David McKinley OfficialMember of the U.S. House of Representatives from West Virginia’s 1st district

Rep. McKinley: Letter to SASC on Hagel Nomination

Washington, Jan 28 –
Senator Carl Levin: Chairman
Senator James M. Inhofe:Ranking Member
Senate Committee on Armed Services Senate Committee on Armed Services
228 Russell Senate Office Building 228 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510 Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Levin and Ranking Member Inhofe,

President Obama’s nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense has prompted a number of questions about his positions on issues of importance to our national security, specifically our relationships with Israel and Iran. It is our hope that the Confirmation Hearings held by the Senate Armed Services Committee will address these issues and shed some light on Senator Hagel’s positions and past statements.

While Senator Hagel’s record of service to the United States is worthy of respect, his position on Israel and the role of the United States in the Middle East gives us apprehension. Israel is America’s closest friend and ally in the Middle East, and it is vital to the region that this relationship grows stronger. Unfortunately, Senator Hagel’s past comments and actions could compromise this vital partnership.

We can all agree that lasting peace in the Middle East can only be achieved through negotiations between partners that renounce terrorism and recognize the legitimacy of the other. As such, Senator Hagel’s previous suggestion that the United States engage in direct negotiation with Hamas is troubling. Hamas is a terrorist organization and has vowed to destroy the state of Israel. They not only threaten the safety of Israel and her citizens, but serve as a roadblock to a peace process with legitimate Palestinian leadership. It is critical that any member of the President’s inner circle be someone who has a clear understanding of the destabilizing effects terrorist groups like Hamas have on the Middle East.

Similarly, Iran and its quest to build nuclear weapons is a severe threat to the stability of the region and the security of America and our allies. Previously, Senator Hagel has opposed unilateral sanctions against Iran and has argued against the option of responding to a nuclear-armed Iran with military force. America must keep all options open in our effort to stop Iran from acquiring and using nuclear weapons. It’s imperative that a Defense Secretary shares this view.

With the Middle East becoming more volatile, we must make it clear who our allies are in the region. Senator Hagel’s record brings much concern about the direction in which he will lead our military.

We need a Defense Secretary who is unafraid to stand with Israel and use any means necessary to guarantee the safety of United States citizens. The undersigned Members of Congress believe Senator Hagel must address these issues in order to guarantee the future of security of the United States.

Congressman McKinley