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: Captain Nemo on 3/1/13 at 1:50

The Chicken Hawks won the war of lies and off we went.

By: yogiman on 3/1/13 at 5:35

War can only be started by consent of congress. Congress consented to the war with Iraq.

Obama apparently didn't believe he needed congressional approval to attack Libya. So what makes him the superior president?

Could it be because he can get us deeper into debt in less time than all of the others before him. And just think, they were in office legally.

And, Mike, when did Barry Soetoro aka Barack Obama serve in our military? Or did he and just put his papers under lock and key with all of his other papers; you know, like his legal birth certificate and college papers, plus all other personal papers to keep America's citizens from seeing who usurped their Oval Office.

By: Ask01 on 3/1/13 at 6:11

Oh, let's just start another line of argument. Maybe the Republicans are angry he doesn't fall lockstep into their daisy chain. Perhaps Senator McCain is upset this guy was a lowly enlisted man, and opposed him on a few issues.

I am happy he won the position. Those so opposed can go suck an exhaust pipe.

By: HoundDog on 3/1/13 at 6:25

Bush and Cheney should be prosecuted for war crimes.

By: Loner on 3/1/13 at 7:00

Good morning, Nashville.

Another fine missive from Nashville's lonely voice of liberalism and sanity....good job, Mike.

If I were in Chuck Hagel's big shoes, the first cuts and base closures would occur in the states of South Carolina and Arizona....Lindsey Graham and John McCain were acting like members of the Likud Party during the grilling process....pay backs are hell, boys.

I like Chuck Hagel and if the Israeli Mossad doesn't snuff him, he'll be a great Sec of Defense....watch your back, Chuck, the Israelis have painted a target on it.

By: Loner on 3/1/13 at 7:05

No matter what the topic, Yogi is right there with his same asinine birther rant....the man is consumed with hate; hopefully the authorities are keeping tabs on the armed nut-job. Sadly, this one troll has poisoned the atmosphere here on these NCP boards...many great posters have left because of this guy's insane and hateful ramblings....I guess that's the price we must pay for online freedom of expression.

By: yogiman on 3/1/13 at 7:24

Well, you got a little bit of it right, Loner. We all do still have our freedom of speech on this site and as I've stated before, you don't know me. If you did, you wouldn't make your asinine remarks about me.

Assuming I hate your buddy Barry Obama for usurping the Oval Office because I'm a racist is showing your ignorance of facts. The majority of the Electoral College and Senate are Caucasians. I hate them for letting it happen without requiring him to prove his eligibility.

Tell me, Loner; why was it OK to require John McCain to prove his constitutional eligibility but it wasn't necessary for Barack Obama to prove his constitutional eligibility?

The only reason I have received from anyone, even old friends, why they voted for Obama was because he was black even though they had no idea who he was or what his thoughts were of this nation.

I hate to tell you, Loner, but he's proving himself more every day.

And I'm still waiting for one of you to offer proof he's in that office legally.

By: Captain Nemo on 3/1/13 at 7:28

By: yogiman on 1/26/13 at 3:13
dumba$$, you couldn't even pass a spelling test, let alone a test of intelligence.

Want to try one? Check on google or bing and take a test.

By: Captain Nemo on 1/26/13 at 3:33
I took the test yogi and a made a 100.

By: yogiman on 1/26/13 at 7:30
I feel so humiliated, dumba$$, to get beat by an idiot as ignorant as you.

Your own word says I am smarter than you, yogi.

By: Loner on 3/1/13 at 7:30

I agree, HoundDog...notice how those two criminals do not venture outside their comfort zones...if either one were to go to Europe, they might get arrested for their war crimes.

One might conclude that taking the nation to war based on false and misleading facts would be a high crime in this democratic republic...as it turns out, a presidential blowjob is a high crime, but taking the nation to war, by way of deliberate deceit, is not....go figure.

We Americans play by our own set of counter-intuitive rules....It's what they call, "American Exceptionalism"....we make exceptions to the rules, for ourselves, all the time.

By: Captain Nemo on 3/1/13 at 7:34

The imbecile says;

I hate to tell you, Loner, but he's proving himself more every day.

And I'm still waiting for one of you to offer proof he's in that office legally.

Yet the fact that yogi has fewer brain cells than a fly is evidence that the cores of the Tea Bags are his kin.

By: Captain Nemo on 3/1/13 at 7:37

Spot on Loner.

By: Captain Nemo on 3/1/13 at 8:01

This only shows that the 47% of voters are getting their moneys worth for their vote.

Gray Pupon-

By: govskeptic on 3/1/13 at 8:01

Hagel is just the man for what President Obama has in mind for his military.
I'm sure they have discussed many times what that plan is. One positive
about Hagel, is hopefully he will live in Washington during his tenure.
Outgoing Secretary Panetta had an agreement that he could continue to live
in Calif., therefore on a private military jet, he flew back home every weekend.
How in hell do you handle that important of a job by working 3-4 days a week?

With the approval of both Mr. Burch and Lamar Alexander on his side, how
could the new Secretary be anything but a success, pray tell?

By: yogiman on 3/1/13 at 8:07

Correct me if I'm wrong, Loner.

You claim Bush And Cheney put us in war knowingly they knew they were committing a crime. Tell me, why did congress accept his request for that conflict?

If they were all knowingly that ignorant, shouldn't they all be prosecuted?

So if Bush and Cheney should be prosecuted for war crimes, shouldn't Obama also be prosecuted for war crimes? He didn't even bother to ask congress for approval to attack Libya.

Isn't [doing it on his own] a worse crime than the president asking for permission? And may I add, it shouldn't make any difference how many days that war exists.

By: Loner on 3/1/13 at 8:09

I left this parting shot on the Jack Lew confirmation board...Jacob "Jack" Lew received a million dollar bonus from Citigroup in 2009, after Citigroup went belly-up in 2008....he hosed the taxpayers for a cool million in the deal.

From an Israeli site:

Some Republicans voted against Lew because they were not satisfied with his answers about his previous employment with Citigroup, including a brief time when he was chief operating officer for an investment unit in 2008. The unit has been criticized for making risky investments that imploded during the financial crisis. And Lew received a bonus of nearly $1 million in early 2009, a time when Citi was being bailed out by taxpayers.


Isn't it odd how the Senators grilled Hagel for using the term "Jewish lobby"; but they overlooked Lew's bit of grand larceny at Citigroup...you tell me who's calling the shots in Washington, DC.

By: yogiman on 3/1/13 at 8:11

Throw Corker in there too, govskeptic. He and Lamar are acting like twins. There's been very few bills they've voted against each other. Or was it a plan for equalization?

By: Captain Nemo on 3/1/13 at 8:11

By: yogiman on 3/1/13 at 8:07
Correct me if I'm wrong, Loner.

Let me be the first to say, you are always wrong yogi.

By: Loner on 3/1/13 at 8:13

Somebody's gotta say it....Wall Street Jews are running America into the dirt....but nobody dares to say it....what a bunch of useful idiots we are....the Founders would stand aghast to witness this....the Israelis brag about it, we do not dare to even talk about it.

By: yogiman on 3/1/13 at 8:23

Your Wall street Jews might be running us into dirt, Loner, but your buddy Barry is right in the middle of that collection of dirt demanding more.

By: Rasputin72 on 3/1/13 at 8:24

LONER........I can hardly believe that we have found another small parcel of common ground.

I am living off the spoils of Wall Street success. But there is not one question in my mind that the number one enemy of main street America is the Wall Street Jew.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 3/1/13 at 8:25

Loner, Raspy wants to get a room.

By: Captain Nemo on 3/1/13 at 8:35

Don't do it Loner. He want your money.

By: Loner on 3/1/13 at 8:39

Blanket: Rasp is going to rent a penthouse suite for the weekend....I'll be flying down with cases of fine NY state wines...come join us, for a gala celebration of "Common Ground"....Goveskeptic is bringing the kind bud, right, Gov? Rasp will provide the Grey Poupon and Foie Gras.....bring a djembe drum...we are going to sing, Kum-By-Yah as we pass the peace pipe.

By: Loner on 3/1/13 at 8:42

Be honest folks, did any of you know about Lew's million-dollar bonus from bankrupt Citigroup? I follow the news quite regularly, and this juicy little tidbit was off the US media's radar screens....did I miss it?

Did Obama just reward failure and corruption by giving this crook the keys to the national treasury?

Git a rope!

By: Blanketnazi2 on 3/1/13 at 8:42

I heard about it yesterday, Loner. It pissed me off.

By: Captain Nemo on 3/1/13 at 8:43

Loner, raspy has a supply of date-rape pills. Don’t do it.

By: Captain Nemo on 3/1/13 at 8:47

I think I heard something on NPR, but I was busy at the time and did not give it much thought.

By: Mike Burch on 3/1/13 at 8:51


I agree. I think Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld should all be tried for war crimes and treason.

By: Loner on 3/1/13 at 8:52

Yeah, Bn, I cited that Haaretz article yesterday...it mentioned the milion-dallar bonus; but I don't recall ever reading about that recently in the US media...I guess that grand larceny in early 2009 is already past the US media's statute of limitations....if the culprit is a member of the right tribe, that is.

So, now, we have a master thief running the US Treasury....the tribe has BHO by his scrotum...he done got his mind right, boss. But, what was the alternative? Sheldon Adelsen's personal puppet as POTUS? It was a lose-lose situation for the taxpayers....we are screwed.

By: Mike Burch on 3/1/13 at 8:54


I think the Mossad will not be happy that Hagel chooses to think independently. But they didn't kill Obama, so they might not go as far as assassinating Hagel. I hope not, but nothing Israel does would surprise me, since Israel tortures and murders Palestinian children on a regular basis.

By: Loner on 3/1/13 at 8:56

Rasp has Roofies? That could explain much, Cap'n. I'll keep my drink covered and in my hand at all times...thanks for the tip-off.

By: Mike Burch on 3/1/13 at 8:57


Chicken Hawks is a good term. First they scream that the sky is falling, like Chicken Little. Then they start a war that can't be won, and after wasting multitudes of lives and trillions of dollars, they blame everything on the "liberals."

By: Loner on 3/1/13 at 9:04

Mike, the Israelis tortured another Palestinian youth to death this past week and shot two more teen-aged Arab protesters....using made-in-USA guns and ammo.

And the US has gone out of its way to make the point that Obama's upcoming visit to Israel is NOT about solving the Israel-Arab conflict...that process is dead....and the US wants the world to know it.

Israel's security will be the main topic of discussion and what the US can do to enhance the security of the apartheid, nuclear scofflaw state...and maintain its Qualitative Military Edge, (QME)....this is all about serving Israel's needs, not ours...the Israeli PM is the overlord, the POTUS is his powerful but stupid vassal....that's the gist of the "Special Relationship"....we give, they take.

Anybody who dares to complain is an anti-Semite...got it?

By: Loner on 3/1/13 at 9:09

I doubt if Obama will last another four years in office, Mike, unless he cuts a deal with the Israelis...they hate his guts and they despise Chuck Hagel too....the Israelis will make it look like a tragic accident....the inquiry will be short and limited....Biden is the near-perfect replacement, from an Israeli standpoint...he has been on the Israel lobby payroll for years.

The GOP would be thrilled to see both Obama and Hagel literally go down in flames....they should never ride on the same aircraft....the Mossad has operatives in key places... yeah, an engine could "fall off" over the Atlantic.

By: Captain Nemo on 3/1/13 at 9:15

Mike, no matter how accurate the term “Chicken Hawk” is, it gives those two more clout than they deserves. LOL

By: Loner on 3/1/13 at 9:18

Mike, I'd add Colin Powell to the wanted list of US war criminals...as a general, he should have known better; he acted like an uncle tom, carrying water on the Bush plantation...I'd indict Condi Rice too....the Aunt Jemima figure in the Bush Administration....she sure was a cheerleader for the war.

By: Captain Nemo on 3/1/13 at 9:19

It is snowing out side now and BenDover is in Hawaii, how I envy him. :-)

By: Loner on 3/1/13 at 9:21

If we Americans actually held the Bush regime accountable, for taking us to war under false pretenses, it's a safe bet that we would never see another pre-emptive or elective war again. Since they got away with murder, future Administrations may be emboldened to emulate their sordid scam.

By: Captain Nemo on 3/1/13 at 9:22

There I disagree with you Loner. Powell was given false information just like congress and the American people. I blame a lot on the news media for not looking deeper into the reports.

By: Captain Nemo on 3/1/13 at 9:33

Even I had hope after hope that there was something to the reports about Iraq, now looking back. I just could not think that Bush would be so brainless to cause a war for no reason. No the blame should go to the very top of that administration and to some degree to others and the news media for going to bed with the Chicken Hawks President and his evil Vice President.

By: Loner on 3/1/13 at 10:34

Powell, as a general among chickenhawks, should have smelled a rat on the "sexed up" intel used to dupe a majority in Congress...29 Democratic Senators went over to the dark side on the war vote, as I recall...were they idiots or A-holes too?

General Powell should have resigned, rather than put our forces in harm's way unnecessarily, in an elective war, while Afghanistan still was a deadly combat zone...he was duped? Or was he corrupted by power? I believe that today, he regrets his actions.

By: pswindle on 3/1/13 at 10:47

Sen. Hagel should have been comfirmed. The GOP was trying to harm the President, but they were really going after our country, and did not have enough sense to know it.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 3/1/13 at 10:50

pswindle, it's more like they just don't care.

By: brrrrk on 3/1/13 at 12:10

Loner said

"Mike, I'd add Colin Powell to the wanted list of US war criminals...as a general, he should have known better; he acted like an uncle tom, carrying water on the Bush plantation.."

I don't know if I'd go that far Loner. From what I've read, Powell was a useful pawn who underestimated the lengths that the Bush Administration would go to get their way.... naive, yes... but I don't know about war criminal.

By: yogiman on 3/1/13 at 12:33

I hate to say this, brrrrk, but there's lots of issues you guys have opinions about that you have no knowledge of.

But then, it's just an opinion..., right?

By: Captain Nemo on 3/1/13 at 1:41

Dumb-ass yogi, you have only one opinion and it does matter.

By: dargent7 on 3/1/13 at 1:49

This whole topic called, "The War in Iraq" is beyond redundant.
It has been proven with 100% certainty, Cheney concocted the whole act/ episode.
Out of his loyalty to OIL. Big OIL. Halliburton, Shell, BP, Exxon-Mobil.
His lap dogs who wanted a job: Wolfowitz, Bremmner, Rice, and (sadly) Powell all colluded to frame Saddam.
It's all well documented from numerous sources.
Any nit-wit who believes Saddam was behind 9/11 needs to be impaled, castrated, then incarcerated.
America's life changed with 9/11, but our response proved to the world how incredibly corrupt and stupid we really are. That our politicians at the highest level will "sell out" and LIE.
Elected "Servants of the people"?
No. On "the take", in someone's pocket, on someone's payroll, beholden to somebody.

By: dargent7 on 3/1/13 at 1:56

Re: Powell. Blood is on his hands. Just like Pontious Pilot.
He knew better, but went along as Secretary of State. Followed orders.
His presentation before the UN Security Council was a "Dog & Pony".
And, all Senators who voted for that shit war had to....to vote against going to war would appear, "unpatriotic".
All except Barack Obama who voted "No".
Caveat: Obama's "the correct", "War in Afghanistan" is 100% bullshit at this point.
Another "winding down the war" until 2015 is insane nonsense.

By: yogiman on 3/1/13 at 2:26

Thank you, dumba$$. I'm glad you think my opinion does matter.

You might want to check this article out: Is he Barack Obama or Harrison J. Bounel?


By: Captain Nemo on 3/1/13 at 2:35

It matters to a pigs ass, yog.

I was wondering if you would ever reply.