President Barack Obama on Monday nominated Chuck Hagel, a former Republican senator, as his next defence secretary and counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to head the CIA, urging the US Senate to confirm them quickly.
Hagel, a decorated Vietnam veteran, would replace Leon Panetta at the Pentagon. Critics have already launched attacks over Hagel’s record on Israel and Iran.
Brennan is a CIA veteran who withdrew from consideration for the spy agency’s top job in 2008 after questions were raised about his views on enhanced interrogation techniques used on terrorism suspects during the Bush administration. He would succeed retired General David Petraeus, who resigned amid a scandal over an extramarital affair with his biographer.
Obama said Hagel “understands that America stands strongest when we stand with allies and with friends,” after criticism by Republican lawmakers of the former Nebraska senator’s past statements on Israel.
He added that Hagel, a Republican who broke with his party through his criticism of the Iraq war, earned “respect of national security and military leaders, Republicans and Democrats, including me.”
“In the Senate, I came to admire his courage, his judgment, his willingness to speak his mind, even if it wasn’t popular, even if it defied conventional wisdom,” Obama said with Hagel at his side at the White House.
“That’s exactly the spirit I want on my national security team,” Obama said.
Obama called Hagel “an American patriot” and said that he would play a critical role as the first person of enlisted rank to serve as defense secretary. Hagel bears shrapnel scars from Vietnam.
“Chuck knows that war is not an abstraction. He knows that sending young Americans to fight and bleed in the dirt and mud, that’s something we only do when it’s absolutely necessary,” Obama said.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 8th, 2013.
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