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There’s an old saying about elephants having a long memory, which certainly makes them an appropriate symbol for Republicans in the U.S. Senate.
They don’t forget; and they don’t forgive, either. They proved it at confirmation hearings for one of their own, former Senator Chuck Hagel, whom the president has nominated to be Secretary of Defense.
Hagel was grilled mercilessly about, of all things, the Iraq War, and in particular, “the surge,” Bush and Cheney’s decision to send in even more troops after the insurgency they hadn’t seen coming proved so troublesome.
To listen to John McCain in particular, you would have thought that the Iraq War was still raging. And McCain probably thinks it should be; he did say, infamously, that if we were in Iraq for 50 years it wouldn’t bother him.
Chuck Hagel, you remember, was one of the most outspoken critics of the war. Like many senators, he’d voted for the original resolution to authorize it, having fallen for the administration’s six-month propaganda campaign about “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq, something that might even produce “a mushroom cloud” (words uttered by Bush and Condi Rice) if we didn’t invade.
Also like many senators, Hagel would come to regret that vote, once it was clear that there were no such weapons and that we had merely settled in for a long occupation.
McCain’s obessession with “the surge” at Hagel’s hearing was so ridiculous that he rudely and repeatedly demanded that Hagel say “yes” or “no” to a question of whether he was wrong about that. Hagel said he’d leave the verdict up to history.
McCain appears to think that “the surge” was this miraculous thing that completely justified the war. But it’s him who’s on the wrong side of history if he believes that.
Sure, more troops stabilized the situation, but that only meant that – if we were to invade (and we shouldn’t have) – we should have probably gone in with a larger number at the beginning.
But, again, that does not justify the war of choice that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and their “neo-conservative” advisers (later derided as chicken hawks) provoked in Iraq.
Chuck Hagel was right to oppose that war, and he showed a lot of guts in doing so. The American people were right to turn against it, and Barack Obama was right to end it when he became president.
As long as we’re dependent upon fossil fuels, any military action we take in the Arab world will almost always have to do with oil, as the Persian Gulf War of 2001 did, when we bailed out something called “Kuwait,” an entity that’s more of an oil company that it is a country.
(Another reason would most definitely be the twisted psycho-drama that little W. had with his father, which went something like this: Daddy got it wrong in 1991, so won’t he be proud of me now when I show him how it should have been done!)
Chuck Hagel is very likely to be the next Secretary of Defense, and along with John Kerry at State, our country will move beyond the “invade first and stay there forever” mentality of John McCain and Lindsey Graham, the Senate’s other top hawk.
There will be no more “wars of choice.” And, yes, the Pentagon budget must be cut not just for military and foreign policy reasons, but for economic needs as well.
We have a social safety net to defend and preserve in this country, and that means that the Pentagon can no longer expect endless increases.
A new day has dawned, and people like John McCain had better get used to it.
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Rick Howell, a Bedford native, can be reached by e-mail at RickDem117@gmail.com.