GOP Congressman-Elect Slams Hagel’s Iraq Record


Representative-elect Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, writes Friday in the Wall Street Journal that the potential Secretary of Defense nomination of Chuck Hagel should be opposed because of his position on the Iraq War:

Our fighting men and women deserve a leader who will not only honor their service, but also advocate for them and honor their accomplishments. Regrettably, the former senator’s dismal record on Iraq suggests that he will do none of those things—for he abandoned the very troops he once voted to send to war. I would know, because I was one of them.

Over Thanksgiving weekend in 2006, two years before his retirement as the Republican senator from Nebraska, Mr. Hagel penned a column for the Washington Post entitled “Leaving Iraq, Honorably.” He asserted that “there will be no victory or defeat for the United States in Iraq,” and “the time for more U.S. troops in Iraq has passed.” Rather, Mr. Hagel argued, we “must begin planning for a phased troop withdrawal.”

Imagine my surprise at the senator’s assertions, having just returned that week from combat in Baghdad as an infantry platoon leader with the 101st Airborne Division. My soldiers had fought bravely to stabilize that city, protect innocent civilians and defeat al Qaeda. Those soldiers were proud of their accomplishments.

No one had told us during our time in Baghdad that we would achieve “no victory.” Readers might have shared my surprise at Mr. Hagel’s words if he had mentioned his earlier vote supporting the war.

Cotton is just one of a number of legislators who have criticized Hagel in recent days. Republican Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Pat Toomey (Pa.), and Dan Coats (Ind.) have expressed concerns. Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas) said Friday he would oppose a Hagel nomination.