Hagel often at odds with his party

Updated: 2014-04-08 07:11

(China Daily)

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Chuck Hagel is not a party man, at least when that party is the Republicans. The US defense secretary does not pull his punches and has often been described by fellow Republicans as a maverick.

Certainly on Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, he has often expressed views at odds with his party's hierarchy.

Hagel, born on Oct 4, 1946, won two Purple Hearts as an infantry squad leader in the Vietnam War. Shrapnel fragments from that conflict are still lodged in his chest.

Hagel grew up in impoverished circumstances in North Platte, Nebraska, and was the eldest of four brothers.

He started working as a 9-year-old to help put food on the family table. His father died when he was 16.

Immediately after Vietnam, he worked as a radio reporter before landing a job in the office of a Nebraska lawmaker.

He made his fortune in the fledgling mobile phone industry, helping to co-found Vanguard Cellular Systems, which went on to become the second-largest cell phone company in the United States.

Elected to the Senate in 1996 and 2002, Hagel became an influential member of the Senate's foreign relations committee.

In 2006 he accused the Israelis of carrying out a "sickening slaughter" in Lebanon and that same year stridently criticized the Jewish lobby in Washington, while also coming out strongly against an attack on Iran.

Those comments, and bitter criticism of George W. Bush's Iraq strategy, where he expressed skepticism that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, in particular, seemed to scupper any widespread support in the Republican Party for a possible run for president in 2008.

Hagel also called the Iraq war one of the greatest blunders in US history.

He retired from the Senate in 2008 and took up a teaching position at Georgetown University.

That year his book, America: Our Next Chapter, stated that the Pentagon suffered from bloated budgets and a lack of effective oversight and that applying sanctions against Iran was a risky strategy.

In February 2013, US President Barack Obama appointed Hagel defense secretary after a bitter Senate vote that was stalled by a filibuster.

His 58-41 confirmation was the narrowest ever for a Pentagon chief.

Hagel is the 24th US secretary of defense.

China Daily-Agencies