Iraq

McCain's Consistent Folly on Iraq

Wrong in 2003, wrong now, and still getting praised for it

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On the campaign trail, John McCain has retreated on immigration, changed his mind on tax cuts and admitted economics is not his strong suit. But all that's unimportant, we are told, because he was Right On Iraq—back at the beginning, when he endorsed the invasion, and again over the past year, when he has stoutly supported the surge. So, whichever Democrat he faces, the November election could be a referendum on the Iraq war and his support for it.

If so, that may not be a plus for McCain. McCain has been consistent about Iraq, in the sense of being consistently wrong. If the American people get a long look at what he's said and a clear picture of our fortunes in Iraq, he may yearn for the days when he was being pilloried for offering "amnesty" to illegal immigrants.

McCain portrays himself as uniquely clear-eyed about the war. In fact, those eyes have often been full of stars. When Army Gen. Eric Shinseki forecast that more troops would be needed for the occupation, McCain didn't fret. Shortly before the invasion, he said, "I have no qualms about our strategic plans." As the online magazine Salon reports, he predicted the war would be "another chapter in the glorious history of the United States of America."

He brags now that he criticized Donald Rumsfeld's handling of the occupation. But McCain didn't declare "no confidence" in him until a year and a half after the invasion. And let's not forget the day he took a stroll through a Baghdad market, guarded by attack helicopters and 100 soldiers in full combat mode, to prove how safe Iraq was. The following day, 21 Iraqis were abducted from the market and murdered.

McCain's attempts to show off his expertise often turn into banana peels. Recently he attacked Barack Obama for saying that in the future, he might send forces back in "if al-Qaida is forming a base in Iraq." Jeered the Arizona senator, "Al-Qaida already has a base in Iraq. It's called al-Qaida in Iraq."

But al-Qaida in Iraq has about as much to do with al-Qaida in Afghanistan as the San Diego Padres have to do with the Catholic Church. It's a separate, independent and largely homegrown group that is focused on slaughtering Iraqi Shiites, not targeting American cities. And here's a newsflash for McCain: It didn't exist until our invasion created conditions favorable to violent insurgency.

It's true that eventually, McCain did call for more troops, and eventually, President Bush agreed. Last January, he announced that he was boosting forces to quell violence—while telling the Iraqi government to move promptly toward internal reconciliation and power-sharing. All this would produce a stable, democratic Iraq and "hasten the day our troops begin coming home."

More than a year later, security is better. But nothing else is. The Baghdad government has failed to do the things Bush called for, and there is no sign that our troops will be coming home anytime soon, if ever.

Provincial elections, which were supposed to be held last year, remain somewhere over the rainbow. A landmark de-Baathification law turned out to be a scam, with the purported beneficiaries complaining it was even worse than the old policy. Bush said the Iraqi government would assume responsibility for security across the entire country by November 2007. We're still waiting.

The point of the surge was to catalyze rapid progress that would facilitate our departure. But now the Pentagon says that come July, we'll still have more troops than the 132,000 we had before. When Lt. Gen. Carter Ham was asked if the number will fall below 132,000 by the time Bush leaves office, he replied, "It would be premature to say that."

McCain says the current "strategy is succeeding in Iraq." His apparent definition of success is that American forces will stay on in huge numbers as long as necessary to keep violence within acceptable limits. We were told we had to increase our numbers so we could leave. Turns out we had to increase our numbers so we could stay.

Five years after the Iraq invasion, we've suffered more than 30,000 dead and wounded troops, incurred trillions in costs and found that Iraqis are unwilling to overcome their most basic divisions. And no end is in sight. If you're grateful for that, thank John McCain.

COPYRIGHT 2008 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

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  1. Fighting Statism sucks, we should have never faught the British in 1776.

  2. Nothing says “Fighting Statism” like giving the government a trillion dollars to go off on some crusade.

  3. So you’re saying McCain is like Michael Young?

  4. After 9-11 we had to do something about the terrorists. America has a right to defend itself. That is why we attacked Iraq. The world is a safer place without the terrorist Saddam Husseain in power in Iraq.

  5. If so, that may not be a plus for McCain. McCain has been consistent about Iraq, in the sense of being consistently wrong.

    And just what is wrong with removing a dangerous dictator from power? Do you forget 9-11.

    Right or ‘wrong’, he has been consistant; the American people do not want a “flip-flopper”.

    The surge is working, we have not been attacked by terrorists since we invaded Iraq, so the Iraq war is working.

    We have to stay the course.

  6. The world is a safer place without the terrorist Saddam Husseain in power in Iraq.

    Obviously. That’s why terrorist attacks have gone up so considerably; because of how much safer the world has been made from terrorism.

  7. That is why we attacked Iraq.

    That’s the justification for invading Iraq, but not the real reason. Read this.

    And just what is wrong with removing a dangerous dictator from power? Do you forget 9-11.

    Why stop there?
    Under that logic, we should have invaded North Korea, Syria, Lebanon, and maybe Venezuela. Pakistan would’ve made more sense.

  8. Obviously. The US has been hit by lots of terrorist attacks since 9/11.

  9. Regarding foreign policy, McCain is wrong, Clinton is wrong and Obama is wrong.

    If we began listening to experts instead of politicians we might start to see the world as it really is, instead of what has been presented to us.

    “Democrats and Republicans are bickering about where and how to intervene, whether to do it alone or with allies and what kind of world America should lead. Democrats believe they can hit a reset button, and Republicans believe muscular moralism is the way to go.”

    “While America fumbles at nation-building, Europe spends its money and political capital on locking peripheral countries into its orbit. Many poor regions of the world have realized that they want the European dream, not the American dream.”

    –Parag Khanna, an expert on geopolitics, global governance, and Asian and European affairs, most recently the Global Governance Fellow at The Brookings Institution. He has worked at the World Economic Forum in Geneva, Switzerland, where he specialized in scenario and risk planning, and at the Council on Foreign Relations, where he conducted research on terrorism and conflict resolution.

  10. My beef with this whole ax grinding exercise over Iraq is that a) in the big picture, there are longer term problems on the agenda that will slam our economy permanently, b) now that we’re in Iraq the bigger question is what to do about it and nobody has a good answer.

    Is Iraq really going to cost as much as fully socialized (or Hitler-ized) medicine? I doubt it. Is Iraq going to cost as much as the “save Gaia”, centrally planned and controlled global economy propositions that the idiots keep throwing up and insisting we implement NOW?

    In the big picture, when we really need the money for something else they’re going to scale the Iraq fiasco way back. And we probably won’t scale back until then, no matter what anybody promises in the primaries today.

    Iraq we will eventually get over. Fully socialized medicine here in the US and a stagnant global economy are propositions of a different sort.

    And now joe can tell us all why, even after our highly trustworthy governments have assumed control of our health care and energy industries, it will have no significant economic impact.

    I won’t buy it, but he’ll tell us anyway, as sure as we aren’t pulling out of Iraq in the next 8 years no matter who’s president.

  11. At minimum, I submit that changes to our health care system and “save the planet global warming fix” schemes are going to have a way bigger impact on the average American’s life than Iraq is ever going to be.

  12. Ebeneezer, you are so right. Good call.

  13. Chapman’s certainly right about the invasion of Iraq being an unqualified disaster in terms of American interests. Whether that’s enough to sink McCain’s presidential bid remains to be seen, however.

    The recent change to more aggressive tactics seems to have yielded short term tactical successes; whether this translates into longer term stability is far from certain, but these successes may be enough to cause people to reserve judgment on the war and McCain’s support of it until after the election.

    I doubt that Iraq will ever be stabilized and pacified without a continuous and long term American presence, which we can ill afford and which is a dangerous distraction from far greater threats, particularly the rapidly expanding military power of the PRC and the newly assertive foreign policy of Putin’s Russia.

    Colin Powell’s oft-cited admonition to George Bush to the effect that you break it, you own it was both ominous and prescient.

  14. Obviously. The US has been hit by lots of terrorist attacks since 9/11.

    We have been hit by exactly as many as during the same period after the first WTC attack.

    The rest of the world, however, has experienced far more.

    And just what is wrong with removing a dangerous dictator from power? It’s 2008, we’ve been in this quagmire for 5 years, and you are asking that question?

  15. “The surge is working, we have not been attacked by terrorists since we invaded Iraq, so the Iraq war is working. ”

    Lisa, I want to buy your rock.

  16. But al-Qaida in Iraq has about as much to do with al-Qaida in Afghanistan as the San Diego Padres have to do with the Catholic Church.

    I find it amazing there are people this stupid who can feed themselves. What more could AQI do to affiliate themselves with AQA if they tried? They’ve sworn fealty, copied their tactics, traded lieutenants, and corresponded regularly. What else do they have to do???

    We have been hit by exactly as many as during the same period after the first WTC attack

    I know some people who might disagree.

    The U.S. victims
    These are the nineteen U.S. Air Force servicemen killed in the Khobar Towers blast in 1996.

    Captain Christopher J. Adams
    Captain Leland T. Haun
    Master Sergeant Michael G. Heiser
    Master Sergeant Kendall K. Kitson, Jr.
    Technical Sergeant Daniel B. Cafourek
    Technical Sergeant Patrick P. Fennig
    Technical Sergeant Thanh V. Nguyen
    Staff Sergeant Kevin J. Johnson
    Staff Sergeant Ronald L. King
    Sergeant Millard D. Campbell
    Senior Airman Earl F. Cartrette, Jr.
    Senior Airman Jeremy A. Taylor
    Airman 1st Class Christopher B. Lester
    Airman 1st Class Brent E. Marthaler
    Airman 1st Class Brian W. McVeigh
    Airman 1st Class Peter J. Morgera
    Airman 1st Class Joseph E. Rimkus
    Airman 1st Class Justin R. Wood [1]
    Airman 1st Class Joshua E. Woody

  17. Nothing says “Fighting Statism” like giving the government a trillion dollars to go off on some crusade.

    What if it’s a crusade against statism?

  18. As for “quagmire” Here’s Anthony Cordesman, formerly beloved of Dkos for his critical assessments of Iraq, but probably not well liked there after this dose of reality:

    “Major progress in every area”

    http://www.csis.org/media/csis/pubs/080213_situationiniraq.pdf

    there is now a very real chance that Iraq will emerge as a secure and stable state?

  19. we’ve suffered more than 30,000 dead and wounded troops

    Per icasualties.org 63,000 casualties (including disease & non-hostile injury/deaths), which is the better number to site to give full human cost.

    http://icasualties.org/oif/default.aspx

  20. Why not attacks from OBL?

    Is it because Bush is a genuis for invading Iraq?

    Well, in a way, that is correct.

    You see my friends, what the American people need to understand, is that Bush and McCain have down horrible damage to our country.

    OBL did not have to lift a finger.

    We are destroying ourselves.

    The damage done from the Iraq war is far worse than anything OBL could have done.

    Trashed economy, soldiers killed and wounded, world hates USA, Iraq used to be secular enemy of Iran, now Iraq is Islamic state that is allies with Iran, ruined our standing as examples, constitution out the door, torture habeus corpus just look at our country.

    OBL is letting us kill ourselves.

    He would not attack us while we are destroying ourselves.

    Never distract your enemy when he is making a mistake.

    If he was to attack, world sentiment would go back to the USA.

    He is sitting back and laughing at us.

    Intervention does not work.

  21. What if it’s a crusade against statism?

    You don’t fight statism in another country with statism in your own.

  22. TallDave,

    Do you really want to compare numbers of military personnel killed in the Middle East? REALLY?

    What if it’s a crusade against statism?

    Well, then, no way a crusade could go off course. Shall we count the Iraqi Interior Ministry running death and torture squads as the equivalent of the Crusaders sacking Constantinople?

    That’s a great quote, btw. We’re always just about to turn the corner, aren’t we?

  23. there is now a very real chance that Iraq will emerge as a secure and stable state?

    Iraq was a secure and stable state in 2001.

    There is a change the people in Iraq could, someday, be as safe and secure as they were under Saddam Hussein. Hooray!

  24. Iraq was a secure and stable state in 2001.

    Yes, except for the invasion of Iran, the invasion of Kuwait, the civil war with the Shia, the civil war with the Kurds, and the brutal police state that maimed, tortured, and killed anyone who spoke out against it, Iraq was a model of stability and security, where children flew kites and laughed.

  25. There is a change the people in Iraq could, someday, be as safe and secure as they were under Saddam Hussein.

    Given that 7,000 people a month died under Hussein, they are already far safer, far more secure — and much much freer. Not that free elections, free press, and free speech mean anything to you.

    Do you really want to compare numbers of military personnel killed in the Middle East? REALLY?

    We weren’t at war in Saudi Arabia. Small difference there.

  26. What if it’s a crusade against statism? … You don’t fight statism in another country with statism in your own.

    Really? It seemed to work pretty well in fighting totalitarians in South Korea, Japan, and Germany.

  27. Trashed economy, soldiers killed and wounded, world hates USA, Iraq used to be secular enemy of Iran, now Iraq is Islamic state that is allies with Iran, ruined our standing as examples, constitution out the door, torture habeus corpus just look at our country.

    Highest GDP per capita of any major country (and military spending still low as a % of GDP), world may not like our foreign policy but it has not affected trade or security agreements or much of anything else (in fact, NATO is still expanding), Iraq is a now a relatively liberal democracy that undermines the theocracy in Iran (and wasn’t very secualr under Hussein anyway; he had a Koran written in his blood, and made numerous religious pronouncements on state TV), constitution is fine (FDR interned 100,000, executed spies, and strongarmed press; nothing like that happening now), 3 Al Qaeda senior terrorists waterboarded is not torture, habeus corpus is alive and well for American citizens, our country is just great.

  28. TallDave — you missed my point completely.

    The quagmire in Iraq is exactly what OBL wants.

    That is why he declares Iraq is the “global front”

    Because gullible people will believe that, and allow our idiot leadership to keep us there (heck maybe for 100 years)!

    We are doing exactly what he hoped we would do — destroy ourselves

  29. Daniel,
    This is satire, right? You don’t actually believe what you’re saying, are you?

  30. TallDave,
    Bullshit. A 400 billion dollar deficit and massive casualties are not great. This might not be a catastrophe, but it sure as hell isn’t good, either.

  31. Given that 7,000 people a month died under Hussein …

    Well, if we count that as 7000 fewer terrorists then I don’t see the problem.

  32. There should be a picture in the dictionary of Steve Chapman next to the word wrong. In addition to having no respect for the facts (“trillions of dollars” for Iraq-please) he is clueless regarding the reality on the ground as are many anti-Bushies whose minds closed on the current Iraq deployment before it even started.

    The fact is that peace is breaking out all over in Iraq. Al Qaeda has been virtually vanquished, the second largest oil reserves in the world are coming online just when they are most needed (with oil at an all time inflation-adjusted high), and American casualties are at an all-time low. (By the way, what ever happened to the quaint American tradition of blaming the enemy for killing our troops instead of blaming their commander in chief?)

    Those who wish to precipitously withdraw from Iraq want to squander these returns on our massive investment of blood and treasure to spite George Bush and Dick Cheney. They apparently want higher prices at the pump, an Al Qaeda triumphant and emboldened to kill more of us, and a US diminished by yet another self-inflicted defeat.

    What they fail to realize is that a defeat for Bush and Cheney is a defeat for us.

    Why would anyone want to lose a war?

  33. Why would anyone want to lose a war?

    Because it doesn’t fit with modern left wing ideology (give up, give up, give up).

    The majority of people I’ve talked to who are or have been stationed in Iraq, are saying near-catagorically that people over there are much better off now, on the whole, than they were under Saddam.

    The fact that we maybe shouldn’t have done it is one thing. But to declare that it’s now a complete failure is more a matter of faith and religion than reality.

    Although the question does stand — exactly how long are we going to have to keep troops over there, in order for things to stay calm?

    And it’s also true that Iran has one whole hell of a lot to do with how calm (or not) Iraq is. Iran can stir up the Shias any time it wants to.

  34. Iraq better off now? LOL – dream on, wingnuts.

    1- Four million displaced Iraqi refugees
    2- An Islamist Constitution and sharia’
    3- Sectarian barricades
    4- a permanent terrorist group – Blackwater – operating beyond the local law
    5- Dying infrastructure and services
    6- 250k to 800k Iraqi dead (dependent on source)
    7- Inability to defend itself
    8- The spectre of permanent foreign occupation.

    Yeah – a real success. Conservatives live in an alternate non-reality – like Creationism and the “success” of the surge.

  35. So what is your solution??? It doesn’t require
    a genius to see and point out the problems..
    The liberals have been doing that for years..
    I’ve heard no solutions from them either..Other than quit, which is no solution..

  36. You’re spot on about the Iraq fiasco and McCain’s embrace of Bush’ monumental strategic foreign policy blunder. If the senator is running on this as the prime example of his experience and judgment, God help America! I, for one, say no thanks; I’d rather vote for Obama.

  37. Ebeneezer Scrooge,
    Like I said before, Iraqis are not better off. Bad as Saddam Hussein’s regime was, it’s better than being unable to leave one’s house for fear of being blown up.

    shrike,
    Maybe this wouldn’t suck as much if so many Iraqis weren’t intent on continuing the fight. Who knows, we might actually have seen a drawdown in troops. While I’m all for assigning responsibility for imprudent actions, you would be best served to remember that the vast majority of these civilian casualties were victims of other Iraqis or of foreign terrorists, not US troops (or even Blackwater mercenaries), and that their killers would likely have even more success in the absence of American troops. That said, the US govt. enabled these murderers to operate when it overthrew an admittedly awful, but at least stable regime.
    stuart,
    Amen on the part about McCain, but instead of voting for Obama, you might consider joining me in nonvoting this year.

  38. Terence Nugent,
    Your denial of reality is truly fascinating. Or frightening.

  39. This is now economist’s personal rant thread. I’m all for leaving Iraq and letting them sort it out themselves. I figure if people are too insane to not go out and blow themselves up in the name of Allah, then good riddance. And if it turns out that US troop presence merely inflames Iraqis and causes terrorist attacks, then we’re good there, too. Win-win solution.

  40. “By the way, what ever happened to the quaint American tradition of blaming the enemy for killing our troops instead of blaming their commander in chief?”

    Whatever happened to the quaint American tradition that if you invade my house, I shoot you? We invaded a country that never attacked us and never had any viable means to (aka WMD’s).

    Are you that deluded that you don’t think any of this is the responsibility of the CIC????

    BTW One out of every five Iraqi’s is either dead or diplaced (compared to pre-invasion numbers). Is it really any wonder a majority of those interviewed want us to leave?

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