Paul Greenberg

It should be interesting, the confirmation hearings on the nomination of Charles Hagel to be the next secretary of defense of the United States.

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A lot more interesting than the hearings on John Kerry's nomination as secretary of state or John Brennan's nomination as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. There may have been a time when those nominations were supposed to be controversial, but compared to the choice of Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense, both look like cinches to sail through the confirmation process.

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Mr. Hagel's qualifications to head the Defense Department begin with his war record, for he served bravely and honorably in Vietnam, being wounded twice in action. But that may also be where his qualifications end. Can anyone recall a single piece of legislation, a notable law, or any other signal accomplishment of his all the time he served as a senator? Has he ever run an enterprise, let alone one as vast as the Department of Defense? If so, some of us would sure like to know.

And talk about a about a sunshine soldier: Having voted to go to war in Iraq, Sen. Hagel chose the lowest point of American fortunes there to announce that now was the time not to reinforce our troops but to withdraw them.

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Even before he was sworn in as the newest congressman from Arkansas, Tom Cotton was asking the kind of questions Chuck Hagel's record invites. A combat veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, Captain and now Congressman Cotton knew Chuck Hagel's name. And so did the men who served under him in Iraq. They had good reason to, or rather bad reasons.

To quote Tom Cotton's op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal when Chuck Hagel's name was first floated as the next secretary of defense:

"Our fighting men and women deserve a leader who will not only honor their service, but also advocate for them and honor their accomplishments.

Regrettably, the former senator's dismal record on Iraq suggests that he will do none of those things -- for he abandoned the very troops he once voted to send to war. I would know, because I was one of them.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.