to be secretary of defense, finished a day-long marathon confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday, enduring nearly eight hours of testy and skeptical questions from Republicans.

At the start of Thursday’s hearing, it seemed nearly certain that the Senate would vote to confirm Hagel. But the nominee labored at certain points during the day to clarify and explain his comments. Whether his occasional stumbles were serious enough to jeopardize his confirmation was not clear by the end of the testimony.

There are 55 senators in the Democratic caucus and 45 Senate Republicans, so if there’s no filibuster, Hagel would seem assured of confirmation. The last time the Senate rejected a Cabinet nominee was in 1989 when there was a Republican president and a Democratic-controlled Senate.

Republican senators confronted Hagel with quotations from statements he had made months or years ago – and sometimes he apologized for them or amended them.

Late in the day Sen. Mike Lee, R- Utah, asked Hagel whether he’d said in 2003 that Israel keeps Palestinians “caged up like animals” and whether he still believes that.

Continues …

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