For those of you who consider yourselves “neo-cons,” I have a very simple question for you–are we better off because of our invasion of Iraq? An honest, objective answer is no. We spent over $823 billion dollars (as of the end of 2012) and what did we accomplish? We deposed Saddam Hussein and replaced his murderous rule with guys who are under the control of Iran. We have effectively abandoned Iraq (although we continue to maintain a sizeable Embassy presence) and wield little influence over them. Iraq is now a smuggling hub that is moving weapons to both the remnants of Al Qaeda fighting in Syria and the Syrian Government, courtesy of the mullahs in Iran.

And some want to beat up Chuck Hagel because he finally woke up to the utter stupidity of the Bush/Cheney policy? I suppose we could justify spending almost one trillion dollars to take out Saddam if we wound up with the Iraqi oil being shipped to America at a cut rate or if a genuine democracy had been installed in Baghdad. Nope on both counts.

When you spend that much money, take home 4000 plus dead Americans and more than 50,000 seriously wounded one would hope we have something glorious and proud to show for our effort. So, make me the case for why Iraq was such a winner for us? The violence continues and Iran’s influence spreads. I ain’t proud of that.

Which brings me back to Hagel.

He correctly has excoriated the Pentagon and DOD for waste and abuse. Look at the size of the civilian work force at the Pentagon. It is a jobs program for white people and was expanded dramatically under Bush and Cheney and that trend continued with Obama. The Washington Times reported last May:

The Pentagon’s civilian workforce, which expanded dramatically during President Obama’s first three years, is not facing any significant reductions even as the Defense Department is slashing ground troops by more than 10 percent, retiring ships and combat planes, and putting off the purchases of some new weapons.
President Bush’s last budget, for fiscal 2009, pegged Defense Department civilians at 739,000, according to the department’s latest “Green Book” budget document on total spending.
This year, the number of civilians sits at 801,000, an increase of 62,000 personnel, or 8 percent; it is expected to decline by 1 percent next year.

I am willing to bet you that Hagel will cut civilians before he proposes slashing troops, ships and bases. Yet, the critics are trying to savage Hagel for making this very point. Have conservatives lost their ability to think objectively and critically?

Jonah Goldberg offers the typical handwringing on the right:

The Defense Department faces imminent cuts, Chinese and Russian nationalism are ascendant, the Middle East is becoming even more destabilized and theocratic, and we’re still at war in Afghanistan, but Hagel’s chief qualification is that he’ll be a great conversation starter? Wow.

We can never, per the neo-con view, ever cut defense. There is always a threat that must be faced down. This has little to do with a Republican or Democrat world view. I would remind you that we have more analysts now working the terrorist threat at the Defense Intelligence Agency than worked the Soviet threat during the height of the Cold War. If you believe that terrorism poses a greater threat to us now then the Soviets did back in the day, you are delusional.

I believe that Hagel, who has a penchant for being direct and not pandering to political groups, will bring the same “charm” to the Department of Defense. As Obama’s principal advisor on Defense matters, he is quite capable of standing up to Obama and telling him some hard truths. He also stands a better chance of being above the politics that will inevitably surface when necessary defense cuts are made. Those cuts will hurt Democrat districts and much as Republican sectors.

On this one, I can support Obama’s choice. It makes sense and cents. Not so with Brennan and the CIA. That is a disaster. I will deal with that tomorrow.

I also plan to tea off on the Liberal/Democrat hypocrisy regarding Obama only appointing tired old white men to the top jobs. That piece will just write itself.

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Larry C. Johnson is a former analyst at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, who moved subsequently in 1989 to the U.S. Department of State, where he served four years as the deputy director for transportation security, antiterrorism assistance training, and special operations in the State Department's Office of Counterterrorism. He left government service in October 1993 and set up a consulting business. He currently is the co-owner and CEO of BERG Associates, LLC (Business Exposure Reduction Group) and is an expert in the fields of terrorism, aviation security, and crisis and risk management, and money laundering investigations. Johnson is the founder and main author of No Quarter, a weblog that addresses issues of terrorism and intelligence and politics. NoQuarterUSA was nominated as Best Political Blog of 2008.
  • Raymond McGovern

    I could not think of a better nominee for Defense. Hagel is perfect at this point in time. Only arguement being made is that it should be more of an insider in order to more easily navigate the Pentagon. Given the changes that will be needed at the Pentagon, we precisely do not need an insider.

  • JohnnyTwoDog

    I believed working for Obama was like working at The Firm. The Secret Service and DEA shindigs confirm it and Patraeus etched it in stone.

    So what, Hagel was right about Iraq after he voted wrong about it. He was wrong before it was too late to be right.

    An idiot could have made the Iraq call. Oh, wait, an idiot did make that call. An Odiot.

    Hagel has come down on wasted Pentagon spending? Really? How many times did he vote against increasing it’s budget?

    Hagel will be wrong on Iran, the Middle East, and near everything he touches except for a single malt, before he is too late right. His backbone is formed of Silly Putty.

    So what does Obama have on Hagel that he can use to manipulate him? And manipulate he will.

    • Hokma

      According to Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post, Obama is staking his cabinet with “yes” people who will not question him.

      Obama’s goal is to diminish American influence around the world and to accomplish that it help to have a diminished military capability. Obama’s other goal is to bring Israel to their knees. I good bet is that he will fail in both missions.

      • HARP2

        Jarret makes ALL the decisions anyway.

      • Raymond McGovern

        Hagel is certainly no “yes” man. Far from it. In fact, quite the opposite. There are far more easier “yes” men/women Obama could appoint.

        • Hokma

          Hagel is in lock step with Obama’s beliefs and therefore will be a willing tool for Obama in his quest to diminish American military capability and global influence. He will also gladly “yes” along Obama in his quest to try and bring Israel to their knees and realign the U.S. with radical Islamist government and terrorist groups.

  • TeakWoodKite

    Hey Brennan was quoted in 2007, as saying “enhanced techniques”, like a hookers tool box, gained valuable intel when it was used.
    It has always my contention that he has “intel” on BO as to his lord’s shadyness and pulled a Cromwell on BO’s ass.
    Why else would BO have him about? At least with him at CIA, they won’t have to run shit out of the WH.
    I think Hagel, a grunt with two purple hearts, knows a smelly sock from a dry one. Same applies to his powder and POTUS.

    LJ, What I find interesting is that all these folks are twisting in knots on both sides of the isle over Hagel, with out a nary mention of the simple fact he will be executing BOrth Vaders policies. His journey to the dark is almost complete.

  • Retired_from_SPOnaj

    Larry wrote: “I would remind you that we have more analysts now working the terrorist threat at the Defense Intelligence Agency than worked the Soviet threat during the height of the Cold War.”
    Incredible, isn’t it? Or maybe that’s a typo. Did you mean “analist?”

    • FloridaFI


  • beyond partisan

    “I also plan to tea off on the Liberal/Democrat hypocrisy regarding Obama
    only appointing tired old white men to the top jobs. That piece will
    just write itself.” Looking forward to that one. It’s sickening how conservatives get called racist for not supporting Obama when Bush had two black SOSs.


    2nd term transition has really been an unforced error.

    F troop rides again

  • FloridaFI

    It would be interesting to find out how many of the 800,000 “civilians” that work for the Defense Dept. are retired from the Defense Dept. They are then “re-hired” as subcontractors to do the same job they were doing before. They then earn retirement income and benefits and also get paid as a subcontractor.

    • JohnnyTwoDog

      Got news for ya. It ain’t just the Pentagon. It is more pandemic in Washington than the worst contagion. Pick any agency in any Fed Department. Retired military and Fed civil servants run the asylum.

      And, they get special preferences on hiring. Ain’t that special. They don’t want any private sector types showing up who actually know how to perform and work for a living.
      Life is grand. And they earned it after all with all their years of dedicated service and sacrifice. They deserve it.

      • FloridaFI

        The double-dip, Sweet-Hart government retirement deals have got to be ended. Many of the retired “subcontractors” earn well above $125,000 per year in total income and benefits – doing the same thing they were doing last year for $65,000 per year.

  • DianaLC

    Without a personal knowledge of any of the people there in the political “ivory tower,” I can’t feel confident that any of them will be doing our country any good, just as I would never now send a son or daughter to a top university unless he/she were a mathematics or hard science major. The nut jobs running the arts and humanities now are in their own “ivory tower.”
    I’ve just been feeling terribly discourages about the future of the country my children and grandchildren will inherit. I just hope they have the gumption to live through the next decades–because I also understand John Batchelor’s post above.

    • DianaLC

      However, in rechecking John’s post above, I see that my comment has somehow disappeared. Strange.

  • dst

    Being at the time a loyal WBAI and Air America listener you could say on odds based on that that I was not highly favorable towards either our Iraq or Afghan ventures.
    How ever looking at that 800-billion one has to look at what it was used for along with other relative expenses. Of the total some portion has gone to soldiers salaries, building equipment, producing soldiers food, transport (air, train, truck, ship) from states to the war zone. All those Hum-V’s did just sprout and the number of workers needed for this activity is far higher that say required to run multi-million dollar solar or wind sights. OK so $830- billion or thus about $83-Billion/year. My comparison, anyone remember the “Dept Clock” , didn’t it way back in August hit $16-Tril.. Guess
    what within a month we will pass $16.5 with 17 by August and unless the whole system becomes unglued
    $20,000,000,000,000.00 ($20-Trillion) before the end of 2017. Now I can’t say I know the current or future interest rate required to support this dept, but I can say for sure that a 20 trillion dollar dept requires 200- Billion dollars per percent interest per year. So say the rate is just 3%, that would be a mere $600 Billion each year and unless paid down it continues with out end unlike a war. Lastly what return is there on interest payed especially that portion going overseas?

  • no_longer_a_democrat

    didn’t vote for Bush either time, never understood why we even went into Iraq, didn’t support that whole invasion, didn’t get how it serves US interest going there. Hagel did vote for it, yes, he refused to vote for the surge, but he like Kerry appears to have voted for it, before he voted against it.

    Hagel seems like an opportunistic man, don’t trust him, he’s no Cheney, thankfully, but can’t trust Hagel from everything I’ve read about him and seeing all his past votes. One thing to reign in military complex spending, as Eisenhower once expressed, another thing to make sure the military still stays strong and have a very strong advocate for the a strong military, Hagel based on his votes in the past, don’t see that happening..

    Not sure who is a good pick, there are no good or easy choices, and the budget being what it is, this is all going to get worse as money is contracting, I like Panetta, too bad he’s not staying on, Gates seemed very good as well, but he’s left the post as well.

    • Raymond McGovern

      “Hagel seems like an opportunistic man, but hmm, i don’t trust him,…”

      How do you figure he is an “opportunistic man”? And what is that suppose to mean?

      So you cannot trust a guy who has made more honest statements about Iraq, Israel and the Pentagon years before most? It is precisely his honesty that has pissed off the Necons.