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"It's interesting to me that many of those who want to rush the country into war and think it would be so quick and easy don't know anything about war. They come at it from an intellectual perspective versus having sat in jungles or foxholes and watched their friends get their heads blown off. I try to speak for those ghosts of the past a little bit."[Italics mine]
Hagel himself says that his interest in Vietnam was reignited sometime in 1999, when he listened to a tape of Lyndon Johnson's conversation with Senator Richard Russell about the war. On that tape, when Russell advises Johnson to pull out of Vietnam, Johnson agrees that U.S. intervention could end in disaster but expresses fear that, if he does withdraw, he will be impeached.

Tom Hagel says his brother's reevaluation of Vietnam began in earnest a few years later. "It was the run-up to the invasion of Iraq where you [began to] see all of this just flood out," he says. "Since that time, standing back, watching and talking to him, there were at least a few times a year, it was like watching someone growing increasingly obsessed and frustrated with what he sees going on around him and feels powerless to change it." According to Tom, during "the last year or two," as Chuck read more about the history of the war, his views on Vietnam changed dramatically. "I have never seen him change an opinion on anything in my life so quickly as he did after this information," Tom says. "It shocked me when he told me about it."
Isaac Chotiner