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Hearing of the United States Senate Committee on Armed Services - Confirmation Hearing of the Nomination of the Honorable Charles T. Hagel


Location: Washington, DC


Chairman LEVIN. Thank you, Senator Gillibrand.
Senator Graham.

Senator GRAHAM. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Hagel, congratulations on your appointment. You are a
good, honest man, and I really appreciate your willingness to serve
the country in the past and be willing to do so in the future.
What percentage of GDP do we spend on defense?

Senator HAGEL. Well, we are I think it is probably 5 percent now
in that area in our budget, our discretionary budget----

Senator GRAHAM. Is that historically high or low?

Senator HAGEL. Well, I think generally depends on real dollars
and wars, but--

Senator GRAHAM. Are we at war?

Senator HAGEL. We are at war in Afghanistan. We are at war
around the world with active threat--

Senator GRAHAM. So you agree with me we are at war in Afghanistan.
We are at war around the world. So when you look at spending
on defense, every Senator should be aware of the fact we are
still at war. Do you agree with that?

Senator HAGEL. I am sorry. What, your question----

Senator GRAHAM. Do you agree that every Senator, every Member
of Congress should be wide-eyed and understanding that when
you vote on a defense budget we are at war?

Senator HAGEL. Yes, I do.

Senator GRAHAM. Okay. Thank you.
Now let us talk a little bit about statements you made. You have
explained this a bit. You said, ""The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot
of people up here. I am not an Israeli senator. I am a U.S. Senator.
This pressure makes us do dumb things at times.''
You have said the Jewish lobby should not have been--that term
shouldn't have been used. It should have been some other term.
Name one person, in your opinion, who is intimidated by the Israeli
lobby in the U.S. Senate.

Senator HAGEL. Well, first----

Senator GRAHAM. Name one.

Senator HAGEL. I don't know.

Senator GRAHAM. Well, why would you say it?

Senator HAGEL. I didn't have in mind a specific----

Senator GRAHAM. First, do you agree it is a provocative statement?
That I can't think of a more provocative thing to say about
the relationship between the United States and Israel and the Senate
or the Congress than what you said.
Name one dumb thing we have been goaded into doing because
of the pressure from the Israeli or Jewish lobby.

Senator HAGEL. I have already stated that I regret the terminology
I used.

Senator GRAHAM. But you said back then it makes us do dumb
things. You can't name one Senator intimidated. Now give me one
example of the dumb things that we are pressured to do up here.

Senator HAGEL. We were talking in that interview about the
Middle East, about positions, about Israel. That is what I was referring

Senator GRAHAM. So give me an example of where we have been
intimidated by the Israeli/Jewish lobby to do something dumb regarding
the Mideast, Israel, or anywhere else.

Senator HAGEL. Well, I can't give you an example.

Senator GRAHAM. Thank you.
Do you agree with me you shouldn't have said something like

Senator HAGEL. Yes, I do. I have already said that.

Senator GRAHAM. Now do you agree with me that Hezbollah is
a terrorist organization?

Senator HAGEL. Yes.

Senator GRAHAM. Now, in 2006, you were 1 of 12 Senators who
refused to sign the letter to the European Union asking them to
designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization for the purposes of
the EU sanctioning Hezbollah. Why were you 1 of 12 who refused
to sign that letter?

Senator HAGEL. Because I have generally had a policy during my
time in the Senate that I didn't think it was the right approach for
the Congress of the United States to be sending leaders any instructions
or any documents versus letting our President do that.
And as I have already stated--

Senator GRAHAM. Well, why did you sign the letter to Bill Clinton,
urging him to deal with the Russians when it comes to their
policy against Jewish people?

Senator HAGEL. Because I think that is the appropriate approach
because I think it is our President who conducts foreign policy.

Senator GRAHAM. Well, all I could suggest to you is that when
a letter is presented to a U.S. Senator about the times in which we
live in, you can't write one letter and not write the other and, in
my view, be consistent.
And the letter was urging the EU to impose sanctions on
Hezbollah, and you have been a big believer that we shouldn't go
it alone. We shouldn't do it unilaterally. Why in the world wouldn't
you take this chance to urge the European Union to go ahead and
sanction Hezbollah because it may help the world at large deal
with this terrorist organization? And your answer is you just don't
think we should be writing letters?

Senator HAGEL. That wasn't my answer. My answer was I think
the President of the United States is the appropriate official----

Senator GRAHAM. So Congress has no interest at all in whether
or not the EU would designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.
Do you think that is our role up here, that we should just stay
out of those things?

Senator HAGEL. The Congress has an interest responsibility in
all things. But I----

Senator GRAHAM. Okay. I got you. Now let me--apparently not
Not let me ask you this about the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
You said just a minute ago you think they are a terrorist organization.
Do you agree with that?

Senator HAGEL. Yes.

Senator GRAHAM. Okay. And you voted against the amendment
designating them a terrorist organization because you thought we
would be going down the wrong road by doing that because they
are a recognized state. Iran, you wouldn't want to designate the
army of a recognized state as a terrorist organization?

Senator HAGEL. I said that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism.
I also just clarified a statement on Iran being a recognized nation
by the United Nations, by most world bodies. The reason again, I
will explain it again, why I did not vote, as 22 other members did--

Senator GRAHAM. Right.

Senator HAGEL.--because I think Jim Webb's argument was a
strong argument, and that was we have never--this is what he
said on the floor--designated part of a government as a terrorist
organization. Thereby what his concern was, as was mine and
other Senators voted against it, would this be then tantamount to
giving the President of the United States authority from the Congress
to take military action against Iran?

Senator GRAHAM. I got you. Now let me just ask you this. Do you
believe that the sum total of all of your votes--refusing to sign a
letter to the EU asking Hezbollah to be designated a terrorist organization,
being 1 of 22 to vote to designate the Iranian Revolutionary
Guard a terrorist organization, being one of two on two occasions
to vote against sanctions that this body was trying to impose
on Iran, the statements you have made about Palestinians
and about the Jewish lobby--all that together, that the image you
have created is one of sending the worst possible signal to our enemies
and friends at one of the most critical times in world history?

Senator HAGEL. No, I would not agree with that because I have
taken actions and made statements very clear as to what I believed
Hezbollah and Hamas are as terrorist organizations. In fact, Senator----

Senator GRAHAM. If you there was a vote on the floor of the Senate
this afternoon to label the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the
people who have killed our soldiers in Iraq, some of the most vicious
people to the people of Iran themselves, if there were a vote
tomorrow or this afternoon or after lunch, would you still vote no?

Senator HAGEL. Well, I would want to know from the President
what they were doing, but again--

Senator GRAHAM. I mean--I mean, you read the paper. You
watch TV. You got any doubt what they are doing? They are expanding
terrorism. They are trying to intimidate their own people.
They are the instrument of the theocracy to oppress their own people,
and they are the biggest supporter of the regime keeping them
in power so then they can get a nuclear weapon.
If you had a chance tomorrow, today, after lunch to vote to say
that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard was a terrorist organization,
would you still vote no?

Senator HAGEL. Well, the reason I voted no to start with began
with the same----

Senator GRAHAM. Well, I know why. You told me that. My question

Senator HAGEL. That hasn't changed.

Senator GRAHAM.--would you reconsider, and would you vote yes
this time, or would you still vote no?

Senator HAGEL. Well, times change. I recognize that. And yes, I
would reconsider. But the whole theory----

Senator GRAHAM. Well, thank you. That is encouraging.
My time is up, but we will have another round.
Senator Inhofe said that you were one of four Senators who refused
to sign a letter in October. And the first paragraph says, ""We
write to you to express our solidarity with the state of Israel at this
moment of crisis and our profound disappointment and frustration
with PLO Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority. We are
dismayed that they would allow violence by Palestinians to be carried
out without restraint or comment.''
This was when the Intifada was being raging, and Senator
Inhofe, led by Daschle and Lott, wanted a letter from every member
of this body to clearly put us on record that we believe Arafat
and the Intifada is undercutting the agreements they had reached
and that they had resorted to violence to intimidate the Israeli government
and people in a way that was just absolutely unacceptable.
If you had a chance to do it over, would you sign this letter now?
And I am going to give it to you during whatever break we have
and ask you to reconsider. I would ask you, Senator Hagel, to tell
the country, the world at large, particularly the state of Israel, you
made a mistake by not signing that letter.

Senator HAGEL. Who is the letter to?

Senator GRAHAM. I think it goes to the President. Is that who it
was to? It was the President.

Senator HAGEL. Well, I will look at it. I don't recall the letter,
and I will look at it and give you an answer.

Senator GRAHAM. Well, all I can say, it was a very big deal at
a very important time. And the lack of signature by you runs chills
up my spine because I can't imagine not signing a letter like that
at a time when it really mattered.
And we will continue this conversation. Thank you.


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