Eleven retired senior military officials signed a letter in support of former Republican senator Chuck Hagel’s potential nomination as the next Secretary of Defense. The letter, signed by Brent Scowcroft, William Fallon and Anthony Zinni, said Hagel “would be a strong leader” as the next Pentagon chief and that he’s “eminently qualified for the job”:
He is a decorated Vietnam veteran, a successful businessman, a leader in Ronald Reagan’s Veterans Administration and, since his election to the Senate in 1996, one of the country’s leading voices on foreign policy. He would bring a long term strategic vision to the job and the President’s Cabinet. … Most importantly, we believe that the person who can best lead the Pentagon is one who understands the importance of the challenges that our warfighter faces.
The letter comes after nine former U.S. ambassadors, including five former U.S. ambassadors to Israel, signed a letter on Thursday backing Hagel’s potential nomination. The signatories, which included Ryan Crocker, Nicholas Burns, Thomas Pickering and Daniel Kurtzer, said Hagel’s “credentials for the job are impeccable.” “Time and again he chose to take the path of standing up for our nation over political expediency,” the letter said, adding, “We can think of few more qualified, more non-partisan, more courageous or better equipped to head the Department of Defense at this critical moment.”
Since news of Hagel’s potential nomination surfaced last week, the “neocon smear machine” kicked into high gear, labeling the former Republican senator an anti-Semite and anti-Israel and expressing dismay that Hagel has offered words of caution on military action against Iran over its nuclear program. But in fact, Hagel’s record is solidly pro-Israel. He has spoken out against anti-Semitism and has praised President Obama’s Iran policy.
Liberal pro-Israel group J Street is also defending Hagel against the neocon attacks as well a number of prominent journalists, including the Daily Beast’s Andrew Sullivan, Peter Beinart and Ali Gharib, the Atlantic’s Robert Wright, Steve Clemons and Jim Fallows, John Judis of the New Republic, the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof and the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank. “[T]hese smears have been hugely counterproductive from a truly pro-Zionist standpoint,” Wright wrote on Wednesday. “What you’re seeing now is one of the final desperate spasms of a group that has already helped destroy the thing it loves, and will probably destroy a few other things before finally, like Joseph McCarthy, destroying itself and receding mercifully into the pages of history.”