March 2, 2013

WASHINGTON – Secretary of Defense is the second most important and the toughest job in the US government after President.

Since the 9/11 attacks, US foreign policy has become highly militarized. The Pentagon today dominates US relations with the rest of the world, not the State Department or CIA.

The Pentagon’s 2013 total budget will be $800 billion when all programs, including “black” projects, are included.

This mammoth sum represents almost 50% of the world’s total military spending. Add close US allies in Europe, the Mideast, and Asia, and the figure is 80%.

Contrary to what most Americans believe, the US Defense Department is not really about defense of America’s shores, but about offensive operations abroad. The US has some 1,000 bases and powerful air, naval and land forces scattered across the globe enforcing the Pax Americana.

Americans are relentlessly bombarded by media and Republicans about alleged dire threats from abroad, conjuring still raw memories of 9/11, though evidence is scanty or absent.

But something remarkable has just occurred in Washington, a place that rarely produces much good news.

President Barack Obama, now in his last term and freed of many political constraints, has challenged powerful vested special interests by naming former US Republican Senator and decorated war veteran Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense. Hagel, wounded twice in Vietnam, is the first former enlisted man to head the Pentagon.

On taking office, Hagel called on the US to resume being a “force for good” in the world and avoid “dictating” to other nations. These were breathtaking words after all the Republican claims of “American exceptionalism” – code for world domination.

Washington is notorious for grinding down men in office and thwarting their hopes. The nation’s capitol and particularly Congress have been deeply corrupted by special interest money.

Hagel’s nomination caused a firestorm among Congressional Republicans who accused Hagel of everything from being anti-Israel and pro-Iranian to accepting money from North Korea.

The former Nebraska senator was slandered, defamed and vilified by fellow Republicans. It was as sickening a display of hypocrisy and pandering as this veteran journalist (and army veteran) has seen.

Verbally warlike senators and congressmen who had dodged national service during the Vietnam War (we call them “chickenhawks”) had the nerve to accuse decorated veteran Hagel of being unpatriotic for opposing the disastrous US war against Iraq and for failing to advocate war against Iran.

Behind all this, of course, was the hugely powerful pro-Israel lobby. In official Washington, it is taboo to even say there is an Israel lobby, though in reality everyone knows it dictates Mideast policy to Congress.

When accused some years ago of being insufficiently pro-Israel, the tough-talking Hagel shot back that he was a senator from the US, not Israel. This flaming heresy forever branded Hagel an enemy to the pro-Israel lobby and its ardent Republican supporters.

Obama’s appointment of Chuck Hagel was also a stinging slap in the face to Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu, who had humiliated Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on numerous occasions and even worked with Republicans to defeat Obama in the last presidential elections.

Hagel must now fend off his foes in Congress and the media while wrestling with sharp cuts in military spending, layoffs of some of the 800,000 civilian Pentagon employees, and delays or cancellations of sacred cow weapons programs like the absurdly expensive F-35 fighter, new aircraft carriers, and anti-missile programs.

The US military-industrial complex has cleverly put arms plants in most US states, assuring that cuts in Pentagon spending will produce howls of national opposition from senators and congressmen.

Still, Secretary Hagel speaks for many moderate Americans, and even for members of the Pentagon and CIA, who want to end America’s post-9/11 heavy-handed policies, stop the fear-mongering over so-called “terrorism,” and use the mighty US armed forces to help people around the world.

That’s the hope. But slowing down the Pentagon juggernaut will be very difficult. Reports say US special forces are now entering Niger and planning to stay on in Afghanistan. Anti-China fever is growing at a time when the US must work out a way to peacefully manage China’s rising power.

Secretary Hagel will have his work cut out for him.

copyright Eric S. Margolis 2013

This post is in: Israel, Military and Security Affairs, North America, USA

6 Responses to “Amen to the new Pentagon boss”

  1. There seems to be some kind of confidence building going on, so that the end game does not seem as much as a disastrous defeat, that this huge gamble turned into. The BRIC countries were not taken serious enough, but they are the powerhouse of the future. Either we get an Armageddon type war with no winners, or a total defeat of the present system.
    True capitalism is a great system, but in the US it lost its greatness, when the necessary controls were abolished. What would save a great deal of America would be, if their Federal reserve was made federal and the issuing of money was in the hands of the government (the people) instead of a handful of extremely rich people, who now manipulate the world finances. I think, that JFK was heading in that direction, but look what happened to him.

  2. George Rizk says:

    Obviously, a Republican appointment to head the defense department by a leftist democrat president is a thing to be thankful about. The knee jerk reactionary of MCain, and Graham is evidently an illustration of their siding with Israel before siding with a fellow Republican?

  3. dormus jessop says:

    Hagel sure has got a job to do and it will be something to see if he can make ANY changes. I hope I’m wrong but his enemies are so powerfull with the backing of unending propaganda and the patriotic sheep so misinformed that its a fight that he will probably lose! There is far too few in the media that will tell the truth to power and the people be damned. I have just read abook called the The best of I F Stone and in it are many articles he printed in his own paper called the I F Stone Weekly. Its a must read for ANYONE that wants to read about the truth that weent unreported by mainstream media. He gives scathing attacks on McCarthism and the Communist boogey man oh so usefull to the military industrial complex be it past past leaders of the USA from Ike,Truman,Kennedy,Goldwater,Nixon etc etc. To the Korean,Vietnam wars and the Dr Stangelove type Generals like Curtis Lemay of the “bomb them back to the stone age” fame. Unfortunatly very few have taken his warnings and done something about it will Hagel? , the Barry Goldwaters of the USA and Israel took over the Military Industrial Complex. I F Stones articles are chock full of quotes about the Vietnam and Korean war that could be used verbatum for the folly of unending war that we see in the new boogey man “Terrorism” and the USA war machine that calls itself “DEFENCE”and their WAR IS PEACE mindset!

  4. The real question is does he have the spine need to do what needs to be done and not cave in to the powerful special interest groups that really rule America.

  5. Mike Smith says:

    Hagel did say some promising things

    But then the cynic in me remembers the hollow promise of Obamas Cairo speech.

    His heart seems to be in the right place, but with the fiscal cliff looming and the Democrats desperation to pick and position Obamas successor things could get complicated in a hurry.
    At best the infighting will paralyze the US political systems…again.

  6. A very well written column Mr.Margolis.Although I don’t know an awful lot about the new Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel,I do know that he has an enormous uphill battle ahead of him.I did some research and will post some news stories written about Mr. Hagel.As always,the mainstream media is known to not always publish the facts as they may upset too many special interest groups.

    As for the new F-35 fighter jets,they are a disaster in the making,not only from a financial point of view as Boeing has offered the Super Hornet (already in use by the US Marines) as a far better choice of aircraft at half the initial cost to purchase and ditto for operating costs.The Super Hornet is said to be equally as a stealth fighter as the F-35.The concerns about the the F-35 are the reduced size of the control surfaces of the aircraft (flaps,ailerons etc)….which may make it more challenging to manoevre than any other fighter jet and this is a concern with pilots.That along with the cracks found in the turbine blades has already put an ‘X’ against this fighter jet.If these turbine blades disintegrate,it will be game over for this aircraft if it was on a mission over the ocean.The pilot would have to eject and a rescue operation could be near impossible.–finance.html

    There is absolutely no question that spending cuts have to be made.The US is already over it’s head in debt and President Obama’s great grandchildren will still be paying for all of this overspending in the last 12 years because of outright lies and the need to control other countries’ resources.The American public,hopefully,realizes this by now….as they are extremely skeptical now of what they are being told what is ‘good’ for their country.The only thing ‘good’ for their country is to make peace with the Muslim world and leave their lands so they may live their lives in peace and anyone in Washington who dares bring up anything about imminents atttacks against the US,by any country in the world needs to be sacked pronto.That would be the only right step in the right direction.

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