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The Heartland Dissident - NYTimes.com


The Heartland Dissident NYTimes com

Source: www.nytimes.com

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With a bluntness that seems habitual — and more than occasionally strikes fellow Republicans as disloyal — Senator Chuck Hagel started voicing skepticism about the Bush administration's fixation on Iraq as a place to fight the Global War on Terror more than half a year before the president gave the go-ahead for the assault. What the senator said in public was milder than what he said in private conversations with foreign-policy gurus like Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser in another Bush administration, or his friend Colin Powell, the secretary of state, who thought he still had a chance to steer the administration on a diplomatic course. The Nebraskan wanted to believe Powell but, deep down, felt the White House wasn't going to be diverted from its drive to topple Saddam Hussein. When he rose on the Senate floor that October to explain his vote in favor of the resolution authorizing force — he'd persuaded himself that his vote might strengthen Powell's hand — he gave a speech that would have required no editing had he decided to vote against it. What sounded then to the venture's true believers like the scolding of a Cassandra sounds fairly obvious three and a half years later, which is to say that Hagel's words can reasonably be read as prescient: "How many of us really know and understand Iraq, its country, history, people and role in the Arab world?. . .The American people must be told of the long-term commitment, risk and cost of this undertaking. We should not be seduced by the expectations of dancing in the streets." The president had said "precious little" about post-Saddam Iraq, which could prove costly, Hagel warned, "in both American blood and treasure."

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