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  • Frank Rich on McCain's Iraq

    April 6, 2008
    Op-Ed Columnist
    Tet Happened, and No One Cared

    By FRANK RICH
    REALLY, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton should be ashamed of themselves for libeling John McCain. As a growing chorus reiterates, their refrains that Mr. McCain is “willing to send our troops into another 100 years of war in Iraq” (as Mr. Obama said) or “willing to keep this war going for 100 years” (per Mrs. Clinton) are flat-out wrong.

    What Mr. McCain actually said in a New Hampshire town-hall meeting was that he could imagine a 100-year-long American role in Iraq like our long-term presence in South Korea and Japan, where “Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed.” See for yourself on YouTube.

    But Mr. McCain shouldn’t protest too much about the Democrats’ bogus attack. For him, this sideshow is a political lifeline, allowing him to skate away from his many other, far more worrying canards about Iraq. If anything, that misused quote may be one of his more benign fairy tales. How delightful to fantasize that staying the Bush-Petraeus course will transform Iraq into pacific postwar Japan. Iraq’s sects have remained at each other’s throats since their country was carved out of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. Perhaps magical thinking can bring peace to Israel and the Palestinians, too.

    Everything else Mr. McCain has to say about Iraq is more troubling, and I don’t mean just his recent serial gaffe conflating Shiite Iran and Sunni Qaeda. The sum total of his public record suggests that he could well prolong the war for another century — not because he’s the crazed militarist portrayed by Democrats, but through sheer inertia, bad judgment and blundering.

    So far his bizarre pronouncements have been drowned out by the Democrats’ din. They’ve also been underplayed by a press that coddles Ol’ Man Straight Talk and that rarely looks more deeply into the “surge is success” propaganda than it did into Mr. Bush’s announcement of the end of “major combat operations” five years ago. The electorate doesn’t want to hear much anyway about a war it long ago soundly rejected.

    For the majority of Americans who haven’t met any of the brave troops who’ve been cavalierly tossed into the quagmire, the war is out of sight and mind in a way Vietnam never was. Only 28 percent of Americans knew American casualties in Iraq were nearing 4,000 last month, according to the Pew Research Center. The Project for Excellence in Journalism found that by March 2008 the percentage of prominent news stories that were about Iraq had fallen to about one-fifth of what it was in January 2007. It’s a poignant commentary on the whole war that Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the nonpartisan advocacy group, was reduced to protesting the lack of coverage.

    That’s why it’s no surprise that so few stopped to absorb the disastrous six-day battle of Basra that ended last week — a mini-Tet that belied the “success” of the surge. Even fewer noticed that the presumptive Republican nominee seemed at least as oblivious to what was going down as President Bush, no tiny feat.

    In Mr. Bush’s telling, Basra was a “defining moment in the history of a free Iraq.” He praised the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, and boasted repeatedly that the Iraqi forces were fighting “in the lead.” The Pentagon spokesman declared that this splendid engagement was “a byproduct of the success of the surge.”

    It was a defining moment all right. Mr. Maliki’s impulsive and ill-planned attempt to vanquish the militias in southern Iraq loyal to his Shiite rival, the cleric Moktada al-Sadr, was a failure that left Mr. Sadr more secure than before. Though some Iraqi armed forces were briefly in the lead, others mutinied. Eventually American and British forces and air power had to ride to the rescue in both Basra and Baghdad. Even then, the result was at best a standoff, with huge casualties. The battle ended only when Mr. Maliki’s own political minions sought a cease-fire.

    Mr. McCain was just as wrong about Basra as he was in 2003, when he said the war would be “brief” and be paid for by Iraqi oil revenues. Or as he was in the 1990s, when he championed extravagant State Department funding for the war instigator Ahmad Chalabi, who’d already been branded untrustworthy by the C.I.A. (The relationship between Mr. Chalabi and the former lobbyist Charles Black, now a chief McCain campaign strategist, is explored in a new book, “The Man Who Pushed America to War,” by Aram Roston.)

    As for Basra, Mr. McCain told Joe Klein of Time in January that it was “not a problem.” He told John King of CNN while in Baghdad last month that Mr. Sadr’s “influence has been on the wane for a long time.” When the battle ended last week, Mr. McCain said: “Apparently it was Sadr who asked for the cease-fire, declared a cease-fire. It wasn’t Maliki. Very rarely do I see the winning side declare a cease-fire.” At least the last of those sentences was accurate. It was indeed the losing side — Maliki’s — that pleaded for the cease-fire.

    Perhaps all these mistaken judgments can be attributed to the fog of war. But Mr. McCain’s bigger strategic picture, immutable no matter what happens on the ground, is foggier still. Like Mr. Bush, he keeps selling Iraq as the central front in the war on Al Qaeda. But Al Qaeda was not even a participant in the Basra battle, which was an eruption of a Shiite-vs.-Shiite civil war. (Al Qaeda is busy enough in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the actual central front in the war on terror.)

    Mr. McCain is also fond of portraying Mr. Maliki’s “democracy” in Iraq as an essential bulwark against Iran; his surrogate Lindsey Graham habitually refers to Mr. Sadr’s Mahdi Army as “Iranian-backed militias.” But the political coalition and militia propping up Mr. Maliki are even closer to Iran than the Sadrists. McClatchy Newspapers reported last week that the Maliki-Sadr cease-fire was not only brokered in Iran but by a general whose name is on the Treasury Department’s terrorist list: the commander of the Quds force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard.

    So this is where this latest defining moment in Iraq leaves us: with victories for Iran and Mr. Sadr, and with Iraqi forces that still can’t stand up (training cost to American taxpayers so far: $22 billion) so we can stand down. The Baghdad Green Zone, pummeled with lethal mortar fire, proved vulnerable once again. Basra remains so perilous that Britain has had to suddenly halt its planned troop withdrawals. Tony Blair had ordered the drawdown a year ago, after declaring that “the next chapter in Basra’s history will be written by the Iraqis.”

    The surge is a success in exactly one way: American forces, by putting their lives on the line and benefiting from a now-defunct Sadr cease-fire, have reduced violence in Baghdad (though only to early 2005 levels). But as the Middle East scholar Juan Cole has written, “the ‘surge’ was never meant to be the objective but rather the means.”

    None of the objectives have been met. Remember that “return on success” — as in returning troops — that Mr. Bush promised in January’s State of the Union? We will end 2008 with more Americans in Iraq than the 132,000 at the time the surge began. Even Gen. David Petraeus said last month that there has not been “sufficient progress” on the other most important objective, Iraqi political reconciliation. Mr. Maliki’s move against Mr. Sadr in Basra, done without even consulting Iraq’s “democratically elected” Parliament, was an attempt to take out his opponent by force rather than wait for the October provincial elections.

    Not that other metrics are any brighter. At last, oil production sometimes reaches prewar levels. But a third or more of the oil, as The New York Times reported, is siphoned off to the black market, where it finances the insurgency. The projected date for turning over security operations to the Iraqis — first set for the end of 2006 by Iraqi officials, then moved up to the end of 2007 and July 2008 by our own Defense Department — is omitted entirely in the latest Pentagon report.

    “We’re succeeding,” Mr. McCain said after his last trip to Iraq. “I don’t care what anybody says.” Again, it’s the last sentence that’s accurate. When General Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker testify before Congress again this week — against the backdrop of a million-Iraqi, anti-American protest called by Mr. Sadr — Mr. McCain will ram home all this “success” no matter the facts.

    The difference between the Democrats and Mr. McCain going forward is clear enough: They want to find a way out of the morass, however provisional and imperfect, and he equates staying the disastrous course with patriotism. Mr. McCain’s doomed promise of military “victory” in Iraq is akin to Wile E. Coyote’s perpetual pursuit of the Road Runner, with much higher carnage. This isn’t patriotism. As the old saying goes, doing the same thing over and over again and hoping you’ll get a different result is the definition of insanity.

    The Democrats should also stop repeating their 100-years-war calumny against Mr. McCain. There’s too much at stake for America for them to add their own petty distortions to an epic tragedy that only a long-overdue national reckoning with hard truths can bring to an end.


    Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company
    June 9, 1973 - The day athletic perfection was defined.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-Kva...eature=related

  • #2
    McCain is the one who should be "ashamed", sure Hillary and Obama are spinning his words, but the only reason they can do it is because McCain totally skips from present day Iraq and the realities of war on the ground there to the peaceful situations in South Korea and Japan.

    What is worse their spinning or his dismissing the fact we are at war and kids are dying.
    What John needs to address is, Is it OK to have troops in Iraq 100 years from now when the situation is like that of South Korea and Japan if we need to stay there for a decade of American soldiers dying to get to that point.
    Be passionate about what you believe in, or why bother.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by madyaks View Post
      McCain is the one who should be "ashamed", sure Hillary and Obama are spinning his words, but the only reason they can do it is because McCain totally skips from present day Iraq and the realities of war on the ground there to the peaceful situations in South Korea and Japan.

      What is worse their spinning or his dismissing the fact we are at war and kids are dying.
      What John needs to address is, Is it OK to have troops in Iraq 100 years from now when the situation is like that of South Korea and Japan if we need to stay there for a decade of American soldiers dying to get to that point.
      Really Yaks...do even pay attention to what McCain says? He spent five years in captivity being tortured constantly. You think he doesn't know people are dying? He gets it...what he is doing is looking beyond the immediate situation.

      I don't like the war in Iraq either but my objections are based more in cost though I don't like seeing anyone dying over there. What is interesting is that 213 police officers were killed in 2007 in the line of duty in United States. That's a number that frightens me more then the levels of violence in Iraq because its occuring in supposedly more civil country.

      Should we leave our own country?

      Well of course not and that's why the argument for vacating Iraq needs to be on the cost and any benefits in terms economic security while weighing the risk of allowing the situation to become a full blown bloodbath reminiscent of Cambodia in the mid 70s.

      Of course had we pursued energy independence as policy over the past 35 years since the first OPEC embargo which should have been a wake up call; we would treat the Middle East like Africa and we would not give a crap what happens there but that is another thread of another day.


      That didn't happen so we are left with the potential of having to decide whether to return to the Middle East if due to leaving too early an expansionist minded Iran or an Al Queda emboldened and strengthened by massive oil revenues decided to invade Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia. Then do we go back? Or is that too costly in terms of lives? Do we allow extremists to control the vast Middle East oil reserves and at what cost to our own economy?

      I'm disgusted with the cost of this war and with the stubborness of the factions there slowing political compromise but there are very huge risks to leaving too swiftly and too early. That is the reality of the situation and even Obama's Middle East policy advisors realize this, have written about this and are in disagreement with the speed of Obama's stated withdrawal plans.

      Sadly, we are going to have to be very careful about getting out despite the rhetoric from politicians and the musings of liberal columnists.

      This is a big reason why I have decided not weigh the war too heavily for the next election. I believe we are going to be there in significant numbers for at least the next 4 years regardless of who wins as once Obama gets in he won't take troops out as fast as he is promising and then I wonder what Frank Rich will write about. Will he attack a Democrat administration and forcefully as he has attacked Bush and now McCain? I doubt it because I think lacks even a shred of journalistic integrity. Mini Tet offensive? Only a moron or someone with a political agenda would make that analogy. The Tet offensive moment came in the summer and fall of 2006 when the violence in Iraq was at its peak and the majority of Americans realized that war really was a huge initial blunder and the decision to go there was compounded by a series of additional blunders. All we learned from the events in Basra is that the Iraqis are still not strong enough and need our help. Sad...but true.
      Go Cards ...12 in 13.


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      • #4
        I don't agree with much of McCains Iraq policy but I'm guessing he understands a little something about it and has reasons for his beliefs.

        He's the only candidate and one of the very few politicians to actually have a child serve over there in the military.
        Sponsor of Alex Pieterangelo.

        ..."I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered." George Best

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        • #5
          But he talks about this war and staying in Iraq in terms of when it's like South Korea and Japan, most people think that could easily be a decade.

          Let him give us his views on staying there between now and then, how many have to die to get there. Tell us about that.
          Last edited by madyaks; 04-06-2008, 01:25 PM.
          Be passionate about what you believe in, or why bother.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by madyaks View Post
            But he talks about this war and staying in Iraq in terms of when it's like South Korea and Japan, most people think that could easily be a decade.

            Let me give us his views on staying there between now and then, how man have to die to get there. Tell us about that.
            The critical mistake was invading Iraq instead of focusing on Afghantistan and Pakistan. But now that we're in the exit strategy isn't going to be as simple as just pulling everybody out. If you think Obama or Hillary are planning to do that either then you really have no concept of politics. And by the way, neither Obama or Hillary have commited to a timetable for total withdraw of American forces.
            Sponsor of Alex Pieterangelo.

            ..."I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered." George Best

            Comment


            • #7
              The whole reason they attack us is because of our very presence in the Middle East, how does hanging out for another 100 years help anything?
              25MM jobs in 10 years / 4% GDP Growth / Insurance for everybody / Schools flush with cash don't produce results
              Jan 2017: 4.7% U-3, 9.2% U-6, 62.7% LFPR, 5.2% Real Wages, 2.6% GDP, 19,827 DJIA, 2,271 S&P500, $2.316/gal

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              • #8
                If our foreign policy regarding iraq and many other places does not change---we will not have enough soldiers left to do what needs to be done in the middle east------or korea.

                Bush has put a lot of irresponsible charges on the military card, as well as the domestic economy card.
                v


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                • #9
                  Originally posted by madyaks View Post
                  But he talks about this war and staying in Iraq in terms of when it's like South Korea and Japan, most people think that could easily be a decade.

                  Let him give us his views on staying there between now and then, how many have to die to get there. Tell us about that.
                  If sure we will hear plenty from him about why he thinks we need to stay the course in Iraq over the next 7 months.

                  I can understand people wanting McCain to explain that...and I'm interested in Obama explaining to me how we improve the economy thru bigger government, protectionism and increased regulation. Sounds a lot like what Hoover did back in 1930 and all he accomplished was to make things worse.

                  ...and please no one bring up the mortgage mess. YES, we need some better regulation there.
                  Go Cards ...12 in 13.


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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by TTB View Post
                    If sure we will hear plenty from him about why he thinks we need to stay the course in Iraq over the next 7 months.

                    I can understand people wanting McCain to explain that...and I'm interested in Obama explaining to me how we improve the economy thru bigger government, protectionism and increased regulation. .
                    It is even worse than you imagine. Obama, unlike Bush, is crazy enough to want to involve our government in running our military.

                    By SAMANTHA M. SHAPIRO

                    Published: December 14, 2003


                    merica's most important ally in the Iraq war may be a multinational force after all -- one composed of private military contractors. There is no official count of how many paid civilians are stationed in Iraq, but analysts estimate that the number could be as high as 20,000. (Britain, by comparison, has 11,000 troops in Iraq.) These contractors, often former military personnel from armies around the world, are employed not by any sovereign government but by multinational corporations.
                    Private military companies have been used in other recent wars, but not in such great numbers or so close to the battlefield. In Iraq, paid contractors don't just cook meals and build camps, as they did in the Vietnam War; they also perform guard duty, carry weapons, work on planning and logistics and train the new Iraqi military and police force.
                    According to Steve Schooner, co-director of the government procurement law program at George Washington University Law School, the Pentagon's outsourcing strategy helped win the initial stage of the war. ''Our ability to project technical superiority and overwhelming force in a short period of time at the outset of the Iraq war was driven by reliance on contractors, who can move very quickly,'' Schooner says.
                    The Pentagon's current overall strategy emphasizes a flexible, efficient, pared-down army equipped with the latest information technologies, many of which were developed in the private sector, not in military labs. Advocates of streamlining military operations say it's more efficient to subcontract the operation and maintenance of sophisticated systems to the companies that invented them, rather than have the military handle that itself. In Iraq, contractors are involved in maintaining and operating high-tech weapons systems



                    20,000---outrageous---in 2003. Close to 200,000 now.

                    source is suspect---http://www.alternet.org/waroniraq/59571/

                    but--you decide
                    Jeremy Scahill, an independent journalist who reports frequently for the national radio and TV program Democracy Now!, has spent extensive time reporting from Iraq and Yugoslavia. He is currently a Puffin?? Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute. Scahill is the author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army.


                    If you think the U.S. has only 160,000 troops in Iraq, think again. With almost no congressional oversight and even less public awareness, the Bush administration has more than doubled the size of the U.S. occupation through the use of private war companies.
                    There are now almost 200,000 private "contractors" deployed in Iraq by Washington. This means that U.S. military forces in Iraq are now outsized by a coalition of billing corporations whose actions go largely unmonitored and whose crimes are virtually unpunished.
                    In essence, the Bush administration has created a shadow army that can be used to wage wars unpopular with the American public but extremely profitable for a few unaccountable private companies.
                    Since the launch of the "global war on terror," the administration has systematically funneled billions of dollars in public money to corporations like Blackwater USA , DynCorp, Triple Canopy, Erinys and ArmorGroup. They have in turn used their lucrative government pay-outs to build up the infrastructure and reach of private armies so powerful that they rival or outgun some nation's militaries.
                    "I think it's extraordinarily dangerous when a nation begins to outsource its monopoly on the use of force and the use of violence in support of its foreign policy or national security objectives," says veteran U.S. Diplomat Joe Wilson, who served as the last U.S. ambassador to Iraq before the 1991 Gulf War.
                    The billions of dollars being doled out to these companies, Wilson argues, "makes of them a very powerful interest group within the American body politic and an interest group that is in fact armed. And the question will arise at some time: to whom do they owe their loyalty?"
                    Precise data on the extent of U.S. spending on mercenary services is nearly impossible to obtain -- by both journalists and elected officials--but some in Congress estimate that up to 40 cents of every tax dollar spent on the war goes to corporate war contractors. At present, the United States spends about $2 billion a week on its Iraq operations.
                    v


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                    • #11
                      And when those fucking idiots get into trouble we have to go get them out of it, thus putting our own guys in danger.
                      And we are paying those guys 10 times what we pay soldiers, and god only knows how much profit for the companies. Again more government handouts in cash to friendly companies.
                      Everyone who screamed it's not about the oil they were right, it's about the contracts, the cash.
                      Be passionate about what you believe in, or why bother.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I am hearing right now that Al Sadr asked for the cease fire...not something the side winning usually does.

                        I am also hearing al Sadr might be willing to disband his militia.

                        And the Iraqi government is now controlling the ports...which is HUGE.

                        Looks like Frank Rich might be even more wrong than I initially thought.

                        I'm fine if people want to criticize the war but just get it right and don't jump to conclusions. Rich's column is thus a waste of time....as it often is.
                        Go Cards ...12 in 13.


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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by kjoe View Post
                          It is even worse than you imagine. Obama, unlike Bush, is crazy enough to want to involve our government in running our military.
                          They already are KJoe.

                          I look forward to Obama explaining how his huge tax increases, protectionism and massive new regulation is going to grow and strenghten the real economy. Should be good for some chuckles.
                          Go Cards ...12 in 13.


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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by TTB View Post
                            I am hearing right now that Al Sadr asked for the cease fire...not something the side winning usually does.

                            I am also hearing al Sadr might be willing to disband his militia.

                            And the Iraqi government is now controlling the ports...which is HUGE.

                            Looks like Frank Rich might be even more wrong than I initially thought.

                            I'm fine if people want to criticize the war but just get it right and don't jump to conclusions. Rich's column is thus a waste of time....as it often is.
                            Perhaps McCain will be the most impressive of the three candidates who will temporarily play senator long enough to question General Petraeus tomorrow. Not surprisingly, my money is on Obama.

                            But it could turn out to be Hillary.
                            v


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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by kjoe View Post
                              Perhaps McCain will be the most impressive of the three candidates who will temporarily play senator long enough to question General Petraeus tomorrow. Not surprisingly, my money is on Obama.

                              But it could turn out to be Hillary.
                              They will all question the General.

                              My money is on we won't hear any of them implying the General is a liar this time.

                              Obama will probably focus on "how long" and the slower than hoped for progress on the political front. A question no one can accurately answer and if he does I'll be most unimpressed as its just grandstanding for his base and talking about the political progress is like saying the sky is blue. As in ...no shit its too slow. What some people forget though as that in the years following the end of our own Revolutionary War the situation here was not so rosy either and it took us roughly 80 more years to abolish slavery....pretty shameful in itself.
                              Go Cards ...12 in 13.


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