Hmmm, maybe Chuck Hagel should run for president. This weekend he said some rarely voiced truths that desperately need to be heard. Consider this excerpt from ABC’s This Week:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s talk about Iraq. You mentioned the House Democrats passed their bill. Their version of the Iraq war funding bill this week which imposed benchmarks on the Iraqi government but also set a deadline for the removal of all U.S. combat forces. Can you sign on to that? … So combining legislation, what kind of conditions are you going to try to impose?
HAGEL: It will be binding legislation, and it will be focused on deployment, redeployment, training, equipment. What we’re doing to our force structure in this country is disastrous.
We essentially are ruining our National Guard. We are destroying our Army. We’re destroying our Marine Corps.
We can’t sustain this kind of not only deployment, but training tempo, and the consequences of that, you’re seeing at Walter Reed Hospital, for example and the consequences of that, for example, dumbing down your United States Army. We are now in a situation, we’re waiving criminal records, drug abuse records to entice people to join the Army. You are ruining a 30-year effort to produce, which we have, the best Army in the world.
HAGEL: I would want to see what, in the end, I have to vote on. Let me put it this way, I will not accept the status quo. I will not continue to support with my vote the status quo. I am opposed to the president’s current policy. I am opposed to the president’s further escalation of America’s military involvement. We are undermining our interest in the Middle East. We are undermining our military. We’re undermining the confidence of people around the world in what we’re doing.
And what is the senator’s response to the White House talking point that setting an early date for redeployment, not an actual withdrawal of troops (even though the one passed in the House last Friday is, as Brian Vogt noted last week, actually six months after the deadline suggested by the Iraq Study Group) is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory?
STEPHANOPOULOS: But the White House has argued, Stephen Hadley was here last week, that right now we’re actually seeing the increase in forces actually start to deliver some results in Baghdad. Don’t you see that at all?
HAGEL: No, I don’t see that. In fact, there are more incidents, not less. Sure, in parts of Baghdad, in overall Baghdad, over the last two or three weeks, we have seen some fewer, but not around the country. Look at what happened two days ago, one of the two vice presidents of Iraq was attacked there at his own compound and is lying mortally wounded in a hospital.
No, it isn’t getting any less dangerous, and the fact is that was predictable, the more American troops you flood into a zone, sure, you’re going to see some immediate effect of that but that has nothing to do with the long-term or lasting effect. This solution in Iraq is not going to come by continuing to put more and more Americans in there because we’re bogging ourselves down. We are further eroding our credibility and stature in the Middle East. It’s going to make it more and more difficult for us to get out because we are going to have to get out.
You know, we had the Inspector General testifying, our Inspector General, Mr. Bowen, he was testifying before the Congress this week. I met with him alone for an hour and a half. He reminded all of us that we have now spent almost a half a trillion dollars in Iraq. We have put at least 40 billion in economic development there. Which we don’t know what we got out of it. There’s still no oil law. Billions of dollars have been ripped off, unaccounted for, and one more point on this — over $12 billion of Iraqi money still sits in the accounts of the Iraqi government that they haven’t spent. So something has to give here, George.