Burch: The Hagel haggle

Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 10:05pm
By Michael R. Burch

Is Chuck Hagel, the just-confirmed secretary of defense, a sensible war skeptic or a lily-livered liberal, as some right-wing hawks have tried to portray him? As it turns out, Nashville had quite a bit to do with the recent “Hagel haggle.” So let’s turn the clock back to 2002 and examine the facts. I believe they will suggest that President Obama chose the right man for the job.

On August 26, 2002, appearing here in Nashville before the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Dick Cheney made his case for a preemptive invasion of Iraq, on entirely false premises.

In his speech’s preamble, Cheney said: “I’ve been looking forward to this opportunity to visit the historic city of Nashville, and to being with the members of the VFW and Ladies Auxiliary.” But what he had really been anticipating was making the case for a completely unnecessary, and a soon-to-be-catastrophic, war.

After a few business-as-usual political platitudes and copious praise for the ever-self-aggrandizing Bush administration, Cheney spoke briefly about the need for homeland security, then began laying out his case for a war with Iraq. He advanced the hawkish neo-con agenda in fascist overtones, saying: “We realize that wars are never won on the defensive. We must take the battle to the enemy. We will take every step necessary to make sure our country is secure, and we will prevail.” Of course he was wrong on all four counts. Defensive wars have been won in the past; in fact, the United States became a nation thanks to a defensive war against a European superpower. Iraq was not “the enemy” and posed little or no danger to Americans. The invasion of Iraq did not make us more “secure.” And we did not “prevail.”

Cheney then played the fifth ace in a stacked deck, saying: “We now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons.” But of course we did not “know” any such thing. No evidence of Saddam Hussein having nukes, or being close to acquiring them, has ever been found. Colin Powell later revealed that an Iraqi informant — ironically code-named “Curveball”  — had concocted the “known” information because he hated Saddam Hussein and wanted Americans to dethrone him.

In his speech Cheney called Iraq’s entirely non-existent nukes a “mortal threat” to Americans. And of course gullible Nashville conservatives took the bait — hook, line and sinker. Americans have been sinking deeper and deeper in debt and blood ever since.

The following morning a New York Post headline interpreted Cheney’s speech succinctly and correctly: ‘A MORTAL THREAT’: CHENEY POUNDS HOME CASE FOR CRUSHING SADDAM.

After Cheney’s speech, Chuck Hagel told CNN that he didn’t believe that Saddam actually possessed nuclear weapons, and he rightly warned against attempts “to scare the American public by saying this guy is a couple of months away from not only possessing nuclear weapons, but a ballistic missile [capable of delivering them].”

Hagel, who has been called a “war skeptic” (which to many right-wing Republicans is synonymous with “traitor”), began to have misgivings about George W. Bush and his administration’s warmongering after the president’s 2002 State of the Union address, in which he lumped Iraq, Iran and North Korea into an “axis of evil” as a prelude to, and justification of, pre-emptive military and covert operations.

Hagel criticized the rush to offensive action, saying: “Actions and words have consequences that are very dangerous at a time in the history of man, when there’s little margin of error left.” In so doing, he echoed the sentiments of American war heroes John F. Kennedy and Douglas MacArthur, who both said that man must end war or war will end man. One of the world’s wisest and most intelligent pacifists, Albert Einstein, agreed, saying that he didn’t know which weapons would be used in World War III, but that he was sure the next war would be fought with sticks and stones.

Around the same time, Hagel told Newsweek: “It’s interesting to me that many of those who want to rush the country into war and think it would be so quick and easy don’t know anything about war. They come at it from an intellectual perspective versus having sat in jungles or foxholes, and watched their friends get their heads blown off. I try to speak for those ghosts of the past a little bit.”

Richard Armitrage, a close friend of Colin Powell and his right-hand man at the State Department, once remarked to an Australian journalist that if he and Powell seemed to be the “two relative doves” compared to war hawks in the Bush administration, it was because they were “the two who had seen combat.” It’s much easier to be a hawk when you’ve never had a friend die in your arms, or get blown to pieces walking a few steps ahead of you. George W. Bush not only never saw combat, it seems he played hooky from the Texas Air National Guard pilot job that kept him out of the Vietnam War. But he sure as hell could show up clad in pilot gear for a photo-op.

I believe Chuck Hagel is the right man for the job, because the secretary of defense should be skeptical about the effectiveness of unnecessary offensive wars. And his job title does, after all, hinge on the word “defense.”

Michael R. Burch is a Nashville-based editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry and other “things literary” at www.thehypertexts.com.

74 Comments on this post:

By: yogiman on 3/1/13 at 2:42


By what authority did Barry vote no on the Iraq war when it started in March 2003 and he didn't go into the Senate until January 2005?

Was he granted an advanced votes?

By: Blanketnazi2 on 3/1/13 at 2:53

Although Obama was not in a position to vote on the war in Iraq at that time, he spoke out against the war. He did vote to fund the war after it was already taking place because it was necessary to supply our soldiers with life saving equipment, food, etc.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 3/1/13 at 2:55

Barack Obama (who went on to win the election) was not a senator at the time of the voting of the Iraq War Resolution, but has repeatedly voiced his disapproval of it both before and during his senatorship, saying at an anti war rally in Chicago on October 2, 2002: "I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars." He also spoke of the "undetermined length... undetermined cost, [and] undetermined consequences" which even a successful war would bring


By: Captain Nemo on 3/1/13 at 3:04

That is too much information Blanket.

He only heard Obama %&***---++Birth $##@** Kenya **&^^+++ British.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 3/1/13 at 3:05


By: Captain Nemo on 3/1/13 at 3:39

It is getting time for the Princess Rat to make his late comments. To let us know that he thinks he is wealthy.

This will be my afternoon laugh.

By: bfra on 3/1/13 at 5:24

Nemo - Do you think Ratty might be wearing his pink tutu?

By: Captain Nemo on 3/2/13 at 8:33

Yes. He will do anything for a buck now.

By: yogiman on 3/2/13 at 10:27

Interesting legislative talks. Enjoy.




By: Loner on 3/2/13 at 1:15

Saturday afternoon....thought I'd check the boards....here's an excellent example of what Chuck Hagel was talking about when he intimated that the Israel lobby was too influential in Washington, DC.




"A joint resolution set to be introduced by Sens. Lindsey Graham (SC) and Robert Menendez (NJ), a Republican and Democrat, respectively, declares U.S. support for an Israeli military strike against Iran's nuclear program. The resolution, which expresses the sense of the Congress, will be supported by the thousands of delegates to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee annual conference that will stream through the Capitol this weekend. With prominent liberal Democrats already signing on, AIPAC's lobbying heft will likely propel a bill that, in Congressional sentiment at least, commits the U.S. to active support of a potential Israeli attack that experts think could have consequences as grave as further destabilization in the region, adverse global economic consequences, and even a hardening of Iranian resolve to get a weapon. - "

"Initiating a war is the gravest step any nation can take," said Columbia University professor Gary Sick, an Iran expert and former White House official. "This legislation would effectively entrust that decision to a regional state. Such a decision is an American sovereign responsibility. It cannot be outsourced." -

(end snippet)

There it is, folks, the US Congress is going on record as advocating the surrender of US sovereignty on the most thing that a state can do - deciding to go to war - to a state outside our union of American States. This is unprecedented, IMO.

The AIPAC-dictated congressional resolution functionally defines our US Commander-In-Chief as a vassal lord to the Israeli Prime Minister. The Israeli PM will decide on when to attack Iran; and there is no need for Israel to wait to be attacked first; we will be Israel's unshakeable military ally, no matter what.

And they scoffed at Hagel's allegation about the power of the Israel lobby....the Jewish lobby.

By: Loner on 3/2/13 at 1:18

Correction...missing key word in rant above.....s/h/b:

"There it is, folks, the US Congress is going on record as advocating the surrender of US sovereignty on the most SERIOUS thing that a state can do - deciding to go to war - to a state outside our union of American States. "

By: Loner on 3/2/13 at 1:27

Think about it...if the state of Tennessee, for example, decided to go to war against Iran, would the US federal government automatically back the state of Tennessee militarily?

If any US state were to unilaterally declare war on another sovereign nation, the rest of the nation would laugh it off, as some sort of sick joke.

But here we are, letting a foreign nation, the Jewish State, lead us by the nose to slaughter in Iran...whenever they feel sufficiently "threatened". This is not a joke, this is deadly serious, my friends.

The American Founders would be absolutely stupefied to witness this insane American obsession with Zionism in Palestine....none of the Founders would be approved by AIPAC, that's for sure.

By: dargent7 on 3/2/13 at 2:16

Read up on Pfc. Manning, who pleaded guilty to 10 counts of declassifying classified info.
Gave the stuff to WikiLeaks, since The new York Times and Washington Post wouldn't return his phone calls.
Exposes how US soldiers kill at random and at will. "They enjoy it"....
The guy should get a Medal of Honor.

By: yogiman on 3/2/13 at 2:17

Not much on this site is a joke, Loner.

As I've posted before, this isn't the US I grew up in. At my age, and from my way of life, I came live the rest of the "short end" of it without worry. But I hate what I brought my children and grandchildren into. And how many heirs on down the line through them?

The US has set quite a few good examples to other nations in this word. But aren't we the youngest one of the major nations in the world? And are we going to be the first one to go?

I've always wondered why we're the financial supporters and body guard of the world. Where is all of that in our Constitution?

If your man Barry pulls his communist party "takeover" off, this will become a different nation. Will it still be called the USA or changed to something like USSA?

By: yogiman on 3/2/13 at 2:23

I know you're an anti-gunner, Loner. Thought you might like to "hear" these two experts talking to the Tennessee legislature and see this other short show.



for fun; //vimeo.com/60010250/

By: Captain Nemo on 3/2/13 at 3:00

Just yogi is the joke.

By: yogiman on 3/2/13 at 9:25


If you know of Lyndon Larouche, there's a 15 minute show I think you should hear. He's a known socialist and has quite a bit to say about Obama.


By: Loner on 3/3/13 at 6:46

Sunday morning.....not much action on this board this wekend.

Darge, in my view, PFC Manning should rot in a federal prison....after a suitable period of rotting, he should be deported to some country that will accept the traitorous A-hole.

As we know, Israel honors American traitors...they named a public square in Jerusalem after Jonathan Pollard...maybe they will take Manning....if he converts to Judaism, learns Hebrew and joins the IDF....Israel welcomes US traitors and ingrate US Jews....Manning should ask the Israelis for help....he's a man without a country.

Things must have gotten sloppy in the US comcenters these days. When i served, we were not allowed to take any personal stuff into the comcenter....Manning took in a CD player/recorder device of some kind...he used a Lady GaGa CD as the storage device for the downloaded secret documents....I was shocked to read that, they let the soldiers play tunes in the comcenters today? Discipline must have gone to hell since I was in the US Army Signal Corps,

If Manning was unhappy with his enlistment, he should have whined about it to his Congressman...instead of that, he exposed US personnel to deadly reprisals and he compromised confidential US communications...Manning swore an oath of secrecy and loyalty and he violated that oath and that trust....he's gotta pay the price....to set the example to other would-be traitors.

By: yogiman on 3/3/13 at 6:56

Manning wouldn't last long in prison, Loner. Even though they are criminals, too many prisoners are still Americans. One of them would kill Manning.

But at least we know he is an American, a fact which you don't know about 'Obama'.

Even though he's a socialist himself, listen to what Lyndon Larouche says about Obama.

By: Mike Burch on 3/3/13 at 3:01


Israel is obviously a huge problem for the US, but I doubt they will "take him out" if that's what you are suggesting. It seems more likely they'll keep doing what has worked so well for them in the past: bribe Congress to commit treason by putting Israel's interests above those of American citizens. As the saying goes, why fix what ain't broken?

By: Mike Burch on 3/3/13 at 3:06


I agree that none of the most famous Founding Fathers would have approved of the addict/enabler relationship of the U.S. and Israel. Some of the religion-besotted founding fathers may have. There have always been Holy Rollers trying to turn the US into a theocracy, or a theo-crazy.

By: yogiman on 3/3/13 at 3:12

Obama finally goes on his first State visit to Israel. While he is on a tour of Jerusalem, he has a fatal heart attack. The undertaker tells the US diplomats: "You can have him shipped home for $1 million or you can bury him here in the Holy Land for $1000."

The US diplomats go into a huddle and come back to the undertaker and tell him they still want Obama flown home.

The undertaker is puzzled and asks: "Why would you spend $1 million to get him home when it would be wonderful to be buried here in this religious country and you would only spend $1000?"

One diplomat replied: "More than 2000 years ago a man died here, was buried here, and just 3 days later he rose from the dead. We simply can't take that risk."

By: Loner on 3/3/13 at 6:20

Mike, I hope that you are right and the Mossad does not snuff the POTUS....I do not trust any nation that would name a public square in their capital city after a convicted traitor to their "best ally".....The Israelis named a square in Jerusalem after Jonathan Pollard, who is still in a US prison....he spied for Israel.

The British would not dare to name a square in London after Benedict Arnold, even after all these years, would they? But we Americans still regard Israel as our "best friend"....we are idiots....useful idiots.

By: FaceBook:Emmett... on 3/4/13 at 8:38

BoyObaMao advanced two of the nation's most notable nincompoops with Hagel and Kerry. Pure airhead political hacks.