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Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee today, Chuck Hagel was grilled by Senator John McCain. McCain immediately brought up Hagel’s opposition to the Iraq surge, including his calling it a “quagmire”, and wondered why he opposed it “even as it became clear that the surge was succeeding”.
Hagel waffled a bit and McCain cut him off, demanding a yes or no answer. Finally Hagel said, “I’m not going to give you a yes or no. I think it’s far more complicated than this.” He said he would defer to the judgment of history whether he was right and called the Iraq war “the most fundamentally bad experience since Vietnam.”
“I think history has already made a judgment about the surge, sir, and you’re on the wrong side of it,” McCain shot back. McCain said Hagel’s refusal to give him a yes-or-no answer would be a factor in his vote. “Any casual observer will know that the Surge was the fundamental factor” in securing Iraq, McCain said.
McCain also interrogated Hagel over Syria, and Hagel was again cautious. “How many more would have to die before you would support arming the resistance and establishing a no-fly zone?” McCain asked. Hagel deferred to the administration, which was “looking at those options.”
Also of note, Hagel earlier called President Obama perhaps the strongest president on Israel since Harry Truman supported its creation.
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