I. Faulty Defense and CIA Appointments
The appointment of Chuck Hagel, former U.S. senator from Nebraska, to be the new Secretary of Defense brought some cheer to those who feel the nation needs some fundamental changes in national security policy. Politico’s release of the contents of a letter earlier this week that Hagel sent to Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) dispells any hope of new directions in major policy.
Chuck Hagel has previously opposed the use of military force against Iran, because he felt it would be counterproductive. He now supports the Obama administration position on use of military force against Iran if it crosses certain red lines in the development of its nuclear program. As a U.S. senator, Hagel voted against several rounds of sanctions against Iran, arguing that unilateral sanctions are ineffective. His new position is that “further unilateral sanctions against Iran could be effective and necessary.”
While a U.S. senator, Hagel made it clear that he represented the state of Nebraska and not the state of Israel. Hagel has now characterized his prior use of the phrase “Jewish Lobby” as a poor choice of words, because he now recognizes that non-Jewish individuals and organizations are involved in lobbying for Israel; furthermore, he is “overwhelmingly supportive of a strong U.S.-Israel strategic and security relationship.” He has promised to deepen military cooperation with Israel.
When Chuck Hagel met with Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Schumer reported that Hagel had tamped down his former views on the militant Islamist groups Hezbollah and Hamas, and gays — I believe that Hagel had opposed the ambassadorial appointment of an openly gay person but later apologized for his opposition. Schumer believes that Hagel is sincere in his changes of position.
Whereas Chuck Hagel had seemingly represented a refreshing change in a bellicose policy toward Iran and a skin-tight collaboration with Israel’s foreign/military policy, he now appears to have become a tamed member of the reservation.
Although President Obama has claimed the elimination of the use of torture as a major achievement, his nominatiuon of John Brennan to head the CIA has, as CREDO phrases it, placed the “assassination czar” in the top seat of the nation’s premier intelligence agency. Brennan was the chief of staff to Bush II’s CIA Director and became deputy director when the CIA was running a kidnapping and “rendition” program — transferring detainees to countries that practice torture. Brennan has publicly embraced and defended the use of torture by the U.S. government.
In 2011, John Brennan made the extraordinary claim that there had not been a single collateral death during the preceding year, “because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities we’ve been able to develop.” Although Brennan later moderated that claim, he has remained a prominent voice in minimizing the civilian death and injury toll from drone strikes and raids hunting suspected terrorists.
Brennan was Obama’s top advisor in formulating “kill lists” for drone strikes and he pushed for CIA authority for “signature strikes,” also known as “crowd killings,” which are strikes based solely on suspicious behavior.
II. Democratic Leadership Heads Rightward
One of the most concise statements of the Democratic leadership’s rightward march comes from Norman Soloman. Soloman says the leadership “makes cutting Social Security doable, puts a bull’s eye on Medicare, protects the military from major cuts, takes a dive on climate change, reinforces perpetual war in sync with “kill lists” for routine drone strikes across continents, throws habeas corpus and other civil liberties under the bus and promotes far-reaching austerity measures.” Also, he castigates Nancy Pelosi for saying that a cut in Social Security cost of living increases will strengthen Social Security.
Soloman cites a New York Times report that the recent tax deal “would have been a Republican fiscal fantasy just a few years ago.” Soloman goes on to say that the tax deal locks in virtually all the Bush tax cuts, exempts almost all estates from taxation, and enshrines the former president’s credo that dividends and capital gains should be taxed “equally and gently.”