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Are the Democrats distorting John McCain’s “100 years in Iraq” quote?

By Griffin · April 8th, 2008 · No Comments

Barack Obama plays chicken with YouTube and loses:

For the record, the exact exchange in question between McCain and a town hall questioner went like this:

QUESTIONER: President Bush has talked about our staying in Iraq for 50 years…

McCAIN: Maybe 100. We’ve been in South Korea… We’ve been in Japan for 60 years, we’ve been in South Korea for 50 years or so. That’d be fine with me, as long as Americans… as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed. It’s fine with me, I hope it would be fine with you if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where al Qaeda is training, recruiting, equipping and motivating people every single day.

So are Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton distorting John McCain’s quote by suggesting that he favors 100 more years of war in Iraq? Yes. The key word here is “war.” McCain never suggested that and it’s flat out dishonest for the Democratic candidates to suggest that he did.

The irony though is that what McCain is suggesting– 100 more years of presence in Iraq– is almost as ludicrous. Gregory Scoblete over at Real Clear Politics, dissects McCain’s analogy between Iraq and South Korea/Japan brilliantly:

In both South Korea and Kuwait, the U.S. military served first to expel invaders, then to ensure they stayed out. Though both wars ended with ambiguous results, they had clearly defined endings. The fighting stopped, and with it, U.S. casualties. We remained based in South Korea and Kuwait to defend these nations from a single external threat along clearly identified, internationally recognized, geographic boundaries.

The situation in Iraq couldn’t be more different. The U.S. is not waging a war against a nation but countering multiple insurgencies. Our military must not only keep external powers out, it must also keep internal rivals to the government down. We saw this in the recent fighting in Basra, where the U.S. was called on by the Iraqi government not to save it from an external foe, but to put down a rival Iraqi militia. Far from passive deterrence, the U.S. will be called upon to take an active role in shaping Iraq’s internal political development by providing security to elements of Iraqi society that we wish to see succeed.

All this, while simultaneously ensuring that Iraqi citizens do not return to killing each other in large-scale outbursts of tribal or sectarian violence.

You’d think there are few people who are better briefed on Iraq than John McCain. Yet the “100 years” analogy is only one of many he’s made that suggest a fundamental lack of understanding of the situation. McCain’s insistence on framing what is in reality no longer a war but an occupation in terms of “winning” and “losing”, his willingness to wildly exaggerate the threat of Al Qaeda in Iraq– a Sunni resistance group of little more than 1,000 fighters in an overwhelmingly Shia nation of over 25 million– his repeated Rovian attempts to link AQI to Iran (again, AQI is Shia, Iran is Sunni; they don’t like each other), and his baffling analogies of Iraq to the Cold War are at least as dishonest, if not more dangerous, than the Democrats’ distortion of his 100 years quote.

When the Democrats first got ahold of the quote, the choice they had was to portray John McCain as either a warmonger (“McCain wants 100 more years of war!”) or a fool (“McCain wants another 100 years of occupying an unstable Islamic nation in the middle of a civil war?”). They chose the warmonger route, probably guessing that the public wouldn’t buy the notion that a well-respected and experienced senator like McCain didn’t know what he was talking about. But in doing so, they chose the more dishonest route, one that would leave them wide open to counterattack, as McCain’s campaign has been doing forcefully.

Considering how tremendously unpopular the Iraq War is, you have to wonder why the Democrats took any risk in attacking John McCain at all. They could have stuck to the facts and found themselves running against a well-intentioned but elderly member of the Washington establishment whose world view is stuck somewhere in the 1980s. But as of now, they’re running against the guy who the public assumes knows the situation in Iraq best and is telling it like it is, unlike the Democrats who have to resort to stretching quotes to make their argument.

Tags: Barack Obama · Democrats · Hillary Clinton · Iraq · John McCain · Republicans

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