"I will never surrender in Iraq, my friends. I will never surrender in Iraq," John McCain said on May 27. "Our American troops will come home with victory and with honor. And that's my message to my friends."
This was the purest statement we've yet heard of McCain's political strategy on Iraq: It's not the reincarnation of the Hundred Years War: it's Richard Nixon's endgame slogan for the Vietnam War -- "Peace with Honor."
As the general election unfolds, McCain's strategic message will be to argue that both he and Barack Obama will end the war in Iraq, but that if he is in charge, American will remain proud and honorable while Obama will bring us shame and dishonor.
The concomitant argument will be that the issue of the war in Iraq is not about past decisions but about future plans. All that matters now is what happens going forward: Victory or defeat? Success or surrender?
Never mind that at every step of the way to this moment, McCain voted to get us into the war, to extend it at every turn and to increase American troop commitments. Never mind that, until this most recent foxhole conversion, McCain has argued for a permanent American troop presence in Iraq, along the lines of the U.S. posture in Korea.
Never mind that according to the National Archives, from 1969-1973, when Henry Kissinger finally concluded an accord with Hanoi, 20,863 American soldiers died in Vietnam -- sacrificed on the altar of Nixon's "Peace with Honor," a coarse, cynical campaign strategy masquerading as a foreign policy.
Nixon and Kissinger knew -- as author Professor Larry Berman of U.C. Davis demonstrated from declassified documents in No Peace, No Honor -- that their treaty with North Vietnam would result in neither.
Yet John McCain appears to have learned little in the 40 years since Nixon's "secret plan" to end the war in Indochina -- a "secret plan" that sent to their deaths an additional 20,000 Americans, more than 100,000 South Vietnamese fighters and countless North Vietnamese.
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