Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Does McCain Know In What Country He Is Running For President?

It's a mean question, and I don't want to pick on him because he is old. There are many old men and women who are smart and vital, but John McCain is not one of them. He may be shrewed, and he has charm, but he doesn't seem clearheaded enough to run anything but his golf cart.

Remember when Joe Lieberman had to wisper in his ear about the Sunni and Shia thing, which McCain had confused when he said that Iran (Shia) was training Al Qaeda (Sunni) fighters? 

Remember when McCain talked about Iraq's border to Pakistan?

And now he is so giddy about the relative calm in Iraq that he ascribes it all to "the surge", which as I'm sure you remember by now, he supported.

But as Ilan Goldenberg writes in today's Huffington Post (my italics):

John McCain made a mistake this evening, which as far as I'm concerned, disqualifies him from being president. It is so appalling and so factually wrong that I'm actually sitting here wondering who McCain's advisers are. This isn't some gaffe where he talks about the Iraq-Pakistan border. It's a real misunderstanding of what has happened in Iraq over the past year. It is even more disturbing because according to John McCain, Iraq is the central front in the "war on terror." If we are going to have an Iraq-centric policy, he should at least understand what he is talking about. But anyway, what happened.

In an interview with CBS news anchor Katie Couric on Tuesday night McCain said:

McCain: I don't know how you respond to something that is as -- such a false depiction of what actually happened. Colonel McFarlane [phonetic] was contacted by one of the major Sunni sheiks. Because of the surge we were able to go out and protect that sheik and others. And it began the Anbar awakening. I mean, that's just a matter of history. Thanks to General Petraeus, our leadership, and the sacrifice of brave young Americans. I mean, to deny that their sacrifice didn't make possible the success of the surge in Iraq, I think, does a great disservice to young men and women who are serving and have sacrificed.

Watch the interview here:

But, writes Ilan Goldenberg - echoing Keith Olbermann at MSNBC - there is a slight problem here:

The surge wasn't even announced until a few months after the Anbar Awakening. Via Spencer Ackerman, here is Colonel MacFarland explaining the Anbar Awakening to Pam Hass of UPI, on September 29, 2006. That would be almost four months before the President even announced the surge. Petraeus wasn't even in Iraq yet.

With respect to the violence between the Sunnis and the al Qaeda -- actually, I would disagree with the assessment that the al Qaeda have the upper hand. That was true earlier this year when some of the sheikhs began to step forward and some of the insurgent groups began to fight against al Qaeda. The insurgent groups, the nationalist groups, were pretty well beaten by al Qaeda.

This is a different phenomena that's going on right now. I think that it's not so much the insurgent groups that are fighting al Qaeda, it's the -- well, it used to be the fence-sitters, the tribal leaders, are stepping forward and cooperating with the Iraqi security forces against al Qaeda, and it's had a very different result. I think al Qaeda has been pushed up against the ropes by this, and now they're finding themselves trapped between the coalition and ISF on the one side, and the people on the other.

He also adds a quote from Colin Kahl in Foreign Affairs:

The Awakening began in Anbar Province more than a year before the surge and took off in the summer and fall of 2006 in Ramadi and elsewhere, long before extra U.S. forces started flowing into Iraq in February and March of 2007. Throughout the war, enemy-of-my-enemy logic has driven Sunni decision-making. The Sunnis have seen three "occupiers" as threats: the United States, the Shiites (and their presumed Iranian patrons), and the foreigners and extremists in AQI. Crucial to the Awakening was the reordering of these threats.

Maybe Ol' Bush could spare John McCain a room at the Kennebunkport compound, and the world another president who knows nothing about the world.

Hans Sandberg

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