POLITICS
06/11/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

McCain Hell-Bent On Getting Iraq Wrong Again And Again

It's gotten to the point where just about any time John McCain takes the cake opens his ethanol-hole to talk about Iraq, you can count on the man getting it wrong like the day is long. An object example was seen yesterday afternoon, when the cable news network briefly peeked in on McCain disseminating some of that patented Straight Talk. Check out the straight-up junk the man is selling on the stump:

So, the war in Iraq has been long and hard and tough and the sacrifice that's been made by brave young Americans has broken all of our hearts. And we know that the war was terribly mismanaged for nearly four years.

Of course, characterizing the problems in Iraq as one of mismanagement is to miss the point entirely. The underlying strategy, that we can defeat al Qaeda by attacking somebody else and launching a lengthy, needless, impossible to manage occupation that only exacerbates the lunatic tensions of regional terrorists, is what's at fault. Adding a billion more troops to the conflagration and expecting enhanced results is the primary fallacy of McCain's thinking.

And I stood up and was called disloyal by Republicans and attacked by Democrats, Republicans, and others because I said that strategy didn't work. And I advocated this new strategy, which obviously, according to news reports, that casualties and deaths are at the lowest point since literally the beginning.

Of course, the primary driver in the reduction of Iraqi casualties was the removal of targets of opportunity through a sustained campaign of sectarian cleansing, which we allowed to happen and which has fueled a huge refugee problem in Iraq.

And the success is remarkable. We now have control. Basically the Iraqi government has control of Mosul, Baghdad and Basra, the three major cities in Iraq.

You call this success? Now is a pretty bad time to be betting on Nouri al-Maliki, my friends. And it's funny that McCain should bring up Basra, which has been the setting for no end of un-straight talk. Where we last left things in Basra, Sadr was running game, and the Iraqi security forces needed the U.S. Military to "take the lead" in restoring order.

I think General Petraeus would tell you that even though we've had these significant gains, we have to solidify them. And he's going to come back in July, when our -- when our drawdown from the surge, three of the five brigades are already back. There's two more brigades that will be coming back the end of July. The Marines have come back, and there's still some support troops there. But we are drawing back down from the surge. And then in July he said that he wants to pause and he wants to evaluate the situation, and then apparently -- and I say -- emphasize apparently, he may be optimistic about further troop withdrawals.

What McCain is endorsing here is basically more of the Bush approach to this war, where the White House constantly 1) emphasizes how much success the operation is having, 2) bitch about how no one in the media covers the good news, but nevertheless 3) all signs of discernible success nevertheless indicate that the occupation must go on and on and on.

Also: isn't this a timetable? Isn't McCain letting the terrorists know when our brigades are leaving, when the heroic Petraeus "pause" will begin? Will it aid and comfort the enemy to learn that "the Marines have come back?"

But the key to it, my friends, the real important thing, is not so much American presence as it is American casualties. And I'm happy to tell you that they are down. One casualty is too many. One casualty is too many.

Well, if the "key" to this whole thing is "American casualties" (and I imagine that there are plenty of perfectly nice Iraqis who would insist that there are other "keys"), and if "one casualty is too many," then I can only think of one course of action!

But the significant success that we've had is due to the incredible bravery of the young men and women who are serving there.

Having refused to back the G.I. Bill, our brave young men should keep in mind that once they are back Stateside, John McCain's got nothin' fo' ya, man.

And let me just explain to you very briefly, if I could, if we withdraw. If we had done what Senator Obama wanted done, and the troops were -- are going to be withdrawn and probably would have been according to a timetable, what happens?

Oh, so timetables are only bad when Barack Obama asks for one.

...what happens? The Iranian influence increases.

The increase of Iranian influence can correctly be seen as a foreseeable outcome of invading Iraq in the first place.

Then there's chaos.

Chaos can correctly be seen as a foreseeable outcome of invading Iraq in the first place.

Then there's more fighting amongst different militias and jihadists.

This sort of sectarian strife has been present in Iraq since the British occupied the country, and can correctly be seen as a foreseeable outcome of invading Iraq in the first place.

And al Qaeda establishes a base, and sooner or later we would be back with greater loss and greater sacrifice.

Do I even need to point out that al Qaeda becoming a presence in Iraq can correctly be seen as a foreseeable outcome of invading Iraq in the first place? Insofar as a puny version of al Qaeda has surfaced there, the historical record shows that they emerged as a by-product of our invasion. That's why they have this special little name, "al Qaeda in Iraq." Anyway, there's simply no reason in the world that the U.S. should tolerate the existence of an "al Qaeda base" in Iraq, and such a base is easily destroyed whether we occupy the country or not.

Now, if we succeed, if we succeed, we can reduce Iranian influence.

But other than the use of his magical, wishful thinking, McCain does not have a plan to reduce Iran's influence! Iran has friendly, open relationships with the al Maliki government. When al Maliki failed to quell the fighting in Basra, the cease-fire agreement that finally did was brokered by Iran. And, naturally, one should expect Iraq's Shiite majority to be favorably predisposed to Iran. And vice-versa. So, an increase in Iranian influence is a fact of life. And McCain's only counter? Never talk to Iran - which only shuts the United States out of the conversation that Iran and Iraq are already having - and maybe bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb them, which, at a time when "ordinary Iranians' affection for the United States seems to be thriving," makes it so the most generous way to describe McCain's Iran policy is "mindblowingly stupid."

[WATCH.]

MCCAIN: So, the war in Iraq has been long and hard and tough and the sacrifice that's been made by brave young Americans has broken all of our hearts. And we know that the war was terribly mismanaged for nearly four years. And I stood up and was called disloyal by Republicans and attacked by Democrats, Republicans, and others because I said that strategy didn't work. And I advocated this new strategy, which obviously, according to news reports, that casualties and deaths are at the lowest point since literally the beginning. And the success is remarkable. We now have control. Basically the Iraqi government has control of Mosul, Baghdad and Basra, the three major cities in Iraq. So, it's been a great sacrifice that we've made. And at that time as you may recall, I said that I'd much rather lose a political campaign than lose a war. And we still have a long way to go, my friends. I think General Petraeus would tell you that even though we've had these significant gains, we have to solidify them. And he's going to come back in July, when our -- when our drawdown from the surge, three of the five brigades are already back. There's two more brigades that will be coming back the end of July. The Marines have come back, and there's still some support troops there. But we are drawing back down from the surge. And then in July he said that he wants to pause and he wants to evaluate the situation, and then apparently -- and I say -- emphasize apparently, he may be optimistic about further troop withdrawals. But the key to it, my friends, the real important thing, is not so much American presence as it is American casualties. And I'm happy to tell you that they are down. One casualty is too many. One casualty is too many. But the significant success that we've had is due to the incredible bravery of the young men and women who are serving there. And let me just explain to you very briefly, if I could, if we withdraw. If we had done what Senator Obama wanted done, and the troops were -- are going to be withdrawn and probably would have been according to a timetable, what happens? The Iranian influence increases. Then there's chaos. Then there's more fighting amongst different militias and jihadists. And al Qaeda establishes a base, and sooner or later we would be back with greater loss and greater sacrifice. Now, if we succeed, if we succeed, we can reduce Iranian influence. We can have a functioning democracy, and I would recall to you that Saddam Hussein was one of the most brutal and evil people that ever inhabited this earth. And I'm glad he's gone. And I'm glad the Iraqi people have a chance for -- to live in a free and open society.