McCain on Iraq surge
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., strongly supported the 2007 surge of troops in Iraq, a policy that Hagel opposed. McCain pushed Hagel on whether he stood by his criticism of the surge.
McCain: Were you right? Were you correct in your assessment?
Hagel: I would defer to the judgment of history to sort that out. But I'll...
McCain: The committee deserves your judgment as to whether you were right or wrong about the surge.
Hagel: I will explain why I made those comments, and...
McCain: I want to know if you are right or wrong. That's a direct question. I expect a direct answer.
Hagel: The surge assisted in the objective. But — but, if we review the record a little bit...
McCain: Will you please answer the question? Were you correct or incorrect when he said the surge would be the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam? Were you correct or incorrect, yes or no?
Hagel: My reference to the surge being...
McCain: Are you going to answer the question, Senator Hagel? The question is were you right or wrong? That's a straightforward question. I would like (you) to answer whether you were right or wrong and then you are free to elaborate.
Hagel: Well, I'm not going to give you a yes or no answer.
McCain: Well, let the record show he refuses to answer the question. Now please go ahead.
Hagel: Well, if you would like me to explain...
McCain: No, I actually would like an answer, yes or no.
Hagel: Well, I'm not going to give you a yes or no. I think it's far more complicated than that. As I've already said, my answer is I'll defer that judgment to history. As to the comment I made about the most dangerous foreign policy decision since Vietnam, that was about not just the surge, but the overall war of choice going into Iraq.
Inhofe on Iran
Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, pressed Hagel about his approach to Iran.
Inhofe: Given that Iran, the people — and I'm quoting right now from Iran — “the people of the Middle East, the Muslim region and the” — northern — “North Africa, people of these regions hate America from the bottom of their heart.” It further says, “Israel is a cancerous tumor in the heart of the Islamic world.” They further said, “Iran's warriors are ready and willing to wipe Israel off the map.”
The question I'd like to ask you, and you can answer for the record, if you'd like, is why do you think that the Iranian Foreign Ministry so strongly supports your nomination to be the secretary of defense?
Hagel: I have a difficult enough time with American politics, senator. I have no idea. But, thank you. And I'll be glad to respond further for the record.
Manchin on Hagel's Vietnam service
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. asked Hagel to explain how he got into the Vietnam War. Hagel explained that he volunteered for the draft and then got orders to head to Germany.
Hagel: My eight fellow soldiers and I were getting packed up to get the bus to go out to the airport, take a flight to Germany. And I just decided, if I was going to be in the military, it didn't make much sense to go to Germany. I mean, I had never been to Germany. My great-grandparents are from Germany. Probably a pretty good place, I thought, but I ought to go where there's a war. So I took my orders down to the orderly, told him I was Private Hagel, I had orders to go to Germany, here are my orders, and I wanted to volunteer to go to Vietnam. The office was a bit quiet. They put me in a holding room. They brought priests, rabbis, ministers, psychiatrists. All came in to examine me, thinking that I was — something was wrong, I was running away from something or I had killed somebody. After two days of testing me to see if I was OK, they held me, which I scrubbed barracks for five days before they could cut new orders. And so they gave me new orders to go to Vietnam, sent me home for five days, and then onto Travis Air Force Base in San Francisco. I got to Vietnam in December 1967.
Manchin: So there's no reason any one of us should ever be concerned about your wanting to do anything that you possibly can to defend this country and making sure that we defend against all foreign enemies, wherever they may be.
Hagel: Well, I hope not, senator. I mean, we can disagree on policies, but I think my life and my commitment to this country's pretty clear. And I'm proud of it.
— Compiled by Joseph Morton