Exclusive: Several U.S. senators rudely questioned Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel for alleged heresies against Official Washington’s orthodoxies, like his strange detection of an Israel Lobby operating on Capitol Hill and his refusal to accept that the 2007 troop “surge” in Iraq won that war, notes Robert Parry.
By Robert Parry
The Senate confirmation hearing of Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel demonstrated a central failing of today’s U.S. political/media process: People routinely get punished and even blacklisted for challenging misguided conventional wisdom.
Even if you’re a conservative former Republican senator from Nebraska who fought for your country in Vietnam, any deviation from Official Washington’s orthodoxy opens you to ugly attack from loud voices in the news media and the political world. If you respond by trying to explain your heresy, you invite further abuse; if you retreat, you’re decried as a tongue-tied wimp.
So, the American people are left to view this absurdity: Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, acting as if there is no Israel Lobby in Washington and as if no member of Congress has ever faced pressure from this non-existent lobby. Graham treated Hagel as if he must be mentally unstable for thinking otherwise.
Of course, Graham and everyone in the room knew that there is a powerful Israel Lobby in Washington and that nearly all members of Congress quake over the possibility of being singled out as not sufficiently supportive of Israel. One of the quickest ways to be disqualified inside Official Washington is to get the label “anti-Israel.”
Thus, when Israel’s bullying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint session of the House and Senate, Republicans and Democrats compete to show how fast and how often they can jump to their feet in ovations, a humiliating display of obeisance that reflects badly on trained seals.
But you are not to notice this reality. The very observation is punishable by a process known as “controversialization,” i.e. you can expect to be shoved to the margins of polite Washington society and if you ever do get a chance for some significant job in government or the news media you will be subjected to what Hagel got on Thursday.
A Stumbling Retreat
Usually, the only feasible response to such inquisitions is to repent and apologize for seeing what is plainly obvious. After all, if Hagel had reflected honestly about the open secret of the Israel Lobby, other senators would surely have joined in the verbal bashing and his chances for confirmation would have fallen dramatically.
Recognizing that fact, Hagel stumbled into retreat when Graham pressed for examples of members of Congress who had succumbed to pressure from the Israel Lobby. “Name one dumb thing we’ve been goaded into doing because of the pressure from the Israeli or Jewish lobby,” Graham demanded. Hagel demurred, saying he could not.
Smelling political blood, Sen. Ted Cruz, a newly elected right-wing Republican from Texas, denounced Hagel for not challenging a caller during an interview with Al Jazeera in 2009, when the caller alleged that Israel had committed war crimes against the Palestinians.
Though many human rights organizations have documented Israel’s abuse and killing of Palestinian civilians in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza as well as its violation of the Geneva Conventions by moving Israeli settlers onto Palestinian land the only politically acceptable position in Official Washington is to sneer at these realities.
Not surprisingly, Hagel retreated again when Cruz demanded to know, “Do you think the nation of Israel has committed war crimes?” Hagel replied, “No, I do not, Senator.”
Hagel also was excoriated for deviating from one of Official Washington’s favorite narratives, the myth of the “successful surge,” how President George W. Bush and his neocon advisers “won” the war in Iraq by courageously dispatching 30,000 more U.S. troops in 2007.
The myth is that the escalation, virtually by itself, brought peace and victory in Iraq, even though many military analysts consider the “surge,” which cost the lives of about 1,000 American soldiers and countless Iraqis, only one of many factors that accompanied the gradual decline in Iraqi violence.
And the “surge” did nothing to alter the longer arc of an eventual American defeat in Iraq, simply prolonging the forced U.S. departure until the end of 2011. The end result of the war — besides the death and destruction — is that Iraq is now run by an authoritarian Shiite government rather than an authoritarian Sunni government and has become an ally of Iran rather than a bulwark against Iran.
However, the “surge” myth is cherished by Washington’s still influential neocons and other Iraq War hawks as their shield against criticism that they rushed the United States into a war of aggression in Iraq that cost the lives of some 4,500 U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and squandered about $1 trillion.
In interrogating Hagel, Sen. John McCain, a leading Iraq War hawk, treated the “surge” myth as one of those undeniable facts that only a crazy person would dispute. The Arizona Republican demanded a yes-or-no answer from Hagel on whether he was “wrong” when he opposed the “surge” in 2007, assuming apparently that the only possible answer was to admit error.
On this point, Hagel actually stood his ground, noting that the question was too complex for a yes-or-no answer.
“I actually would like an answer, yes or no,” McCain insisted.
“Well, I’m not going to give you a yes or no,” Hagel replied, noting that other key factors in the gradual decline in Iraqi violence had predated the “surge,” such as the so-called Sunni Awakening against al-Qaeda extremists, and that history should be the judge of the overall value of the “surge.” Hagel also referred to the Iraq War as a war of “choice.”
The answer only made McCain angrier. “I think history has already made a judgment about the surge, sir, and you’re on the wrong side of it,” McCain fumed. “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 I vote for your confirmation or not.”
McCain is surely not alone in demanding that everyone genuflect before the myth of the “successful surge.” The U.S. mainstream news media, which was famously wrong in accepting President Bush’s false claims about Iraq’s WMD as a justification for war, also has pushed the “surge” myth as some undeniable fact.
Most notably, prominent TV interviewers, such as CBS’s Katie Couric and ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, hectored Sen. Barack Obama during Campaign 2008 to admit that he was wrong in opposing the “surge” and that his Republican opponent, McCain, was right in advocating it.
Like Hagel, Obama initially responded by saying that the question was far more complex than the U.S. news media was making it, but he eventually concluded that discretion was the better part of valor and confessed to Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly that the surge “succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.”
Obama’s surrender may have been a smart tactical maneuver to neutralize the “surge” issue in Campaign 2008 but it only hardened the erroneous conventional wisdom. The still-influential neocons grew bolder in treating the “surge” myth as a giant fig leaf that covered their nakedness on the Iraq War disaster. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Iraq War ‘Surge’ Myth Returns.”]
Risks from False Certainty
The “surge” myth also had the consequence of elevating two of its architects, Gen. David Petraeus and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, into the Washington pantheon of military geniuses. As a result, President Obama kept both of them on in his first term and they collaborated to mouse-trap him into a similar “surge” in Afghanistan in 2009, a decision that Obama reportedly came to regret almost immediately.
Ironically, too, Obama’s acceptance of the Iraq “surge” myth has now come back to bite his current nominee for Defense Secretary. But the larger problem is Official Washington’s continuing hostility toward reality and toward people who speak inconvenient truth to power.
There is something extraordinarily dangerous about the most powerful nation on earth being driven by a set of fantasies, several of which were expressed angrily by their adherents in the Senate Armed Services Committee’s hearing on Chuck Hagel.
And the risks are not just inside the government. They stretch to the U.S. news media, which even after the Iraq and Afghan debacles prefers to march in lock step with the prevailing group think, knowing that even when the group think proves disastrously wrong, there will be no accountability because the group itself is too powerful.
Rather it is for the rare independent-minded person who dares challenge the conventional wisdom regardless of the person’s record for accuracy who must be singled out for punishment. There must be discipline in compelling free thinkers to abide by the dominant orthodoxies no matter how misguided they are.
That was the real lesson from the spectacle of Chuck Hagel’s inquisition, that anyone who deviates from the group think must be disqualified from holding office in the U.S. government or for that matter any position of influence inside Official Washington. In this up-is-down world, there is no penalty for supporting the invasion of Iraq, only for criticizing the invasion of Iraq.
Further, we must all believe there is no Israel Lobby in Washington. That U.S. politicians are not influenced or intimidated by this non-existent lobby’s hardball tactics. That Israel has never committed a war crime in its treatment of Palestinians. That the Iraq War was “won” by the 2007 “surge.”
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
I found it almost absurd that Hagel was questioned to death about a bunch of meaningless drivel and policy stuff that he has or will have nothing to say about.
OTOH, stuff that he WILL be in charge of if he is confirmed, like say the 19,000 sexual assaults per year that are happening against female troops – what is he planning to do about that?
How is he planning to handle the $60 billion per year in budget cuts required under the sequestration?
What are his plans for redeployment of the 66,000 troops who are being taken out of Afghanistan?
How is he planning on making the transition of medical care between the active duty military and the VA more seamless – something that has been long talked about but never implemented? And something that should be automatic, not this long drawn-out applying for VA benefits that is so backlogged now like it is.
How is he planning on overhauling the military procurement process that is so filled with waste, fraud and abuse? Something that the Pentagon’s own Inspector General says makes it impossible for them to even perform an audit?
Now those are some questions that would have been worth asking – since those are things that the SecDef could actually DO something about. The SecDef is not responsible for the nation’s policy towards Israel, the President is. Likewise, the SecDef is not responsible for whatever decision a previous President made. Nor will he be responsible for any decision this current one makes either.
Ask him some questions about the decisions HE will be responsible for for crying out loud!
It was an outrage to see every one of those Senators show that their primary loyalty was not to the United States but to Israel.
Bob, I hope you do an investigative series on each of them- where they get their money, how they vote, whom they meet and support, where they take their Congressional junkets- i.e., Senators Graham, McCain, Cruz, Imhhofe, Gillibrand, Reed and also Carl Levin who is beholden to AIPAC but tried to appear neutral appeared while his colleagues did the dirty work. Enough is enough. The irony, of course, is that Hagel’s past comments that they dredged up to attack him and and that they forced him to recant, were right on the mark, so that in demanding that he deny the truth, those Senators entered an inquisition twilight zone which has permanently marked them. There is no reason that the tables cannot be turned using the very same comments they cited plus much, much more, bolstered by documentation, to skewer them and the Lobby.
This is now an issue, pure and simple, of patriotism and loyalty to the United States, its people and its national interest. So, it will be incumbent on the Administration- including Hagel after he is confirmed- finally to play hardball and use the procurement system to punish and keep these Senators in line, and to use the draconian wiretap laws the Senators themselves passed, to monitor every communication between them and the Israeli Lobby and the military lobby. It’s time to stop the bullshit and nail the bastards, all of them, once and for all.
I haven’t communicated with any Israeli citizen, but I read somewhere that they have been as profusely brain washed as majority of Americans, through Israeli ruling class media. Their children have been indoctrinated against Arabs and Christians.
According to their Stone Age fiction (religion), they are the chosen people of their god and the rest of humanity is just animal, has been created to serve Jews. Irony is that chosen people don’t have any foggiest idea of history. At least twice, humanity has slaughtered (unfortunately) and scattered this chosen people all around the globe. I wonder what atrocities they would have been subjected to if they were not the chosen people.
IMHOP you are correct in the first part but mistaken in the second part of your comment.
“Stone Age fiction (religion)”, correct and we might add “accepted by present day Christian “Stone Age”people”
e.g.The MSM of History used to be the “Stone Age Bible” which today is used by the Murdock & other Zionist media with their bought and paid for political and journalistic lackeys.
The “slaughtered (unfortunately) and scattered ” bit is incorrect, being exposed as mostly MSM fiction and the idea that Israel is a State built on lies is finally finding more historical acceptance.
I am starting to think that Israel is the 51st state and is represented by dozens of Senators and Congressmen. Isn’t that unconstitutional?
Does anyone here ever communicate with ordinary Israeli citizens? If so, what do they say? What do young people, facing mandatory conscription, think about their country invading another country on false pretenses? Hmmm. That irony is not lost on me. Really.
Frances…There are numerous articles, books, and websites representing the average (non-Zionist) point of view. Here are a few:
True Torah Jews
Jews Against Zionism, article by Chicago journalist and historian Stephen Lendman: http://palestinechronicle.com/old/view_article_details.php?id=15600
A publication with a wide variety of respected authors:
The General’s Son, a book by Miko Peled (link below is a speech he gave at the AIPAC):
Historical photograph showing 1948 Arab expulsion:
The Hagel “Inquisition”
Chuck Hagel , was chosen by Obama , knows the “party line” , is aware and will be made aware of how dangerous any “possible deviation” would be for “all concerned”
Chuck had already done â€œTeshuvahâ€ (Repentance) over his previous stand â€œNo War With Iranâ€ in the presence of leaders of several American Jewish lobby groups on January 18.
I understand he’s spent an entire career not deviating anywhere in any supposedly dangerous way.
Was it all some sort of theater from the “twilight zone” .
Why do they insist on these questions about Israel? Who do these people represent, Americans or Israelis?
John ( “bomb -bomb -bomb” Iran) McCain’s un-believable “rant” about Hagel’s lack of enthusiasm for the Iraq surge and exclaiming â€œThank God for Senator Lieberman!â€ was the show stopper for me — I almost expected applause.
Did we all see yet another example of surreal theater.
“Dont call pro Israeli people and congressmen and senators trained seals if they disagree with your obviously anti-Semitic state of mind.”
I used the trained-seal analogy years ago after watching a state of the union speech and the bobbing up and down or stolid petulance of the assembled politicians trained to respond reflexively to certain phrases – just like emitting the silly accusation hurled at anyone who might imply an Israeli politician might be anything less that perfect.
WHEN YOU OWN THE MEDIA, THE BANKS. THE HOLLYWOOD PRODUCTION AND DISTRIBUTION CODE AND THOSE WHO HIDE IN SILENCE OR FORCED IGNORANCE– WHAT YOU REALLY HAVE IS A NATION OF SHEEP WHO WILLINGLY CONTRIBUTE TO A PARALLEL FALL OF THE UNHOLY ROMAN EMPIRE VISITED UPON THE USA WHO CORRUPTS FROM WITHIN AGAIN AND AGAIN. I THINK THE ONLY ANSWER IS A CONFRONTATION IN A DARK ALLEY WITH THE LANTERN OF TRUTH BLINDING THEM TO ASH! THIS CONSPIRACY OF ASS-KISSERS IS IRREPARABLE AND ANEMIC BECAUSE 99% OF OUR REPS IN CONGRE$$ HAVE NO ETHICS OR SOUL. HOW DOES ONE WIN AN ARGUMENT WITH A FOOLISH WHORE????
The article by Parry says it all, or almost all.The fact is that the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq vastly comoplicated the problems with Russiam China, Iran, and al Qaeda. In addition, the fact is that the US and Iran have common interests in Afghanistan, complicated by the difference of opinion concerning Israel.
A DISPLAY OF ZIONIST POWER ON THE U.S. SENATE, The IsraHelli paid and bought U.S Senators cooked Chuck Hagel in a pressure cooker pot, on the Senate floor and forced him to bow to the Zionist lobby and to retract his well known anti IsraHelli opinion The Zionist senators including, Lindsey Graham, Mark Kerk, Bob Menendez, John McCain, Bob Corker, Pat Roberts, Mike Lee, John Cornyn, Jim Inohof, David Vitter, Roy Blunt and others racing against each other to demonstrate their dedication and their loyalty to IsraHell/ and Zionist bankers. Chuch Hagel which is an American hero and a man of honor and a warrior that experienced the horrors of war and know how to avoid it , forced by the Zionists senators to endorse the warmongering policy of the Zionists in U.S. and IsraHell. Chuck Hegel now is a broken man and I am not sure he can ever recover and be an effective defense secretary, after such a humiliating experience on the senate floor and in the hand of those IsraHelli supporter senators. HOW LONG WE CAN SET IDLE AND LET ISRAHELL AND THEIR LOBBY CONTROL OUR GOVERNMENT, OUR SENATE, AND OUR HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVE,?????? CAN WE CALL OUR NATION UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,?????? OR WE HAVE TO CALL IT UNITED STATES OF ISRAHELL.
The loyalty of these Zionist agents in the U.S. House and Senate stand only to IsraHell. They got paid by the Zionists lobby in Washington to protect IsraHelli interest . America remember these traitors on next election . I say the Hell with IsraHell American interest comes first
Hegel’s fantasy reply to Lindsey Gayham, “You, Senator”.
Unfortunately, Chuck Hagel passed on an opportunity to be a profile in courage by calling out the hypocrisy and mendacity of his attackers. Was the job of top dog in our war department worth the humiliation Chuck Hagel endured?
RE; Lindsey Graham’s comments to Hagel, name one senator who is influenced by the Israel Lobby…what a smug question in view of all the evidence to the contrary.
The Israel Lobby, by Stephen Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt.
Pity the Nation, by Robert Fisk. Ample evidence of massacres conducted with IDF complicity.
Check the speakers (who panders to the lobby?) at the annual AIPAC convention prior to the 2008 election.
From NPR: Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton address the (2008) annual meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. In an earlier appearance at AIPAC, Sen. John McCain blasted Obama’s willingness to meet with the president of Iran. (The only candidate that did not speak to the AIPAC was Ron Paul)
From the White House Blog: President Barack Obama delivers remarks to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference at the Washington Convention Center, Washington, D.C., March 4, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
This morning, President Obama addressed the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., where he reaffirmed the strength of our Nationâ€™s special bond with Israel. Tomorrow, President Obama will hold a bi-lateral meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House. (Still at it!)
The public could care less about some hearing. They will, however, pay attention to Hagel once he’s in office. That’s when things will get interesting.
McCain and Graham chose their tone based on marching orders from their patrons – defense contractors and every war-mongering group out there, including the Israel lobby. Bad news for Netanyahu and the rest of the rest of the Zealots. This will be the gift that keeps on giving since, we can be sure, neither Hagel or Obama are amused by any of this. The arrogance that comes from repeated success produces momets like this hearing. The perps wll regret it.
McCain has been too well rewarded by AIPAC to be upset by its arrogance, and the relationship goes as far back as his 1967 and his father’s complicity in the coverup of the IAF intentional bombing of the USS Liberty.
Hey Michael, Are they not members of the same exclusive club? And, was this not a show, or kabuki theater ? Same players-same results…Regards, Bill
Let’s all kneel down to Neil Farbstein, the kind of person represented in the Senate by 99% of the senators (look at their record on AIPAC resolutions) but NOT representative of the US population, and certainly not on the rest of the world. Unfortunately, the USA has a huge global influence, and the obsessive obsequeousness of US leaders towards Israel, whose crimes are readily visible for all to see (unless they are viewers of Foxnews or any of the other Fawning Corporate Media)makes the world a much less safe place than would a sensible policy in the interests of the USA itself.
Dont call pro Israeli people and congressmen and senators trained seals if they disagree with your obviously anti-Semitic state of mind.
Parry said” Thus, when Israelâ€™s bullying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint session of the House and Senate, Republicans and Democrats compete to show how fast and how often they can jump to their feet in ovations, a humiliating display of obeisance that reflects badly on trained seals.”
They jump to their feet and applaud because they have a believe in the Judeo-Christian ethic. They represent the majority of people in the USA.
A majority of U.S. citizens oppose assisting Israel on any way should it launch a first strike attack against Iran. Those are the facts.
If by Judeo-Christian ethic, you mean murdering Palestinians, stealing their land, buying politicians in the US and the rest of the western world, then you are right.
THE MAJORITY OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE DON’T QUITE KNOW WHAT TO BELIEVE. THEY HAVE NO TIME FOR RESEARCHING WHO IS WHORE FROM WHO IS BEST PATRIOTIC GUARD AGAINST FALSE-SPEAK AND DISTORTED ALLEGIANCE STEPS THAT LEAD TO FALSE OIL WARS OF CHOICE. NETANYAHU TO ANY CLEAR -HEADED AMERICAN WAS RUDE AND PERSONA NON GRATA IN HIS SWINE-LIKE EMBRACE OF ROMNEY AND HIS FAILED EFFORT TO GET JEWISH AMERICANS TO BOW TO HIS MIS-LEADERSHIP.OBAMA’S LANDSLIDE RE-ELECTION WAS ACCOMPLISHED BY 70% OF LOYAL AND PATRIOTIC JEWISH-AMERICANS WHO VOTED THEIR HEARTS AND SOUL FOR THE PRESIDENT OF THIS COUNTRY WHO IS NOT A PUPPET LIKE THE LAST BUSH-CHENEY REIGN OF TERROR AND LIES THAT COST US OVER $1 TRILLION AND THOUSANDS OF AMERICAN HONEST YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN AND HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF IRAQI DEAD ALL FOR AIPAC NEO-CON NAZIS INFILTRATED IN OUR ONCE ALMOST CLEAN GOVERNMENT.ANY DUAL-CITIZENSHIP GROUP OR HOME-GROWN CONSPIRACY IN THE US GOVERNMENT THAT FALSELY GIVES INFORMATION AND LEADS US INTO PRE-EMPTIVE WAR IS GUILTY OF TREASON!!! NO ONE IS ABOVE THE LAW NO MATTER HOW MUCH AMERICAN FOREIGN AID MONEY THEY RETURN TO AMERICA TO BUY THE WHORES IN CONGRE$$ FOR THEIR PARTICULAR CAUSE!!!!
Please shut off the all CAPS.
Being anti Israeli is not the same as being anti-semite. The damn Israeli lobby owns the congress. The sickening, deplorable, lickspittle, ass kissing subservience to that ass swipe fascist Nuts and Yahoo was disgusting to watch. Talk about the tail wagging the dog……….
As I watched the attacks on Hagel, I was in awe of his self control and attempts at humility.
On the other hand, I was screaming at the TV that McCain and Graham and Cruz were fracking idiots that killed thousands of our troops and wasted billions of dollars because of their stupidity.
From my son’s boots-on-the-ground, the Surge was expensive military flatulence versus the creation of trust and salaries for the Iraqi military so that they stopped fighting us and focused instead on the other foreigners from Al Qaeda.
The last time I got so frustrated with TV idiocy was NRA Chairman Wayne LaPierre who admitted that they viewed the American government to be a terrorist organization and needed the guns to be able to defend themselves from “our” government.
As a former Army Officer, LaPierre sounds like a terrorist to me.
The American public should get ready for a lot more bombast and idiocy from Ted Cruz. He’s just getting started. Given the reaction of the right wing and the neo-cons……….the president is definately on the right track here.
It seems that Hagel was *not* attacked for his relatively sane past comments on Cuba. That seems like a relatively good sign.
Good article. Every one of the senators cited, a…holes all, proved what they were trying to force Hagel to deny. I hope he makes it through the gauntlet and just remembers to “promise them anything, but give them ArpÃ¨ge”.