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Hagel Defenders Battle Neocon Opposition

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"The disgusting is the fact that because Hagel once described the Israel lobby as the 'Jewish lobby' (it also contains some Christians). And because he has rather bluntly stated that his job as a U.S. senator was not to take orders from the Israel lobby but to advance U.S. interests, he is smeared as an Israel-hater at best and an anti-Semite at worst.

"If ever Israel needed a U.S. defense secretary who was committed to Israel's survival, as Hagel has repeatedly stated -- but who was convinced that ensuring that survival didn't mean having America go along with Israel's self-destructive drift into settling the West Bank and obviating a two-state solution -- it is now."

When someone of the stature of Tom Friedman rejects conventional mainstream wisdom, it is hard not to recall the famous Walter Cronkite-Lyndon Johnson moment when a media icon spoke truth to the powerful.

Cronkite crop

That moment took place on February 27, 1968, after CBS newsman Walter Cronkite's first visit to Vietnam. Cronkite's concluding editorial comment that night, in which he declared that the war was futile, is supposed to have led President Lyndon Johnson to declare, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America."

Johnson's exact words, or when he actually heard Cronkite (see photo above, left), have been debated, but the historic fact remains that Johnson soon announced to the nation that he would not run for reelection.

Will Friedman's column supporting Hagel have a Cronkite-like impact on President Obama's decision on his next defense secretary? We will most likely have to wait for a post-second term memoir for an answer to that question..

There is also no indication that former President Bill Clinton has spoken to President Obama about Hagel. What is known is that Clinton is fully aware of Hagel's service in the Vietnam War, in the U.S. Senate and now, after he left the Senate, as president of the Atlantic Council.

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In the picture at top, Senator Hagel (left) is shown in good spirits after Hagel presented the former president with the Atlantic Council's Distinguished International Leadership Award on April 28, 2010.

Washington Post news profile by Craig Whitlock appeared two days after the Post  editorial. It provides compelling testimony from Hagel's war eperience:

"Shards from a Viet Cong mine are still embedded in Chuck Hagel's chest, 44 years after his infantry squad walked into a booby trap in the Vietnam jungle. Scar tissue marks the left side of his face from another mine explosion, barely a month after his first brush with death.

"'I remember,' Hagel told an interviewer for the Library of Congress's Veterans History Project in 2002, 'thinking to myself, you know, if I ever get out of all of this, I am going to do everything I can to assure that war is the last resort that we, a nation, a people, calls upon to settle a dispute. The horror of it, the pain of it, the suffering of it. People just don't understand it unless they've been through it.'

"Today, Hagel, 66, heads President Obama's shortlist of candidates to lead the Pentagon. If he is nominated by the White House and confirmed by the Senate, he would become the first defense secretary with a Purple Heart, the combat decoration for those wounded in battle, since Elliot L. Richardson, who held the job briefly during the Nixon administration."

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In his column for the Daily Beast, Andrew Sullivan has strong words for what he calls the "agitators" who have attempted to smear Hagel as anti-Semetic:

"They have every right to their opinion and to see the support for Greater Israel and the occupation as in the long-term interests of the US. They have every right to argue that just because they were grotesquely wrong about the Iraq war, they are obviously looking at Iran from the right perspective.

"But that is not what these agitators have done. They have merely smeared Hagel already as an anti-Semite; they have described him as 'having anti-Israel, pro-appeasement-of-Iran bona fides' or, in an echo of the WaPo, 'out-of-the-mainstream' views.

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James Wall is currently a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine. Many sources have influenced Jim's writings over (more...)
 

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