OMAHA, Neb. — U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel writes in a new book that the United States needs independent leadership and possibly another political party, while suggesting the Iraq war might be remembered as one of the five biggest blunders in history.
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"In the current impasse, an independent candidate for the presidency, or a bipartisan unity ticket ... could be appealing to Americans," Hagel writes in "America: Our Next Chapter," due in stores Tuesday. The Associated Press obtained an advance copy.
The Nebraska Republican, who announced last year he wouldn't seek a third term or the GOP presidential nomination, had been widely mentioned as a running mate on an independent ticket with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg said last month he wouldn't run.
'Reckless foreign policy'
Hagel said that despite holding one of the Senate's strongest records of support for President Bush, his standing as a Republican has been called into question because of his opposition to what he deems "a reckless foreign policy ... that is divorced from a strategic context."
Hagel, who's been a harsh critic of the war since 2003, writes that the invasion of Iraq was "the triumph of the so-called neoconservative ideology, as well as Bush administration arrogance and incompetence."
The Vietnam veteran said he had hoped the lessons from that war would give the nation's leaders perspective before troops were sent to Iraq.
"To the astonishment of those of us who lived through the agony of Vietnam, these lessons were ignored in the run-up to the Iraq War," he writes.
Hagel said Vice President Dick Cheney and others "cherry-picked intelligence" and used fear to intensify "war sloganeering."
During visits to the Middle East in December 2002, Hagel said, Israel's top security officials asked, "Do you really understand what you are getting yourselves into?"
Hagel said Bush personally assured him that he would exhaust diplomatic avenues before committing troops to Iraq. The senator said he voted for the war resolution based on those assurances, but regrets the vote because it's now clear that lawmakers were presented with lies and wishful thinking.
Last year, Hagel was the only member of his party on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to support a nonbinding measure critical of Bush's decision to dispatch an additional 30,000 troops to Iraq.
"There is no strategy. This is a pingpong game with American lives," Hagel said at the time.
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