The Hagel Haters

Who are they?

by , January 25, 2013

It’s said you can discern a man’s character by who his friends are, which may or may not be true, but in my view there’s a much more reliable way to gauge what someone’s all about: by who his enemies are. In Chuck Hagel‘s case, it tells the whole story.

Who are Hagel’s enemies? Here’s a by-no-means-comprehensive list:

Bill Kristol – It was Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard and the neocons’ little Lenin, who has been at the center of the anti-Hagel hate-fest: and it was the Standard that dropped the "he’s-an-anti-Semite" bomb on the Hagel nomination, "reporting" the vicious remarks of an anonymous Senate aide:

"Send us Hagel and we’ll make sure every American knows he’s an anti-Semite."

The reason for Kristol’s animus? He’s the exact opposite of Hagel in every respect: a laptop bombardier who’s never been anywhere near the military and yet who, nevertheless, has spent a lot of time and energy over the years making the case for perpetual war. Kristol’s "Project for a New American Century" agitated ceaselessly for war with Iraq, just as it’s successor, the "Foreign Policy Initiative," has relentlessly called for war with Iran. Here is a man who vowed to "crush Serb skulls" during the run up to our illegal and unnecessary war in the Balkans, and vowed to leave the GOP if the Republicans in Congress blocked Clinton’s war moves. As the ideologue-in-chief of the chickenhawk brigade, his magazine has become the Hagel Hater’s headquarters, reporting every criticism of the former Senator from Nebraska, from the Israel lobby to the gay lobby with bated breath and comic inconsistency. This is the first known instance in which the Weekly Standard has shown sympathy for the gay cause – and it will surely be the last.

Emergency Committee for Israel – a group of extremist supporters of Israel’s Likud party, including Kristol, which ran attack ads during the last presidential election featuring a foreign leader – Bibi Netanyahu – criticizing an American President. I wouldn’t call the Committee a "fifth column," however, since such subversive groups tend to stay below the radar, and these guys are eager to claim the spotlight. Their ads against Hagel, which ran in the Washington, D.C. area, accuse Hagel of being insufficiently enthused about going to war with Iran – a view held by the overwhelming majority of Americans.

American Future Fund – A major recipient of money from Charles and David H. Koch, the AFF is running ads attacking New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, accusing him of having made a secret deal to become Majority Leader in return for supporting Hagel’s nomination. During the 2012 election, the AFF spent over $50 million in television ads attacking Obama and leading Democrats as being opposed to "free enterprise": their latest anti-Hagel ads target the former Nebraska Senator for being on the board of Chevron – one of Koch Oil‘s biggest competitors.

"Americans for a Strong Defense" – This recently organized neocon front group is running ads in blue states designed to pressure Democratic Senators to vote against Hagel’s confirmation.

The pitch:

"ANNOUNCER: We live in a dangerous world. Iran.

REPORTER: Brand new threats from Iran aimed squarely at the United States.

ANNOUNCER: North Korea.

REPORTER: North Korea launched a long-range missile.

REPORTER: That could target the United States.

ANNOUNCER: Even Russia.

REPORTER: Russia says that its test fired a new intercontinental ballistic missile.

ANNOUNCER: But Barack Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense wants America to back down. An end to our nuclear program. Devastating defense cuts. A weaker country. Call [Senator/s] and tell [him/her/them] to say no to Chuck Hagel – before it’s too late."

The principals:

Brian Hook, George W. Bush’s former assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs, whose resume includes stints advising two UN ambassadors: neocon favorites Zalmay Khalilzad and John Bolton. He was also a foreign policy advisor to Mitt Romney’s campaign.

Mauricio Claver-Carone, executive director of Cuba Democracy Advocates, and a tireless opponent of trade liberalization, known as an extremist one-man show on Capitol Hill.

Danny Diaz, another veteran of Romney’s disastrous campaign, whose PR firm, FP1 Strategies, is behind the effort to tax online retailers like Amazon.com for the benefit of big retailers like Walmart.

The group is a 501(c)4 nonprofit, which means it doesn’t have to report its donors: the enormous sums which go into buying expensive television ads and full-page newspaper ads are being funded by secret sugar daddies (or mommies, as the case may be). We don’t even know if they’re Americans.

So, it’s just the neocons who are against Hagel, and are actively organizing to scotch his confirmation? Well, no – there’s also the neocons’ useful idiots, such as the Log Cabin Republicans, a group of gay GOP’ers who had no problem supporting a presidential candidate who fired one of his foreign policy advisors for being openly gay, but who suddenly discovered Hagel’s alleged "homophobia" after accepting a huge donation from an anonymous source which went to pay for a full-page anti-Hagel newspaper ad. Their chief spokesman, who initially had only praise for Hagel, suddenly changed his tune – and mysteriously resigned his position shortly after this about-face. Another "Hagel-isn’t-gay-enough" type is Rachel Maddow, whose anti-Hagel diatribes never mention the two issues central to the debate: Israel and Iran. While Rachel has no direct connection to the neocons that I know of, she does indeed have a connection to General Electric, which owns MSNBC – and which is one of the biggest military contractors around. GE stands to lose billions if Hagel’s plans to downsize the Pentagon come to fruition.

Christians United for Israel (CUFI) has got to be one of the biggest, and most pathetically comical, of all the Useful Idiots: they are a highly organized and well-funded group of born-again Christians of the dispensationalist variety, whose theology holds that Israel must be supported unconditionally and forever, because that’s God’s Will. They believe Israel will be attacked by the Anti-Christ, and that this war – World War III – will end in the victory of God’s Legions, and the Second Coming of Christ. Their leader, the Rev. John Hagee, is a full-bore nut-job who says Catholicism is "a godless theology of hate," and that Hitler’s attempt to exterminate the Jews was part of God’s "divine plan" to create the state of Israel. CUFI organized a petition that garnered 17,000 names opposing Hagel, and the group plans to travel to Capitol Hill to lobby against his confirmation.

Under the general heading of Useful Idiots we can also include those far-leftists, and other sectarians, who refuse to believe on principle that anyone nominated to head up the Pentagon could possibly be good news for peace advocates. Unable to see the issue in context, and oblivious to the real implications of a challenge to neocon hegemony in the foreign policy field, these sectarians refuse to see any value in supporting someone whose confirmation will open up the foreign policy debate. After all, he won’t be dismantling the American Empire in one fell swoop.

The list of Hagel’s enemies could go on, and on: suffice to say that every neocon shill in the country is up in arms over the Hagel nomination – and this should tell us something.

Why is a political faction fanatically devoted to war expending all these resources on a campaign to demonize a man whose views on matters such as the Israeli-Palestinian peace process are irrelevant to the position he’s been appointed to – a military man who is hardly likely to disarm the United States and bring about "an end to our nuclear program"? Aside from the sheer fun of wasting the Kochs’ cash, why spend good money attacking Sen. Schumer, whose reelection is 99.9 percent assured?

The reason is because devoted warmongers cannot stay silent in the face of what Hagel’s nomination represents: a strategic shift in the US military posture, one the President intends to set in motion during his second term – away from an offensive mode, and back to a pre-9/11 defensive mode.

The Bush years were the era of "preventive" warfare – marked by a strike on Afghanistan made ostensibly to prevent future terrorist attacks, and an invasion of Iraq justified in the name of preventing the use of "weapons of mass destruction" Saddam Hussein never possessed in the first place. Both of these campaigns were justified by the so-called Bush Doctrine, which proclaimed America’s "right" to attack anyone, anywhere, for any reason.

The Hagel Doctrine, however, represents quite a different mindset. Hagel, a veteran of Vietnam, has said his experience in that conflict made him determined to avoid unnecessary wars and to view military action only as the very last resort. He has said we need to "talk to our enemies" – heresy as far as the neocons are concerned, whose studied arrogance during the Bush era precluded any negotiations short of issuing ultimatums.

The accusations of "anti-Israel" bias are largely a smokescreen to hide the real issue: the post-9/11 downsizing (albeit not dismantling) of the American empire, and the undoing of the neocon coup that took place right after 9/11. That’s how Colin Powell described the neoconservative capture of the national security apparatus in the early days of the Bush administration, and that’s precisely what occurred: the displacement of the traditional military-diplomatic community in favor of the neocons’ hand-picked personnel, who faked "evidence" of Iraq’s WMD and lied us into war. Deeply embedded in the national security bureaucracy, the neocons will face a formidable enemy in Hagel, who will doubtless fill the Pentagon policy shop with those who share his "realist" sympathies – and root out those who don’t.

If Hagel is confirmed, it will mark the end of neocon influence in Washington foreign policy circles – and, perhaps, their permanent eclipse as an effective political force. What more could we ask for or hope for?

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

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Buy my biography of the great libertarian thinker, An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), here.

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