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Hagel Defends Criticisms of Iraq Policy
Administration Calls Statements by Democrats Harmful
to War Effort, Troops

By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 16, 2005; A06

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) strongly criticized
yesterday the White House's new line of attack against
critics of its Iraq policy, saying that "the Bush
administration must understand that each American has
a right to question our policies in Iraq and should
not be demonized for disagreeing with them."

With President Bush leading the charge, administration
officials have lashed out at Democrats who have
accused the administration of manipulating
intelligence to justify the war in Iraq. Bush has
suggested that critics are hurting the war effort,
telling U.S. troops in Alaska on Monday that critics
"are sending mixed signals to our troops and the
enemy. And that's irresponsible."

Hagel, a Vietnam War veteran and a potential
presidential candidate in 2008, countered in a speech
to the Council of Foreign Relations that the Vietnam
War "was a national tragedy partly because members of
Congress failed their country, remained silent and
lacked the courage to challenge the administrations in
power until it was too late."

"To question your government is not unpatriotic -- to
not question your government is unpatriotic," Hagel
said, arguing that 58,000 troops died in Vietnam
because of silence by political leaders. "America owes
its men and women in uniform a policy worthy of their

Hagel said Democrats have an obligation to be
constructive in their criticism, but he accused the
administration of "dividing the country" with its
rhetorical tactics.

Hagel supported the 2002 resolution to authorize
military action in Iraq, but he has emerged as a
strong skeptic of the Bush administration's handling
of the war. In his speech, he called for a regional
security conference to help invest Iraq's neighbors in
the effort to stabilize the country.

At one point, while answering a question from the
audience about Syria, Hagel suggested that the Middle
East is worse off after the invasion because the
administration failed to anticipate the consequences
of removing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. "You could
probably argue it is worse in many ways in the Middle
East because of consequences and ripple effects," he

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld joined
other administration officials yesterday in attacking
critics of the Iraq war for attempting to "rewrite"
history, warning that setting an arbitrary deadline
for withdrawing U.S. troops could "give terrorists the
false hope that if they can simply hold on long
enough, that they can outlast us."

At the same time, Rumsfeld acknowledged what he called
honest mistakes in the Bush administration's prewar
intelligence on Iraq. "There's no doubt in my mind
that people made honest mistakes in . . . the pieces
of that intelligence that were presented at the United
Nations," he said at a news briefing.

Rumsfeld described an evolution of U.S. policy toward
Iraq embraced by Democrats and Republicans. He read
several quotes from 1998 from then-President Bill
Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, Secretary of State
Madeleine K. Albright and national security adviser
Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger. They predicted that Hussein,
if unchecked, would again use weapons of mass

However, many of the comments cited by Rumsfeld were
used to justify continued sanctions on Iraq, not to
invade it. Moreover, the Clinton administration
officials did not cite the problematic intelligence
that formed the core of the Bush administration's case
for an invasion, such as allegations that Iraq sought
uranium in Africa and tried to obtain aluminum tubes
as part of a resurgent nuclear program.

Rumsfeld also pointed to congressional actions in 1998
and 2002 calling for Hussein's removal. But the 1998
law, signed by Clinton, said "nothing in this act
shall be construed to authorize or otherwise speak to
use of United States Armed Forces" to implement it.

Staff writer Ann Scott Tyson contributed to this

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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At 5:00 PM, Blogger Charlie said...

Senator Hagel has been a rare voice of reason with regard to Iraq, including before the war.


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