Republican Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE), a Vietnam veteran and critic of Bush policy on Iraq, excoriated the Administration Tuesday in a speech to Council on Foreign Relations Tuesday, RAW STORY has learned.
Hagel blasted the Administration for going after Iraq war critics and turning the war into a political cause.
"The Iraq war should not be debated in the United States on a partisan political platform," the Nebraska senator remarked. "This debases our country, trivializes the seriousness of war and cheapens the service and sacrifices of our men and women in uniform. War is not a Republican or Democrat issue. The casualties of war are from both parties. The Bush Administration must understand that each American has a right to question our policies in Iraq and should not be demonized for disagreeing with them. Suggesting that to challenge or criticize policy is undermining and hurting our troops is not democracy nor what this country has stood for, for over 200 years. The Democrats have an obligation to challenge in a serious and responsible manner, offering solutions and alternatives to the Administration’s policies."
He also suggested the members of Congress who failed to question the war could be responsible for another Vietnam.
"Vietnam was a national tragedy partly because Members of Congress failed their country, remained silent and lacked the courage to challenge the Administrations in power until it was too late," he added. "Some of us who went through that nightmare have an obligation to the 58,000 Americans who died in Vietnam to not let that happen again. To question your government is not unpatriotic – to not question your government is unpatriotic. America owes its men and women in uniform a policy worthy of their sacrifices."
Hagel emphasized the role of international cooperation.
"The international community must now recognize the changed circumstances of a constitutionally-based Iraqi government and join Iraq’s neighbors by investing in Iraq’s future success," he said.
"The role for international institutions will grow in importance as Iraq becomes more self-assured and able to govern. The World Bank, the United Nations and NATO all need to be more actively engaged in Iraq. The Oil-for-Food debacle is a stain on the UN’s reputation in Iraq. But that is not the UN’s role in Iraq today. The United Nations can help provide Iraq both a broader political umbrella, and greater support and expertise to help build and coordinate government institutions, programs and structures. Last weekend’s visit by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to Iraq – his first visit since the war – should help lead to this expanded role for the UN."