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Vitter's Questions for Hagel

1:36 PM, Jan 28, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
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With regard to Hezbollah and Israel’s 2006 Lebanon War, I am concerned by your attempt to paper over your record.  In July 2006, almost immediately after the Israeli military began to respond to Hezbollah’s kidnapping and murder of Israeli soldiers, you called on President Bush to demand an immediate ceasefire.  At the time you said, “This madness must stop” and you accused Israel of “the systematic destruction of an American friend – the country and people of Lebanon.”  You continued on to accuse Israel of carrying out a “sickening slaughter” in Lebanon and said that the U.S. relationship with Israel “need not and cannot be at the expense of our Arab and Muslim relationships.”  In my view, your attempt in your letter to Senator Boxer to present your views during that period as resembling support of Israel, in any way, is difficult to comprehend.  I would rather you just issue an apology.

In your letter, you imply that you have been unequivocal in your belief that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization.  However, I remain concerned that while you have given speeches directed toward Hezbollah’s actions, you failed to do so in your official capacity while a U.S. Senator.  One example is your refusal to sign a letter urging the European Union to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.  Also, your letter to Senator Boxer fails to include the necessary statement that you believe that the European Union should do so today.  Both the House and Senate have spoken with wide bipartisanship on this critical issue.  I remain hopeful you will address these questions in the days ahead.

Finally, I am concerned by the way you attempt to explain your much-reported comments regarding a “Jewish lobby” and your oath to the United States Constitution rather than to Israel.  As a non-Jewish Senator who strongly supports the State of Israel, let me assure you that my support is rooted in the shared values of our two democracies.  Let me further assure you that as a supporter of Israel who took the oath of office, I am offended by the suggestion that my support of Israel is somehow contrary to my Constitutional oath.

But more importantly, given the past weeks of back and forth, I do not believe you fully understand why your comments were so offensive to Jews and Gentiles alike.  Your comments do not get any better if you merely substitute “Israel lobby” for “Jewish lobby.”  Your statements clearly suggested the existence of a Jewish or Israel lobby that “intimidates” American leaders into supporting a foreign government’s interests over our own.  Whether they were intentional or not, your public comments echoed centuries-old anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of influence in government and dual loyalty.  Therefore, I urge you to publicly apologize for the totality of your comments.

Senator Hagel, I ask that prior to your Senate Armed Services hearing scheduled for January 31, 2012, you provide clear, written answers to the following:

1.     Why you voted against renewal of the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act in 2001?

2.     Why you voted against the Iran Counter Proliferation Act in 2007?

3.     Why you voted against the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (CISADA) in 2008?

4.     Why you put a hold on CISADA in 2008 after it cleared the Senate Banking Committee over your opposition?

5.     Clarify the apparent contradiction between your comments to the Lincoln Journal Star last week (which mirrored your 2001 statement to the American Iranian Council that you oppose sanctions against Iran because they “isolate us”) and your letter to Senator Boxer this week?

6.     Provide documentation why you think sanctions should only be tied to, “Iran’s continued rejection of diplomatic overtures” and not to the status of its nuclear program?

7.     Are you willing to issue a statement that you believe that the European Union should designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization?

Thank you for your prompt consideration of this letter.

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