Tom Cotton, the congressman-elect from Arkansas's Fourth Congressional District, writes in today's Wall Street Journal that President Barack Obamam should not pick Chuck Hagel to be the next secretary of defense:
Chuck Hagel, who is reportedly on the White House's shortlist of nominees for secretary of defense, served our country admirably in Vietnam. But he is not the right person for the Pentagon.
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.