Monday, July 21, 2008

The Future For Iraq by Senator John McCain

Below is the editorial essay submitted to The New York Times by Senator John McCain in response to a similar editorial submitted and printed one week earlier by Senator Barack Obama. The Times has rejected Senator McCain's editorial. We are most pleased to publish it here, exactly as written by Senator McCain.

The Future For Iraq
Senator John McCain

In January 2007, when General David Petraeus took command in Iraq, he called the situation “hard” but not “hopeless.” Today, 18 months later, violence has fallen by up to 80% to the lowest levels in four years, and Sunni and Shiite terrorists are reeling from a string of defeats. The situation now is full of hope, but considerable hard work remains to consolidate our fragile gains.

Progress has been due primarily to an increase in the number of troops and a change in their strategy. I was an early advocate of the surge at a time when it had few supporters in Washington. Senator Barack Obama was an equally vocal opponent. "I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there,” he said on January 10, 2007. “In fact, I think it will do the reverse."

Now Senator Obama has been forced to acknowledge that “our troops have performed brilliantly in lowering the level of violence.” But he still denies that any political progress has resulted.

Perhaps he is unaware that the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad has recently certified that, as one news article put it, “Iraq has met all but three of 18 original benchmarks set by Congress last year to measure security, political and economic progress.” Even more heartening has been progress that’s not measured by the benchmarks. More than 90,000 Iraqis, many of them Sunnis who once fought against the government, have signed up as Sons of Iraq to fight against the terrorists. Nor do they measure Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki’s new-found willingness to crack down on Shiite extremists in Basra and Sadr City—actions that have done much to dispel suspicions of sectarianism.

The success of the surge has not changed Senator Obama’s determination to pull out all of our combat troops. All that has changed is his rationale. In a New York Times op-ed and a speech this week, he offered his “plan for Iraq” in advance of his first “fact finding” trip to that country in more than three years. It consisted of the same old proposal to pull all of our troops out within 16 months. In 2007 he wanted to withdraw because he thought the war was lost. If we had taken his advice, it would have been. Now he wants to withdraw because he thinks Iraqis no longer need our assistance.

To make this point, he mangles the evidence. He makes it sound as if Prime Minister Maliki has endorsed the Obama timetable, when all he has said is that he would like a plan for the eventual withdrawal of U.S. troops at some unspecified point in the future.

Senator Obama is also misleading on the Iraqi military's readiness. The Iraqi Army will be equipped and trained by the middle of next year, but this does not, as Senator Obama suggests, mean that they will then be ready to secure their country without a good deal of help. The Iraqi Air Force, for one, still lags behind, and no modern army can operate without air cover. The Iraqis are also still learning how to conduct planning, logistics, command and control, communications, and other complicated functions needed to support frontline troops.

No one favors a permanent U.S. presence, as Senator Obama charges. A partial withdrawal has already occurred with the departure of five “surge” brigades, and more withdrawals can take place as the security situation improves. As we draw down in Iraq, we can beef up our presence on other battlefields, such as Afghanistan, without fear of leaving a failed state behind. I have said that I expect to welcome home most of our troops from Iraq by the end of my first term in office, in 2013.

But I have also said that any draw-downs must be based on a realistic assessment of conditions on the ground, not on an artificial timetable crafted for domestic political reasons. This is the crux of my disagreement with Senator Obama.

Senator Obama has said that he would consult our commanders on the ground and Iraqi leaders, but he did no such thing before releasing his “plan for Iraq.” Perhaps that’s because he doesn’t want to hear what they have to say. During the course of eight visits to Iraq, I have heard many times from our troops what Major General Jeffrey Hammond, commander of coalition forces in Baghdad, recently said: that leaving based on a timetable would be “very dangerous.”

The danger is that extremists supported by Al Qaeda and Iran could stage a comeback, as they have in the past when we’ve had too few troops in Iraq. Senator Obama seems to have learned nothing from recent history. I find it ironic that he is emulating the worst mistake of the Bush administration by waving the “Mission Accomplished” banner prematurely.

I am also dismayed that he never talks about winning the war—only of ending it. But if we don’t win the war, our enemies will. A triumph for the terrorists would be a disaster for us. That is something I will not allow to happen as president. Instead I will continue implementing a proven counterinsurgency strategy not only in Iraq but also in Afghanistan with the goal of creating stable, secure, self-sustaining democratic allies.


Vigilante said...

Jason Linkins, covers this in his New York Times Spares McCain Embarrassment By Spiking Op-Ed

Without quoting at length, I think his reasons is that McCain's written piece was not making sense. McCain is still talking about "victory" and "winning a war" whan the whole world knows that what's going down in Iraq is an occupation. In this pitiful piece, he talks about winning or losing a war in three places but occupation is never mentioned. No where is 'victory' defined. People, (even the NYT!) are tired of this shell game which leads only to endless occupation.

The best part of Linkins' piece is where he addresses the surge saying all that it accomplished is replacing sectarian divisions with more occupation:

I think that when Obama denies that any political progress has resulted, it's probably because no political progress has resulted. Indeed, the "Surge" was supposed to "create space" for the Iraqi government to reach a level of functionality. What's the impediment? Well, according to a majority of Iraqi legislators, that "space" has been occupied by the occupation. They said so in the letter they sent to Congress

Vigilante said...

From the letter by the majority of Iraqi legislators

... we wish to inform you that the majority of Iraqi representatives strongly reject any military-security, economic, commercial, agricultural, investment or political agreement with the United States that is not linked to clear mechanisms that obligate the occupying American military forces to fully withdraw from Iraq, in accordance with a declared timetable and without leaving behind any military bases, soldiers or hired fighters.

Op. Cit

the WIZARD, fkap said...

vigilante It's absolutly critical we separate the actual Op-Ed essay written by McCain from The New York Time's refusal to print the piece and their totally indefensible insult to John McCain and all the American public.

The headline on Linkin's piece is absurd and stupid: "The New York Times Spares McCain Embarrassment by Spiking Op-Ed." What a huge load of crap.

Everything the Times did in the instance was wrong on every level. It shrieks of partisan hackery.

If Linkin's (headline described) premise was even marginally true, the Time's should have rushed McCain's comments into print so America could learn, fron the Senator's own words, what a vapid and empty strategy the Republican Candidate was proposing.

Instead, to say that the Times wanted to "help McCain" is beyond the pale. Which is why I've printed the essay the Times rejected... in full... verbatim.

BUT....BUT.... BUT.... Linkin's comments about McCain's strategy and your comments, too, are excellent. McCain doesn't acknowledge the very nature of our occupation and never admits that the Iraqi people are chaffing under our presence and want us to leave, as soon as possible.

But the answer wasn't for the Times to insult the Senator and attempt to censor his views (or at least deny him equaly access to their op-ed section).

Instead the correct position for the Times should have been to print the Senator's words and then critic and condemn his approach.

And, mark my words, the Times stupidity will backfire. The TImes has actually removed Obama's excellent day from the headlines and instead inserted themselves and their arrogance into the News cycle.

As I wrote, Americans are a fair minded people. This will backfire on both Obama and the Times.

Vigilante said...

Well done! An eloquent and persuasive response, Wizard. I don't have the time at the moment to craft a equally suitable reply.