The Crucifixion of Chuck Hagel

This Christmas is a bleak one for those who hold out hope that there might be peace on earth — or just a more peaceful earth.

In the Middle East, wars and rumors of war roil an already volatile region. A proxy war in Syria shows every sign of metastasizing into a larger, regional conflict, with the protagonists — Syria’s Ba’athist regime and the US-supported jihadists of the rebel army — digging in for a long fight. After the conclusion of the Israeli attack on Gaza, which was turned into a shooting gallery by the IDF, the region is smoldering with a murderous hatred. Iraq still bleeds, and there are low-profile but high-casualty conflicts in Yemen, Bahrain, and Pakistan — conflicts where the US is a major player.

And looming over it all is the prospect of The Big One — war with Iran.

For the past five or six years, the propaganda campaign against Iran has been going full speed: the neoconservatives, a small but influential faction within the Republican party (albeit with several Democratic fellow-travelers), have been agitating for a US attack on Tehran, just as loudly and insistently as they clamored for war with Iraq.

However, the neocons have a big problem: the American people are not only sick of war, they are sick of the neocons. The same people who told them Saddam had “weapons of mass destruction” stashed beneath his palace, who told them the Iraqis would greet us with showers of rose petals instead of bullets, who reassured them that the war would somehow pay for itself with Iraq’s oil revenues, who insisted Gen. Shinseki was wrong when he said it would take hundreds of thousands of US soldiers to occupy Iraq — these very same people, who should have been long ago discredited and relegated to the Index of Proscribed Pundits, are back retailing the same tired old canards, only this time directed at Iran. Their problem is that nobody believes them — except, of course, in Washington, D.C., world capital of criminal cluelessness.

Washington is different from the rest of the country — and I’m not just talking about real estate values. In the Real America, nobody believes you can spend more than you can take in — in Washington, however, spending more than you take in is not only possible, it’s mandatory. Outside the Beltway, ordinary Americans want to subject the Pentagon to radical spending cuts, and would prefer not to have to cut Grandma’s Social Security so that the military contractors who contribute so much to our incumbent politicians have plenty of tax dollars to spend on presents this Christmas: in Washington, however, real defense cuts are “off the table.” Out in the heartland, the very idea of another war horrifies ordinary folks — in Washington, it gives them a hard-on.

This is the Great Divide, and it is this great yawning chasm that has given the neocons their power: for while a malignant dwarf like Bill Kristol, the little Lenin of the neocons, may inspire revulsion in the average American, in Washington he’s a respected and powerful figure, one whose lust for combat — albeit from a safe distance — counts for much in determining what course our foreign policy will take. In such a town, David  “Axis of Evil” Frum, who has “spent his career,” as conservative columnist Timothy Carney put it, “singing odes to war and purging those who wanted peace,” is considered a “moderate” — because he’s calling for tax hikes in order to pay for his favorite pastime.

If we allowed the soldiers in the field to vote on who should be the next Secretary of Defense, President Obama’s first choice, former Republican senator Chuck Hagel — a Vietnam veteran and the recipient of two Purple Hearts, whose work at the Veterans Administration during the Reagan years endeared him to vets — would win hands down. In Washington, however, as the Washington Post averred, he’s outside the “mainstream,” a “fringe” character who’s well to the “left” of our bipartisan let’s-go-to-war-at-the-drop-of-a-hat “consensus.”

It’s a sad commentary on the Washingtonian mindset that a foreign policy “realist” like Hagel is considered the 21st century equivalent of Abbie Hoffman, but these people live in a bubble where the outdated “left-right” paradigm still dictates our political choices. Yet the majority of Republicans out in the country support Hagel’s basic position — caution, retrenchment, paring down the Pentagon — the very stances Hagel is being pilloried for by the likes of Lindsey Graham.

That Washington is America’s Bizarro World was vividly dramatized when Sen. Dan Coates attacked Hagel for — wait for it — being “disrespectful of the military“! What this can  mean when applied to a two-time winner of the Purple Heart, a Vietnam vet who was severely wounded in action and spent his entire time at the VA fighting for vets, is beyond me — but, then again, I don’t live inside the Beltway.

We know what this is about: it’s about the fanatic supporters of Israel’s current extremist government demanding absolute fealty to Tel Aviv. The “Emergency Committee for Israel” is running television ads in the Washington, D.C. area screeching that “Hagel is not an option.” They get to determine what America’s options are, don’tcha know — and that’s been true for too long.

But maybe not for much longer. The Isra-bots know this is a test case, a challenge to their hegemony in the foreign policy realm: if Hagel is nominated and confirmed, their power is broken. That’s why they’re going all out to defeat him — and  it’s a campaign rife with unintentional humor.

The latest mudball to be flung at Hagel is the allegation that he’s a “homophobe.” I put the word in quotes because it’s one of those made-up words — and made up “crimes” — that medicalize differences of opinion and are meant to bully people into submitting to a set of rigid ideological (and cultural) assumptions. So the charge is BS from the get go, but as to the substance of the accusation — you knew I’d get to that — it involves Hagel’s unfortunate interaction with James C. Hormel, a major Democratic party contributor who managed to get appointed Ambassador to Luxembourg (after Fiji made it clear he might get arrested for his sexual orientation) by Bill Clinton. Hagel accused Hormel of being “aggressively gay” — a phrase that now will go down in history as one of the more absurd examples of the aforesaid “homophobia” we’re all supposed to think is well behind us.

The spectacle of real gay-bashers like Bill Kristol (who once organized a national conference around the idea that homosexuals must be “cured” of their “affliction”) and Dan Senor — who, as head of Mitt Romney’s campaign, presided over the firing of a gay foreign policy advisor — broadcasting charges of “homophobia” against Hagel underscores the cynicism with which these opportunists pursue their aims. Their aim is to get Hagel, and they don’t care how they do it — indeed, one of the anti-Hagel team’s big talking points is the argument that Obama should appoint a Democrat, listless bureaucrat and reliable warmonger Michele Flournoy.

Which brings us to the “left”-wing of the grand coalition coalescing against Hagel’s nomination: in a broadcast remarkable for its evasiveness — the word “Israel” is never mentioned — Rachel Maddow reiterated the history of the Hormel-Hagel brouhaha, and said she doesn’t know if he’s “really sorry” for his remarks. She went into a tirade about how Democratic presidents should dispel the myth that only Republicans can be warmongers ensure our “national security" by appointing Democrats to head up the Pentagon. 

Rachel Maddow in bed with Bill Kristol and Dan Senor? What a cozy marriage.

On the gay issue, Steve Clemons has provided us with an inside look at Hagel’s real attitude toward gays, as opposed to the view he held 14 years ago. And another thing Rachel forgot to mention in her broadcast — that Hormel has himself forgiven if not forgotten, and, many hours before her vituperative rant, endorsed Hagel on his  Facebook page.

Just to be clear: Maddow “reported” Hormel had not accepted Hagel’s apology, when in fact he had accepted it — long before her remarks were broadcast.

And while Maddow didn’t mention the actual, you know, issues at stake in this fight — i.e. Hagel’s views on Iran sanctions, intervention in Syria, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — there is a foreign policy agenda behind her ranting, to be sure. Maddow and her buddy Richard Engel have been propagandizing for US intervention in Syria, just like they valorized the Libyan “revolution”: Hagel, like most Americans, wants us to stay far away from that particular viper’s nest.

Maddow and her new neoconservative buddies couldn’t care less about Hagel’s views on homosexuality, which are, in any case, irrelevant: The repeal of DADT is now official policy, and the new Secretary of Defense is bound by law to enforce it the new policy. And you’ll note that, while on the screen we got to read about Hagel’s expressed commitment to “LGBT families,” Rachel didn’t say those words, only repeating his contention that his past remarks don’t reflect the totality of his public record. The significance of the remark about families is that Hagel is signaling he supports giving gays in the military the same benefits (housing, PX privileges, etc.) available to heterosexual couples. Maddow, the “aggressively gay” upfront lesbian, apparently could care less about that pledge, although Hormel specifically mentions this in his Facebook endorsement.

This goes way beyond mere dishonesty — is there even a word in the English language that encompasses the awe-inspiring cynicism of such outright deception?

It’s sickening to watch, this crucifixion of a man of integrity and honesty, at the hands of Washington’s Pharisees. But this isn’t about Hagel anymore: it isn’t even completely about foreign policy, although that’s the core of my own motivation in supporting him. It’s about how Washington embodies all that is evil, degenerate, and poisonous in our culture: it’s about the herd mentality that sniffs out anyone considered an “outsider” — i.e. anyone of independent mind — and seeks to destroy him.

Outside the Beltway, Hagel is a logical choice for SecDef: inside that bubble of evil, he’s a candidate for demonization — and that should tell us everything that’s wrong with our degenerate political class.

The atmospherics surrounding this controversy remind me of the mood that prevailed in Washington and much of the country in the run up to the invasion of Iraq: once again, we are confronted with fabricated “evidence” that some Middle Eastern country is assembling “weapons of mass destruction.” Once again, anyone who looks like they’re trying to avoid war rather than provoke it is smeared as “unpatriotic,” and worse. The only difference is that, this time, the War Party isn’t bothering to hide the fact that we will be fighting Israel’s war.

We have the Israeli Prime Minister calling almost daily for a military strike. There he is at the UN with his ridiculous cartoon of a “chart,” demanding we put American lives on the line in order to save Israel from “another Holocaust” — an absurd contention about a nation that has handily beaten its enemies in every war it has ever fought, and which is armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons. And we have the Emergency Committee for Israel leading the charge against Hagel, with the Weekly Standard broadcasting the threat of one anonymous coward of a Senate aide, who shrieked:

“Send us Hagel, and we will make sure every American knows he’s an anti-Semite.”

So if you believe, like Hagel, that war with Iran is “not a viable, feasible, responsible” option — a view he expressed some years ago, when we were still mired in Iraq — then you’re not only “not an option” for Secretary of Defense, you’re a Jew-hating bigot. Or, at least, some kind of bigot — maybe a “homophobe.” Or whatever.

The stakes in this battle are quite high: if the neocons win, they will get to set the terms of the debate over going to war with Iran — having smeared the opposition out of existence in advance. If they lose, it could be a turning point in the foreign policy debate in this country, leading to a period of glasnost in which the rigid assumptions that have dominated the national conversation — and made of it a monologue — are finally challenged.

That’s why I’m urging you to please sign — and  circulate — the White House petition in support of Chuck Hagel — because it’s high time we sent the neocons packing.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].