Friday, February 1, 2013
At The Hagel Hearing, Two Old White Men Got Their Feelings Hurt
Like many Americans, I was deeply disturbed to watch Chuck Hagel's confirmation hearing. What they discussed about the Iraq war, which killed more than 4,400 US troops and wounded almost 32,000, was something truly awful. Particularly when the two old white men got their feelings hurt.
A commentator on HuffPost Live described the exchange as a "damaging, horrifying hearing for Chuck Hagel." I completely agree. It was sad the way Chuck Hagel suffered. Brutal - I don't think that's too strong a word to describe the spectacle of someone who voted for a military operation in which American forces smashed a foreign government and in the chaos that followed more than a hundred thousand civilians died and two million became refugees... having to answer very hard questions. And even more heartbreaking - this is a trigger warning for those of you who've been US senators - the questions came from a former friend.
That's right. This grim article in the Washington Post - John McCain And Chuck Hagel Were Once BFFs. What happened? - explains it all for you. The two men bonded over their shared experience being rebels in the Republican party. But all that collapsed over disagreements - terrible, terrible disagreements - over a military action that resulted in far too many tragedies. Like this little girl's family being shot to death in front of her at a checkpoint. Or another checkpoint incident, in which coalition troops killed a pregnant woman and her unborn child. Or the surge in infants born with heart defects, deformed limbs, and brain damage from exposure to toxic materials from coalition assaults in Fallujah and Basra. And yes, like two people who served together in Congress being so angry at each other that they'd fight it out on national TV. When will we be able to put this behind us? Haven't people lost enough? Sadly, no. Because just within the last three weeks a string of bombings killed 60 people in Iraq, and Chuck Hagel might not even get the job he wanted.
Who Won The Chuck Hagel-John McCain Surge Fight? US News wants to know. Because when two powerful white men vote to send troops to war for reasons that completely evaporate, and involve dishonesty and incompetence at the highest levels of our government, and that war lasts almost a decade and kills hundreds of thousands of people, and then those two powerful men have an argument over how best to mitigate the damage they've caused, what everyone wants to know is who gets to say "I told you so," while cameras video them sitting in an expensive-looking room next to little glasses of water.
Obviously it's important to bring up the backstory, the fact that the two former allies served together in another war. And one of them dropped explosives on people from the air, and the other shot at them from the ground. But they both learned lessons. And they disagree about what those lessons are. It is a drama of two, exactly two, very wealthy men being sad and angry and generally inconvenienced as people die all around them. And this, we are told, is the tragedy of war.