Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Nebraskans For Peace - Perpetuating the Hagel Myth

by Kyle Michaelis
I've been meaning for some time to congratulate Nebraskans For Peace for their beautiful new website. In particular, they've started a weekly "Peace Blog" that makes for a nice addition to Nebraska's online community.

Ever the critic, however, I must instead take this opportunity to challenge NFP's buying wholesale into the myth rather than the reality of Sen. Chuck Hagel's positioning on the Iraq War.

I make every attempt at objectivity on this site and in my thinking. I don't promise balance. I can't promise non-partisanship. But, in so far as it is able, the New Nebraska Network strives to provide an honest and progressive perspective on Nebraska politics devoid of the twin evils of spin and hype.

That's why I can't allow it to slide when Nebraskans for Peace - an organization for which I hold great affinity and respect - allows itself to become little more than a Hagel cheerleader totally blind to the deficiencies and inconsistencies of his Iraq War stance.

Readers should trust me when I say that I have a true appreciation for Hagel's willingness to speak his mind on Iraq and to use his voice to challenge the Bush Administration's policies. But, man - let alone a politician who talks for a living - cannot be judged on words alone. Speeches must be backed up with actions. And, responsible citizens have a duty to look beyond the spotlight's glare from Hagel's high-profile media appearances, giving his voting record the same scrutiny and attention he receives in his Sunday morning make-up sessions.

It is in this latter regard that I must object to Nebraskans For Peace taking such a one-sided and Pollyannaish view of Hagel as a hero of the Anti-War movement. The facts simply are not there to support such a claim.

Besides a single mention on January 30th that Hagel's "votes may not always have matched his words," Nebraskans for Peace have persistently imagined Hagel as they would desire him over who he actually is. NFP may see this as a means of increasing their clout and inspiring their membership, but it comes at great expense to their credibility and integrity.

NFPs most recent offense in creating and perpetuating the Hagel myth is its call for members to rally around Hagel and to communicate their support for him across the state. Their website requests:
Sen. Hagel is being publicly attacked for his courageous stance. Nebraska citizens like yourself are the key to ensuring that Senator Hagel is not singled out.

We are asking each of you to send a message to Sen. Hagel. And please pass this along to at least five of your friends.

Your efforts and those of hundreds of other people today will make a difference as to how the world will look in the next 25 years. It's that important.
At the same time, NFP mailed a two-page "Action Alert" to its membership, entitled "TELL HAGEL THANK YOU." Serving the dual purposes of kissing Hagel's ass and calling on him to oppose the Bush Administration's reported plans for attacking Iran, the letter reads:
[T]he closer we get to being able to finally unload this disastrous presidency, the more dangerous it's becoming. And it could be more dangerous than anything we've seen since 1945....

In Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, conservative 'red state' Nebraska has the most well known opponent of the Iraq War in the entire country. And he is unquestionably our best bet for keeping the White House from pushing the planet to the brink of nuclear war as well....

Contact Sen. Hagel's office and thank him yet again for speaking out so fearlessly and forcefully in opposition to the administration's policies in the Mideast - and in support of a diplomatic resolution of the growing crisis in the region. Telling Hagel 'thank you' right this minute is the most important thing you can do for peace in the entire world. And the whole world is counting on you to make that call.
Uhhhhhhhhhhh.....do you think NFP has ever heard the term "delusions of grandeur"? I'm all for giving Hagel the credit he deserves as a voice of dissent, but casting him as the world's savior in this manner is just plain ridiculous. In fact, I might go so far as to declare Nebraskans for Peace crazy for ever sending out such silly, overblown, and self-serving rubbish.

Frankly, looking at Hagel's four years of complicity to Bush's Iraq agenda with his actual votes, the "entire world" is in a lot of damn trouble if it's counting on Hagel for leadership. The "whole world" is in even worse trouble if it's resting its future in the hands of Nebraskans and their ability to write "Thank You" notes.

This degree of total obliviousness is just not healthy. It undermines NFP as an organization and makes me question whether its leadership has any sense whatsoever. Do they really need a reminder that it was only two weeks ago that Hagel shattered his credibility and hurt his cause by supporting the Republican filibuster of the Warner-Levin Resolution?

And, honestly, where do they get off singling out Hagel for such high praise? In the last two months, Hagel's Senate counterpart Ben Nelson has arguably been even more active in changing the course of the Iraq War while proving himself a whole lot more consistent in principle and persuasive in tone. The only area in which Nelson has lagged Hagel is in marketing himself.

It's supremely disappointing to see Nebraskans for Peace endorsing such triumph of salesmanship over substance. Even worse, though, is the misleading of its membership. Peace activists may be stereotyped as aging hippies and naive college students, but they're not children and shouldn't be treated as such.

People cannot make an honest assessment of their representatives without seeing their statements in the context of their actual votes. Provided that, they can decide for themselves what kind of message Hagel truly deserves. But they definitely shouldn't be the letters NFP imagines to some fictional anti-War Santa Claus who's going to save the world.

That's not Chuck Hagel....and, to be honest, thank God for that. The world is a scary enough place as it already is.

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