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A Republican McGovern By: Ben Johnson
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Senator Chuck Hagel, R-NE, has adopted a curious 2008 presidential strategy: repeating one of the worst rhetorical excesses of the left. On Sunday, Hagel told George Stephanopoulos’ faltering ABC Weapon of Ratings Destruction, “This Week”:

By any standard, when you analyze 2 1/2 years in Iraq...we're not winning…[N]ow we are locked into a bogged-down problem not unsimilar, dissimilar to where we were in Vietnam. The longer we stay, the more problems we're going to have.

He continued:

What I think the White House does not yet understand — and some of my colleagues — the dam has broke on this policy. The longer we stay there, the more similarities [with Vietnam] are going to come together.

Thus did a potential 2008 Republican presidential hopeful echo Ted Kennedy, who long ago labeled Iraq “George Bush’s Vietnam” and declared, “The U.S. military presence has become part of the problem, not part of the solution.

The Vietnam analogy is fallacious and malicious, regardless of its source. America is not defending a dictatorship or fighting a sovereign nation to a Congressionally appointed standstill, as was the case in Vietnam; we overthrew a dictatorship with lightning speed in the “Shock and Awe” campaign. A new, democratic government rules the whole of the nation with an ethnic minority president, and is developing the capability to defend itself from foreign-born jihadists. The U.S. has roughly 150,000 troops deployed in Iraq, just more than half of the total number of soldiers presently deployed around the world, and about one-fourth the troop level at the height of the Vietnam Conflict in 1968. American GIs have accomplished all this in one-fifth the amount of time they served in Southeast Asia, with less than one-twenty-fifth the number of casualties.  

Despite the doomsayers, the Allied Coalition has enjoyed tremendous success in Operation Iraqi Freedom. After completing the most humane war in history, our troops have captured and killed thousands of terrorist time-bombs who otherwise would be plotting the next 9/11 on U.S. soil. As I have noted before, the two-week-long Operation Lightning, launched in June, led to the arrest of “more than 900 terrorists, including Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s ‘most trusted aide’ and many other top al-Qaeda operatives, killed more, and even freed one of our own hostages.” Later in the month, U.S. and native Iraqi forces arrested 13 suspected “insurgent” leaders in the Anbar province as part of “Operation Sword,” without a single allied casualty. This joins a growing list of successes in Iraq and the ever-increasing pace of reconstruction. One Navy volunteer summed up the situation well: “It's going a lot smoother than I expected. They're friendlier than I thought they would be.”


The only similarity between Iraq and Vietnam is, then as now, America is burdened by a malevolent “peace” movement that seeks to accomplish through political sabotage at home what the enemy cannot achieve on the battlefield with terrorist bombs and ambushes. The radically engineered “antiwar” demonstrations and carefully staged mass protests aim at forcing our political leadership to capitulate by withdrawing prematurely from a conflict zone. Vietnam tells us what the result of this stab-in-the-back strategy will be: the mass slaughter of innocents by Zarqawi and friends. In Indo-China, the Communists sent millions of freedom-loving civilians to the killing fields, after the Democrat-controlled Congress led by Ted Kennedy and his allies, at the behest of John Kerry cut off U.S. aid to Cambodia and South Vietnam. Today, the Mideast’s radical Islamist clerics have declared war on democracy, which they consider “unIslamic.” He who votes is an infidel and shall die by the sword, as prescribed in the Koran. All those who joyously waived ink-stained fingers in the streets of Iraq this year would be slaughtered first, followed by anyone who ever collaborated (or was suspected of having collaborated) with the Americans in quest of their freedom. Unlike Vietnam, however, the bloodbath would not be confined to Iraq. Freed from the pressure of U.S. troops, the terrorists would quickly resume their offensive in New York and Washington, only momentarily interrupted by the Bush-Rumsfeld offensive launched in the days after 9/11.


The terrorists’ most effective weapon in their efforts to revive the jihad has been the Left's campaign to demoralize the troops and erode the American public’s support for the war. Chuck Hagel has given them a plum quotation.


This has rightly outraged many genuine conservatives. Joe Scarborough – a scheduled speaker for this year’s Restoration Weekend – made a statement on his MSNBC program “Scarborough Country” on Monday night that puts Hagel’s action into perspective:


I‘m telling you right now, if Chuck Hagel or anybody that says anything that undercuts our troops as much as he did yesterday runs for president of the United States, I will do everything I can to try to defeat him. I would vote for Hillary Clinton before I voted for Chuck Hagel, because you know what? Hillary Clinton has never compared Iraq to Vietnam. He‘s a disgrace. And he needs to go back home, because we don‘t need his type in Washington, D.C.


Once again, Congressman Joe represents the feelings of the Average Joe: Hagel’s destructive rhetoric will cost him any attempt to lead this country in 2008 – and it may do a great deal more damage to those currently serving overseas. The only beneficiaries of his loquacious excesses are left-wing activists and Iraqi terrorist cells.


Par for the Course


It would not be the first time Chuck Hagel has written the ad copy of the far-Left. Hagel recently provided fodder for a TV commercial for the political action committee of MoveOn.org, which quotes the senator stammering the McGovernite phrase, “It’s time to come home.” (Remember, McGovern was a war hero, too.) In May, Hagel told U.S. News and World Report, “The reality is that we're losing in Iraq.” Although he supported toppling Saddam as far back as 1998, Hagel has voiced alarmist rhetoric about alleged Iraq-Vietnam parallels for years.


This adds to his criticism of the president’s foreign policy approach, in general. When George W. Bush classified Iran, Iraq, and North Korea an “Axis of Evil,” Hagel sniffled that this was “name-calling.” In addition to his sensitivity for the feelings of those who seek to kill us, Hagel shares another of the Left’s traits: an abiding belief that “coalitions for peace, coalitions for change will be our future, the world's future.” He joined Jimmy Carter on a jaunt to Cuba in 2002 and called for lifting the trade ban with Castro, terming this anti-totalitarian measure “senseless.”


It baffles as to how he hopes to parlay this into a presidential run. In a center-right party, aside from his position on some domestic issues, Hagel is not known as particularly conservative. With immigration an ascendant issue, he opposed one of the few effective actions of the INS: finding illegal immigrants employed in Nebraska’s meatpacking factories.


Some of Hagel’s statements against the war are worthy of discredited “grieving mom” Cindy Sheehan. Hagel once singled out dreaded neo-conservative strategist Richard Perle for his support of regime change, blustering, “Maybe [Richard] Perle would like to be in the first wave of those who go into Baghdad.” This sounds a lot like Michael Moore’s stalking Congressmen to see if they would send their own children to Operation Iraqi Freedom, but it dovetails eerily well with a statement from Sheehan herself: “Let George Bush send his two little party animals to die in Iraq.


And Sheehan, Too?


“Mother Sheehan” also came up during the Stephanopoulos interview – and Hagel was, predictably, on the wrong side. CNN notes, “On another Iraq-related issue, Hagel said Bush made the wrong decision by not meeting again with Cindy Sheehan, a mother of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq who has camped outside the president's Texas ranch.” Hagel told the audience:


I think the wise course of action, the compassionate course of action, the better course of action would have been to immediately invite her in to the ranch. It should have been done when this whole thing started. Listen to her. 


So Bush should have wasted precious public time listening to the ravings of an anti-American crackpot because she had become a minor media cause celebre? One can hardly wait to see Hagel deal with terrorists….


Despite being more effective at undermining the war effort and demoralizing the troops than his leftist counterparts, Hagel has been quick to distance himself from the MoveOn/Moonbat crowd, carefully saying he opposes an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq. This is the sole Iraq policy advocated by Cindy Sheehan, to whom he exhorts President Bush: “Listen to her.” In other words, Hagel – and every sensible Democrat who opposed the war, and even those ridiculously clamoring for a “time table of withdrawal” – oppose the lone agenda advocated by their hero, Cindy Sheehan. They are, in effect, begging the president, “Please ignore Cindy Sheehan; she doesn’t know what the Hell she’s talking about.”


Unfortunately, neither does Chuck Hagel.

Ben Johnson is Managing Editor of FrontPage Magazine and co-author, with David Horowitz, of the book Party of Defeat. He is also the author of the books Teresa Heinz Kerry's Radical Gifts (2009) and 57 Varieties of Radical Causes: Teresa Heinz Kerry's Charitable Giving (2004).

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