Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel takes to the witness table shortly to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Some of Hagel’s harshest detractors sit on the panel, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and James Inhofe (R-OK), so it’s sure to be filled with several misleading statements that distort Hagel’s record. Here’s a few things to bear in mind while watching the hearings take place:
1. Hagel has been a strong supporter of Israel
One of the most frequent attacks against Hagel is that he is somehow “anti-Semitic” or hostile towards the state of Israel. In fact, Hagel has maintains a strong pro-Israel record. The smears against Hagel by neoconservatives have been heavily challenged and debunked over the past several weeks. Among Hagel’s supporters include a multitude of past military officials and bipartisan, as well as Israeli government officials and think tanks.
2. Hagel’s Iran policy lines up squarely with the President’s
Hagel has also taken heat for criticizing frantic drumbeats for war with Iran by neoconservatives, and his belief that unilateral sanctions against Iran are less effective than multilateral sanctions. Conservatives have also gleefully pointed to Iranian propaganda that welcomed Hagel’s nomination as a sign he should be disqualified. But Hagel has repeatedly stated that “all options remain on the table” when confronting Iran over its nuclear program, the same position as the current administration. In a lengthy set of pre-hearing questions, Hagel made clear his stance on the matter. “If confirmed, I will focus intently on ensuring that U.S. military is in fact prepared for any contingency,” he said his response.
3. Hagel backs recent changes to the make up of the Armed Services
Hagel has come out strongly in favor of the lifting of the ban on the service of gay and lesbian citizens in the military and has pledged to continue to implement the lift of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” While he drew scorn for his deeming a Clinton apointee “openly aggressively gay,” Hagel has since apologized and the apology has been accepted. Hagel also backs the recent shift signed into effect by current Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta that lifts the ban on women serving in combat.
4. Hagel believes in a future nuclear-free world…just not today.
Chuck Hagel has also been attacked for his affiliation with a group known as Global Zero, which seeks a future free of nuclear weapons. Hagel has been attacked recently with claims that he favors fully scrapping the nuclear arsenal of the United States unilaterally. The truth is that Hagel shares the thought of President Obama that the United States can reduce its nuclear stockpile while still providing an effective deterrent, and co-authored legislation with then Sen. Obama to halt nuclear proliferation. Their vision for a world without nuclear weapons was also held by radical peacenik President Ronald Reagan.
5. Hagel would be the first Vietnam veteran to serve as Secretary of Defense
Should he be confirmed, Hagel would be the first veteran of the Vietnam-era to lead the civilian side of the armed forces. His views towards the use of force were molded during that conflict, along with recently confirmed Secretary of State John Kerry. As such, he has proved hesitant to commit United States forces into conflicts where American goals and interests are unclear. This view was a strong part of his vocal criticism of the Iraq War launched under the Bush administration.