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Iraq Vet In Congress Takes McCain To Task

First Posted: 03/28/08 06:12 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 01:25 PM ET

Vet

The lone Iraq war veteran in Congress says it's a "shame" that Sen. John McCain has repeatedly and falsely stated that the predominantly Shiite Iran was training the Sunni al Qaeda forces in Iraq.

Rep. Patrick Murphy, who served in Iraq from 2003 to 2004 before running for Congress in 2006, suggested on Wednesday that McCain's misstatements, made three times in two days, were no minor issue considering his claims to foreign policy experience and the magnitude of the Iraq war.

"It was a shame that Sen. McCain couldn't understand the difference between Shiite and Sunni," said Murphy. "Knowing that distinction is vitally important, especially when you are considering the tragic consequences of coming off the bloodiest year we had in Iraq, with almost 1,000 American paying the ultimate sacrifice."

Murphy's comments make him one of the first members of Congress to weigh in on McCain's remarks. They come after Sen. Barack Obama, whom Murphy has endorsed, suggested that the Arizona Republican's confusion explained "why he voted to go to war with a country that had no Al Qaeda ties."

McCain, in response, accused Obama of making a big deal out of a small misstatement and of failing to pass "National Security 101." On a broader level, the McCain campaign noted, Obama was refusing to recognize the progress American forces have purportedly made in Iraq.

Murphy responded to the latter criticism, arguing that indicators of progress should be measured by factors other than casualty levels.

"When I was in Iraq back in 2003, I used to lead convoys up and down ambush alley," he said. "It is still the American forces that are leading those convoys up and down ambush alley and not the Iraqis. That is why I think it is imperative that our leaders have an understanding of what's going on over there. And I think Barack Obama has that."

Murphy, who represents the fourth most populous county in Pennsylvania, also predicted a fate for Obama in the state's upcoming primary that is far more optimistic than current poll numbers project. Arguing that Obama faced institutional disadvantages -- "he hasn't been the U.S. Senator from a neighboring state," he said -- Murphy nevertheless suggested that voters would flock to his campaign as time progressed.

As for concerns among working class whites over Obama's controversial former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Murphy dismissed them. He also downplayed past comments by Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell -- a Hillary Clinton supporter -- who said that some white voters in the state simply would not cast their ballots for a black candidate. The congressman did, however, offer a bit of regret that the issue of race, whether it affects votes or not, had become such a central focus of the Democratic primary.

"I have been disheartened by the attacks against Barack Obama," he said, "especially dealing with the fact that that he has got a white mother and an African father. But I think he has proven himself to his community and country."

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