On CNN’s “Late Edition” today Wolf Blitzer interviewed outspoken critic of the Iraq war, Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. Blitzer asked Hagel about critics of the war who say that the president is ignoring reality and living in a dream world.
Hegel replied, “Well, I think this is another episode of Alice in Wonderland, what’s up is down and what’s down is up. What do you mean stability and security? Baghdad, for example, has been, over the last year, essentially, ethnically divided. You’ve separated the Sunnis and the Shias. And to somehow make some assertion that things are looking much, much better in Baghdad and its calm again and it’s back to where it used to be is just not the case.”
He continued, “And when you look at the casualties the United States has taken since the so-called military surge, over 900 deaths; you look at almost 30,000 wounded and the money we’ve put in there — and then the other point of this is, too, if, in fact, the surge has calmed things to a point where the president and others are saying, well, they’ve done a great service and they’ve achieved some terrific things, why then is the administration talking about keeping more American troops in Iraq for the remainder of this year than we had before the surge?”
Hagel also had some tough words for the positions of all three remaining presidential candidates on Iraq. “Well, obviously, what I’ve heard, like the American people have heard, is McCain, on one side, saying we’ll stay there until there’s victory and whatever it takes, we’re going to win. On the other side, both Obama and Clinton have both said, we’re coming out. That’s not good enough. Because each of the two final candidates are going to have to enunciate how we are coming out; how responsibly are we coming out? Under what basis? Under what timeline?”
The Senator elaborated on his point, “I don’t agree with John McCain — and you know this, Wolf. I think John and the president and others have put the Iraqi situation in the wrong context. This isn’t a win or lose. The Iraqi people will decide whether they want — the government they want in place and when. We can help them. But we shouldn’t be framing this up as win or lose. Because, when we do that — and this is where I have a major disagreement with McCain — then, on that basis, we’ll be there forever. Because the Iraqis are going to have to find some political accommodation, some political reconciliation to fix this, just as General Petraeus said.”
I have the upmost respect for Chuck Hagel. He is veteran who has seen combat, and when he saw that this war was a mistake, he wasn’t afraid to buck the flag waving in his party and speak his mind. I think Hagel has a better understanding of what it will take to get out of Iraq than either the president, or the three remaining major party presidential candidates.
It will be possible for the Democratic nominee to elaborate on their position during the general election campaign, but it is clear that Hagel believes that we can’t afford four more years of hope and spin on this war. If Bush/Cheney/McCain all want to drink the Kool-Aid on Iraq that is their choice, but our troops are the people who are those responsible for paying the ultimate price for their fantasy.
Read the whole interview: