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Why this veteran supports Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense

  • Obama-Hagel-AP.jpg

    Jan. 7, 2013: President Obama announces in the East Room of the White House in Washington that he is nominating Deputy National Security Adviser for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, John Brennan, right, as the new director of the CIA and former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, left, as the new Defense Secretary. ((AP Photo/Charles Dharapak))

  • Chuck Hagel

     (REUTERS)

  • Obama Hagel.jpg

    FILE: Oct. 28, 2009: President Obama meets with Chuck Hagel, then co-chairman of the president's Intelligence Advisory Board. (Reuters)

When it comes to former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel’s nomination for Secretary of Defense, the left and right both have mixed emotions. As controversial as President Obama's decision to tap Hagel may be, it’s critical our elected officials take all prejudice and bias out of the equation when it comes to his nomination and focus on the troops. Hagel just might be what our Armed Forces need right now.

Controversy is all over Sen. Hagel’s past. Some believe he is anti-Israel, others believe he is some type of homophobe, and a few believe he wishes to shrink America’s defense. As a veteran, I believe none of these thoughts to be true.

Chuck Hagel is an enlisted man who became a great success. He served as an infantry soldier in Vietnam, unfortunately “earning” two Purple Hearts—the one medal no one wishes to earn. Hagel was never socially conditioned into the military version of a progressive politically correct servant as many officers have become today. Again, he was an enlisted man.

Former Senator Hagel might be just what our Armed Forces need right now.

As an enlisted man, Hagel experienced combat. Like virtually any combat seasoned warrior knows, war is not fun. No one who experienced combat wishes to place our troops into risky situations which could later cause them death or serious harm. This is why Hagel was against the surge in Iraq.

Some people believe the surge in Iraq was a success while others believe it was a failure. An argument can be made on both sides of the spectrum. Either way, we must all ask, “with Iraq facing 140 terrorist attacks per week, did the surge do what it was intended?” Again, let the arguments continue.

War costs money and Hagel understands that. Many believe Hagel wants to dramatically reduce the Department of Defense budget. How many critics realize how much fraud, waste, and abuse rests within the DOD? Any level-headed individual can go into any government office and find wasteful spending. There is no better time than now to take a close look at wasteful spending and start making cuts.

Cutting funds is much needed in America. But then again, American voters should also begin to demand that certain forms of contributions used to fund political campaigns should be cut as well. How many politicians are accepting funds from special interest groups later after giving payback to such organizations? Senator Hagel doesn't like that and nor do I.

When it comes to Senator Hagel’s stance on Israel, one thing needs to be understood. Hagel does support Israel which is why at least five current/former ambassadors to Israel actually endorse the former senator for Secretary of Defense. Hagel does not support being bullied by special interest groups which include Israeli lobbyists or any other special interest lobbying groups.

As a veteran, I do not want politicians to be persuaded to support or assist any organization simply because of campaign contributions. It’s time the madness stops and we bring back ethical politicians that will always place America’s interests first.

As a veteran, I do not wish to see my brethren placed in harm’s way merely for political or economic gain. Our service members are our nation’s most cherished assets yet they have been used and abused relentlessly. Senator Hagel realizes this and is willing to support the war-fighter.

Senator Hagel “realizes” more than we give him credit for. He criticized the appointment of an openly gay man to serve as a US Ambassador under the Clinton Administration-- James Hormel. In the 90’s, many heterosexuals criticized homosexuality. But times are changing and Hagel later apologized for his statement.

Hagel, like many Americans, has finally begun to wake up and become more welcoming and open-minded toward homosexuality.  According to the Pew Research Center, 27% of Americans favored gay marriage in 1997. Today, that number has increased by 21 points to 48% in favor. Pew also included in their survey American views of gay couples and adoption. In 1999, only 38% of Americans surveyed favored gays and lesbians to adopt children. Today, that number has increased to 52%.

Hagel apologized for criticizing Ambassador James Hormel. He will likely not apologize, nor should he, for his stance on special interest groups and contributions they make to politicians. He should not apologize for our failed operations conducted in Iraq—the country is much worse today than it was prior to the 2003 invasion.

I like Senator Chuck Hagel. I like the fact that he is an independent thinker with first-hand knowledge of what it's like to serve in the military as an enlistee. 

I like where he stands -- by pointing out at least one of the major problems with American politics today--special interest groups. 

I also like the fact that he has proven to each and every one of us that he can accept when he is wrong and publicly apologize when needed.

We can criticize Senator Chuck Hagel all we want. The right can blast him as well as the left. No one in either political party seems to truly appreciate the man. And that is yet another reason why I like him even that much more. 

I hope more veterans will embrace our new nominee for Secretary of Defense, that all Americans come to support him and that the Senate will speedily confirm him for the position.

Kerry Patton has served in the U.S. Defense and Justice departments, and as a contractor within the Homeland Security and State departments. He has worked in South America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Europe, focusing on intelligence and security interviewing current and former terrorists, including members of the Taliban. He is the author of  "Contracted: America's Secret Warriors".