FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
“The Audacity of Hopelessness”: John McCain puts up a fight, and the AP gets its facts wrong (again)
I'm sorry, were you expecting better from them?
“The safe political choice” for some time now has been “to support some sort of retreat” in Iraq, John McCain acknowledged today in a speech to veterans and media. “Many observers said my approach [of advocating victory in Iraq no matter what the political cost] would ruin my hopes of becoming President,” he said. “My choice was not smart politics. It didn’t test well in focus groups. It ignored all the polls.”
“I told the truth,” McCain declared. “Sen. Obama told the American people what he thought you wanted to hear.”
…The country I love had one final chance to succeed in Iraq. The new strategy was it. So I supported it. Today, the effects of the new strategy are obvious. The surge has succeeded, and we are, at long last, finally winning this war.
Senator Obama made a different choice. He not only opposed the new strategy, but actually tried to prevent us from implementing it. He didn’t just advocate defeat, he tried to legislate it. When his efforts failed, he continued to predict the failure of our troops. As our soldiers and Marines prepared to move into Baghdad neighborhoods and Anbari villages, Senator Obama predicted that their efforts would make the sectarian violence in Iraq worse, not better.
And as our troops took the fight to the enemy, Senator Obama tried to cut off funding for them. He was one of only 14 senators to vote against the emergency funding in May 2007 that supported our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. …
Three weeks after Senator Obama voted to deny funding for our troops in the field, General Ray Odierno launched the first major combat operations of the surge. Senator Obama declared defeat one month later: “My assessment is that the surge has not worked and we will not see a different report eight weeks from now.” His assessment was popular at the time. But it couldn’t have been more wrong.
Continued below the fold.
By November 2007, the success of the surge was becoming apparent. Attacks on Coalition forces had dropped almost 60 percent from pre-surge levels. American casualties had fallen by more than half. Iraqi civilian deaths had fallen by more than two-thirds. But Senator Obama ignored the new and encouraging reality. “Not only have we not seen improvements,” he said, “but we’re actually worsening, potentially, a situation there.
Senator Obama and I…faced a decision, which amounted to a real-time test for a future commander-in-chief. America passed that test. I believe my judgment passed that test. And I believe Senator Obama’s failed.
Fortunately, Senator Obama failed, not our military. We rejected the audacity of hopelessness, and we were right. Violence in Iraq fell to such low levels for such a long time that Senator Obama, detecting the success he never believed possible, falsely claimed that he had always predicted it. … In Iraq, we are no longer on the doorstep of defeat, but on the road to victory.
With those words, John McCain delivered a broadside to the rotating versions of reality on Iraq that the Obama Roadshow has been peddling ever since the success of counterinsurgency operations in Iraq, fueled by last year’s “surge,” became evident to the nation (despite the cacophony of denials designed to discredit a real military success for political gain).
The AP: Confusion or Willful Misleading?
“Obama has called for a withdrawal over 16 months,” writes the Associated Press’ Tom Raum in his recounting of the McCain appearance. Raum, it appears, is either ignorant of, or willfully misleading about, the Iraq policy of Barack Obama. In actuality, Obama pushed for a withdrawal from Iraq that would have begun last spring, with the goal of every U.S. soldier having been redeployed from that country by March 2008, regardless of facts on the ground or a worsening security situation.
The Republican presidential nominee, who has long said that he “would rather lose a campaign than lose a war” (the exact opposite of Barack Obama’s apparent view of both campaigns and wars), reiterated the consequences that would take place should failure in Iraq would lead to. Raum’s inattention to the facts (and reality) carried over to his treatment of this portion of McCain’s remarks, as well. He writes:
McCain laid out a near-apocalyptic chain of events he said could have resulted had Obama managed to stop the troop buildup ordered by President Bush: U.S. forces retreating under fire, the Iraqi army collapsing, civilian casualties increasing dramatically, al-Qaida killing cooperative Sunni sheiks and finding safe havens to train fighters and launch attacks on Americans, and civil war, genocide and a wider conflict.
“Above all, America would have been humiliated and weakened,” he said. “Terrorists would have seen our defeat as evidence America lacked the resolve to defeat them. As Iraq descended into chaos, other countries in the Middle East would have come to the aid of their favored factions, and the entire region might have erupted in war.”
First of all, it is highly unlikely that John McCain’s warnings were limited simply to what would have happened “had Obama managed to stop the troop buildup ordered by President Bush.” Rather, McCain’s remarks addressed the consequences of withdrawal from, and of failure in, Iraq. Again, if Raum had spent enough time to actually educate himself on Obama’s Iraq position, he would have seen that McCain was referring to the consequences of forcing a complete U.S. withdrawal by March 2008 — the policy Obama advocated.
Misunderstanding or Denial of the Effects of Withdrawal?
Second, that “near-apocalyptic chain of events” was also the very real chain of events that had the highest probability of taking place had we pulled out all troops and left a weak Iraq that could not maintain its own domestic security — let alone defend itself from its neighbors — in our wake.
John McCain did an excellent job of using today’s appearance to reiterate the proven fact that the so-called “surge,” and the counterinsurgency strategy it was implemented to carry out, was a success that not only prevented the situation in the middle east from spiraling further out of control, but put both Iraq and America within a stone’s throw of victory in a war that Democrats across the country have been declaring was “lost” for well over a year now.
Further, McCain finally went on the offensive, reminding Americans what Barack Obama’s policy has been — complete withdrawal from Iraq by March 2008, regardless of the situation — and reiterating the disastrous consequences of that policy had it not been prevented by realistic and experienced leaders like the senior Senator from Arizona who decided that failure in this war was simply not an option.
He also — thankfully — reminded his audience that Obama said just days ago that, knowing what he knows now about the amazing success of the so-called “surge,” he would still oppose the change in strategy. “Senator Obama said this week that even knowing what he knows today that he still would have opposed the surge,” said McCain. “In retrospect, given the opportunity to choose between failure and success, he chooses failure. I cannot conceive of a Commander in Chief making that choice.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, that part of the address did not make it into Mr. Raum’s story.
It is unfortunate that the Associated Press couldn’t accurately report these statements and Obama’s position on Iraq. Further, the tail end of the AP report reads like a sour-grapes “look at all the cool things the folks covering Obama got to see, and look what I got stuck covering!” laundry list:
For the most part, the side-by-side images weren’t pretty:
_Obama meeting with leaders in Iraq, McCain on a golf cart in Kennebunkport, Maine, with the first President Bush.
_Obama before a sweeping Mideast landscape, McCain holding a news conference in a supermarket in Bethlehem — Pennsylvania, that is — and narrowly escaping an attack from a tumbling stack of apple sauce jars.
_Obama delivering his trip’s keynote speech at Berlin’s Victory Column, McCain eating bratwurst and chatting with reporters at a German restaurant in Columbus, Ohio.
Look, I know Tom Raum must be a bit put out that he drew the short straw and had to cover an old white guy who happens to be a decorated war hero and tried-and-true patriot instead of the Barack Obama Salvation Tour — but just a little attention to detail would be appreciated, you know?