Skip to comments.Hagel sounds alarm over Iraq
Posted on 06/26/2005 5:54:23 AM PDT by hipaatwo
GRAND ISLAND, Neb. - More than 200 Nebraska American Legion members, who have seen war and conflict themselves, fell quiet here Saturday as Sen. Chuck Hagel bluntly explained why he believes that the United States is losing the war in Iraq.
Sen. Chuck Hagel addresses more than 200 Nebraska American Legion members in Grand Island on Saturday.
It took 20 minutes, but it boiled down to this:
The Bush team sent in too few troops to fight the war leading to today's chaos and rising deaths of Americans and Iraqis. Terrorists are "pouring in" to Iraq.
Basic living standards are worse than a year ago in Iraq. Civil war is perilously close to erupting there. Allies aren't helping much. The American public is losing its trust in President Bush's handling of the conflict.
And Hagel's deep fear is that it will all plunge into another Vietnam debacle, prompting Congress to force another abrupt pullout as it did in 1975.
"What we don't want to happen is for this to end up another Vietnam," Hagel told the legionnaires, "because the consequences would be catastrophic."
It would be far worse than Vietnam, says Hagel, a twice-wounded veteran of that conflict, which killed 58,000 Americans.
Failure in Iraq could lead to many more American deaths, disrupt U.S. oil supplies, damage the Middle East peace effort, spread terrorism and harm America's stature worldwide, Hagel said.
That's what keeps him on edge these days.
That's why he is again the most outspoken Republican in Congress about Iraq. His view that America is losing in Iraq, which first aired in a newsmagazine last week, prompted rebukes from conservatives such as talk show host Rush Limbaugh, concerns from others in his party and praise from anti-war advocates on the Internet.
But Saturday, he was unrepentant.
"The point is, we're going to have to make some changes or we will lose, we will lose in Iraq," he told the legionnaires.
At the same time, he said, he wants President Bush to win, and he believes that the United States cannot pull out anytime soon.
The legionnaires gave him a standing ovation at the end of his speech. Carl Marks of Omaha, a Korean War veteran, said: "It sounds like he's conflicted . . . like a lot of us."
Bennie Navratil of Hallam, Neb., whose son left last week for military duty in Afghanistan, said, "I feel he said the right thing: that we can't pull out and something's got to change."
Aboard a plane back to Omaha, Hagel was asked whether he thought Bush was aware that adjustments might be needed in his Iraq policy.
"I don't know," Hagel said.
The whole Iraqi situation makes him sick to his stomach, he said.
"It has tormented me, torn me more than any one thing," he said with a grim look on his face. "To see what these guys in Iraq are having to go through and knowing what I know here: that we didn't prepare for it, we didn't understand what we were getting into. And to put those guys in those positions, it makes me so angry."
He lays part of the blame on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who argued before the war that he needed only 150,000 American troops in Iraq. That caused more casualties than were needed, Hagel said.
"We still don't have enough troops," he said. "We should have had double or triple the number."
It has led to a bleak situation, Hagel said:
Insurgent attacks are more frequent than a year ago. Bombs used by insurgents are growing more deadly, piercing America's best protective clothing and equipment. Oil production is down. Electricity is less available than a year ago. Economic development is lagging. Ninety percent of the humanitarian and economic aid pledged by 60 nations hasn't reached Iraq because of the continuing violence. Only one Middle Eastern country has an ambassador in Iraq.
Bush has said America is fighting in Iraq with a "coalition of the willing," allies who have committed a relatively small number of troops and aid.
Hagel scoffed at that idea. "It's a joke to say there's a coalition of the willing," he said, adding that many are pulling out and the United States is fronting the bills for those who remain.
Meanwhile, U.S. troops are under severe strain. Troops are stationed in more than 100 countries, and their rapid tempo of deployments with little time off leaves them fatigued and in danger of making mistakes.
"We are destroying the finest military in the history of mankind, and the (National) Guard, too," he said. "We're stretching our Army to the breaking point."
Public pronouncements from the Bush administration also have gotten under Hagel's skin. Vice President Dick Cheney's recent comments that the insurgents in Iraq are in "the last throes" echo a refrain of the Vietnam era, he said.
Back then, officials saw "the light at the end of the tunnel" in Vietnam, Hagel said.
Toting up all those points, he said, leads him to conclude that the United States is losing in Iraq.
"That doesn't mean we have to lose," he said.
In his speech and in an interview, Hagel offered some ideas that he thinks could help in Iraq:
U.S. troops and others could work harder to train local militias in small Iraqi towns to help identify and take on insurgents. Allies who don't want to enter Iraq could help patrol its borders, blocking terrorists from entering the war-torn country. The training of Iraq's military and military police should be accelerated immediately.
Middle Eastern nations should become more engaged, he said, but it doesn't help when administration officials criticize Egypt and Saudi Arabia for not moving quickly enough toward democratic practices.
Hagel said he shaped his views after many talks recently with senior U.S. military officials; foreign policy experts; Brent Scowcroft, who was the first President Bush's national security adviser; and others. He plans to share his views with the current president and his team and says he feels an urgency he hopes they will share.
The United States has only about six more months to begin to turn things around in Iraq, he said.
"I believe that there can be a good outcome in Iraq," he said. "I also believe there could be a very bad outcome for Iraq. I believe we have a very limited time for that good outcome."
Maybe he can run as an independent in 08 as the VP to McCain.
Than why did he vote FOR the war to begin with? They all had a a choice and they gave President Bush carte-blanche. Including the dims.
Kinda sounds like I voted for it before I was against it sort of thing, doesn't it?
Thank ypu, Senator Hagel but I will trust Secretaty Rumsfield and the officers of our military to decide what and when we need to win in Iraq.
I rememberr too well the last time Washington made military decisions.
If the Generals wanted more troops, they would have gotten more troops.
This limp wristed POS should just keep his mouth shut, if he is only giving
his feelings as an example. It appears his next election cycle is in 2010. Lets not forget.
Hagel's comments are making me sick to my stomach. What a RINO. Feeding the leftist-media-panic-the-sky-is-falling-we're-in-a-quagmire flames.
This is just more of the same B.S. I see on the news.
Yes Hagel listened to Brent Scowcroft, who chummied up to Beijing right after Tianamen Square in 1989, who did not want to finish off Sadaam in 1991, who was more afraid of what would happen if the USSR broke up than he was of the USSR, and who insisted on Bush doing nothing in the Balkans.
Yes Hagel listened to the one "Republican" "adviser" who had always advised doing nothing.
Hagel's complaints based on Hagel's predictions of what will happen in Iraq are nothing other than setting his own marker on a "see I told you so" pointl, knowing that if he is wrong no one will remember he was wrong; because he was just trying to sound a "concern".
His "we did not send in enough troops to start with mantra" is right out of the Dims playbook, and he knows it.
If Hagel is so worried, then why is he mouthing off in public--thereby helping the very folks who WANT us to lose the Iraq war--the Democrats and the rest of the anti-war (actually anti-America) leftists.
Again, I ask.
How do the "deficiencies" that Sen. Hagel cites, translate into "losing" in Iraq? These incidents do present difficulties, true, but nobody EVER said winning would be an easy walk in the park. Should the US wind down and depart from Iraq prematurely, the situation in Cambodia, as that tormented land was turned into a vast killing field by Pol Pot, will seem almost pastoral in comparison.
Now is not the time to go wobbly, Chuck.
And to think people actually voted for this sniveling twit.
With due respect, Senator, none of your suggestions are worth a tin fart.
I respect Hagel's service, but he's clearly got "Vietnam syndrome" and he's being even less constructive than Medea Benjamin.
Hagel found out that being a "Ckicken Little" gets a lot of press.
More troops = more targets for Saudi scumbags.
Thanks for your input Chuck. We'll get back to you.
Middle Eastern nations should become more engaged, he said....
Ummm, aren't we already doing all of that...?
...but it doesn't help when administration officials criticize Egypt and Saudi Arabia for not moving quickly enough toward democratic practices.
And if 43 kept silent, you'd damn him for that, wouldn't you, Chuckie?
Gad, what a poseur.
First it was "Bush wants to restart the draft!". That stupid trick didn't work because it was obvious he never said that.
So next they said
Which was still stupid because there was obviously no need for more troops so now they:
over here: and then over here: (let's start the draft) See! They are calling for the draft!
over here: and then over here: (we need more troops) See! We need to restart the draft!
As a Nebraskan, I wish to apologize to everyone in the world for Chuck Hagel. Just another reason I vote Libertarian.
Can't be much of a military that is destroyed by losing 1,750 men. This guy's as bad as Durbin. Overheated and ridiculous.
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