Hagel On Terrorism

Chuck Hagel seeks to reduce the pressure on, and isolation of, terrorist groups and state sponsors of terrorism. 

In 1998, Hagel appeared to mimic the talking points of Syria’s dictator. “Mr. Hagel met in Damascus in 1998 with the terror-sponsoring dictator, Hafez Al-Assad, and returned to tell a reporter about the meeting, ‘Peace comes through dealing with people. Peace doesn’t come at the end of a bayonet or the end of a gun.’”

In October 2000, Hagel was one of only four Senators who refused to sign a letter expressing support for Israel during the Palestinian intifada.

In November 2001, Hagel was one of 11 Senators who refused to sign a letter requesting President Bush not meet with Yasser Arafat until Arafat’s Fatah terrorists ceased attacks on Israel.

In April 2002, Hagel largely absolved Palestinians of responsibility for their campaign of terrorism against Israel.

“We understand Israel’s right to defend itself. We are committed to that right. We have helped Israel defend that right. We will continue to do so. But it should not be at the expense of the Palestinian people–innocent Palestinian people and innocent Israelis who are paying a high price. Both Israelis and Palestinians are trapped in a war not of their making.”

In the same speech, Hagel speculated that NATO troops should be sent to Israel:

“Will America be called upon, NATO forces be called upon to help guarantee this peace? Maybe.”

In May 2002, Hagel said he would have opposed a House resolution that blamed Arafat and the Palestinians for terrorism.

KARL: “You would have voted against Tom DeLay’s resolution in the House?”

HAGEL: “I would have very much voted against it because it did, in fact, single out the Palestinians and Arafat as the real problem here. And I think we have to be very careful here, as we are working toward a resolution and an ultimate political settlement. And it doesn’t help when we take public sides on this and castigate and assign all of the responsibility and all the blame to one side.”

In June 2002, on CNN, Hagel refused to call Yasser Arafat a terrorist and said the revelations about his direct role in orchestrating terrorist attacks against Israel were causing the Bush administration “to make Arafat the issue,” to which Hagel objected, and insisted that Arafat had a constructive role to play in the peace process.

“SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: I think what has happened here — and I don’t know if this is an unintended consequence or not, but the fact is, the administration has now made Yasser Arafat the issue. Even though they say he shouldn’t be the issue or is not the issue, they have made him the issue. The issue should be not Yasser Arafat. Whether you think he’s a terrorist or not, that’s rhetorical sword play. He is part of this process.”

In June 2002, after two years of Palestinian suicide bombings and terror attacks had murdered hundreds of Israelis, Hagel told an anti-Israel conference that the U.S. alliance with Israel should not come at the expense of Palestinians, and that the U.S. must impose an “end game” on Israel and the Palestinians. According to a report from the conference, “When Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) took the microphone, he also took the entire audience by surprise: “Israel is our friend and ally, and we must continue our commitment,” he said, “but not at the expense of the Palestinian people.” The cheers were deafening. Hagel went on: “What we need isn’t a cease-fire, leading to a sequential peace process, leading to negotiations on a Palestinian state, leading to negotiations on refugees, Jerusalem, etc. That time has passed. An end game must be brought to the front, now.”

In July 2002, in a Washington Post op-ed written after several of the most deadly months of Palestinian suicide bombings, Hagel said the U.S. was erroneously “making Yassir Arafat the issue,” that Palestinians could not be expected to make democratic reforms as long as “Israeli military occupation and settlement activity” continued, and that “Israel must take steps to show its commitment to peace” – after Israel had twice offered the Palestinians a state in negotiations in 2000 and 2001.

In November 2003, Hagel failed to vote on the Syria Accountability Act. “Another indicator came on November 11, 2003, when the Senate, by a vote of 89 to 4, passed the Syria Accountability Act authorizing sanctions on Syria for its support of terrorism and its occupation of Lebanon. Mr. Hagel – along with Mr. Kerry – didn’t vote.”

In April 2004, Hagel refused to sign onto a letter asking the UN not to support an International Court of Justice “advisory opinion” (i.e. automatic condemnation) on Israel’s security fence, which stopped the entry of suicide bombers into Israel and saved countless lives. The letter garnered 79 Senate signatures, but not Hagel’s.

In December 2005, Hagel was one of 27 Senators who refused to sign a letter to President Bush requesting the U.S. pressure the Palestinians to ban terrorist groups from participating in legislative elections.

In July 2006, Hagel called on President Bush to demand an immediate cease-fire when Israel retaliated against Hezbollah after the terrorist group attacked Israel, killed and abducted IDF soldiers, and fired rockets at Israeli civilians. Hagel said: “This madness must stop,” and accused Israel of “the systematic destruction of an American friend — the country and people of Lebanon.”

In different remarks during the same month, Hagel accused Israel of carrying out a “sickening slaughter” in Lebanon. In the same remarks, Hagel said that the U.S. relationship with Israel “need not and cannot be at the expense of our Arab and Muslim relationships. That is an irresponsible and dangerous false choice.”

In July 2006, after Hezbollah attacks sparked a war with Israel, Hagel called on the Bush administration to open direct talks with Hezbollah’s sponsors, Iran and Syria. “Ultimately the US will need to engage Iran and Syria with an agenda open to all areas of agreement and disagreement. For this dialogue to have any meaning or lasting relevance, it should encompass the full agenda of issues.”

In August 2006, Hagel was only of 12 senators who refused to sign a letter asking the EU to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

In March 2007, Hagel declined to join 72 Senators in supporting a bipartisan sanctions bill called the Iran Counter Proliferation Act.



In September 2007, Hagel opposed 76 Senators in voting against designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization. The “sense of Congress on Iran” read: “the United States should designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist organization…and place the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps on the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists.”


In July 2008, Hagel voted in the Senate Banking Committee against legislation imposing sanctions on countries conducting certain business with Iran. It passed 19-2.

In October 2008, Hagel was cited as “solely responsible” for holding up a bipartisan Iran sanctions bill in the Senate that had 72 co-sponsors.


In March 2009, Hagel signed a public letter urging President Obama to open direct negotiations with Hamas.

In March 2009, in an interview on Al Jazeera, Hagel agreed that the U.S. is “the world’s bully.”

INTERVIEWER: “We’ve got an email from Wendy Day. She writes to us from Georgia here in the United States. She writes, ‘Can the rest of the world be persuaded to give up their arsenal when the image of the U.S. is that of the world’s bully? Don’t we indeed need to change the perception and the reality before asking folks to lay down their arms (nuclear or otherwise)?’”

CHUCK HAGEL: “Well her observation is a good one, and it’s relevant. Yes, to her question.”

In October 2009, Hagel claimed – as he has for years – that the Syrian regime wished to abandon Iran and terrorism and move toward the U.S. and Israel. “I believe there is a real possibility of a shift in Syria’s strategic thinking and policies.  For its own self interests, not because they want to do a favor for the U.S. or Israel.  If we can convince Damascus to pause and re-consider its positions and support regarding Iran, Hezballah, Hamas and radical Palestinian groups, we will have made progress for the entire Middle East, Israel, and the U.S.  Syria wants to talk – at the highest levels – and everything is on the table.”