Dec 21 2012
President Barack Obama’s possible nomination of former Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense is coming under intense criticism and scrutiny from pro-Israeli voices in Washington and also the LGBT community. White House press secretary Jay Carney issued a statement yesterday in support of Hagel saying, “Senator Hagel fought and bled for his country. He served his country well.” Hagel, a Republican Vietnam veteran and war hero, would replace current Secretary of Defense Leon Pannetta who has served under the Obama Administration since 2011.
The strongest criticism against Hagel is aimed at his supposedly anti-Israel policies and a statement he made during an interview with American Diplomat Aaron David Miller in 2006 in which he defended his position on Israel saying, “I’m a United States senator, not an Israeli senator.” Those statements have led some to call him an anti-Semite.
While the powerful pro-Israeli lobby group AIPAC has not made any statements about his potential nomination, other groups like the Anti-Defamation League have criticized Hagel’s voting record as being too easy on Hezbollah and Iran. Hagel has questioned the effectiveness of sanctions against Iran and has stated that, “a military strike against Iran, a military option, is not a viable, feasible, responsible option.”
The LGBT community is also critical of the possibility of Hagel’s nomination. Just last night the New York Times reported that Hagel had reservations about James Hormel’s nomination as U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg in the late 90s, saying “Ambassadorial posts are sensitive . . . I think it is an inhibiting factor to be gay — openly aggressively gay like Mr. Hormel — to do an effective job.” Hagel was also against a repeal of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.’
Chuck Hagel is currently a professor at Georgetown University and is considered a moderate Republican who endorsed Barack Obama in the 2008 election and even considered being Obama’s vice presidential running mate. Policy makers are quick to point out that while the position of Secretary of Defense is one of the most powerful seats in the US Government, it is not one which has any part in formulating Middle East policy.
GUEST: Jim Lobe, chief of the Washington bureau of Inter Press Service
Click here to read his article.