DNC: McCain Consistently Wrong on Iraq

WASHINGTON , April 8, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- With General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker testifying before Congress today and tomorrow, John McCain and his campaign continue to put politics ahead of a responsible way forward in Iraq . Instead of outlining his plan for the future, explaining whether his vision of a 100 year troop presence in Iraq includes permanent bases there, or saying how he plans to pay for a war that now costs $12 billion a month while making Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy permanent, McCain continues to advocate a stay the course strategy.

In addition to offering the wrong course for the future in Iraq , McCain has consistently gotten the basic facts on the ground wrong throughout this campaign.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean today issued the following statement:

"As John McCain continues to get the basic facts on the ground in Iraq wrong, he makes it clear to the American people that he will continue the open-ended commitment to fighting President Bush's war in Iraq . One hundred years in Iraq is not a plan. We all honor the service and sacrifices of our brave troops and their families, who have done everything that has been asked of them every step of the way. Honoring their service means bringing this war to a responsible end, and the only way to do that is to elect a Democratic president in November."

The following is a fact sheet prepared by the DNC Research Department on McCain's failed leadership on Iraq :

McCain Repeatedly Gets Facts Wrong On Iraq


At least five times as a candidate, three times in March 2008 alone, McCain said publicly that Iran (a Shiite nation) was supporting Al-Qaeda (a Sunni group) in Iraq . Despite being corrected by the press and his colleagues, McCain continued to repeat the assertion.

March 17, 2008 : McCain said on the Hugh Hewitt radio show "As you know, there are al-Qaeda operatives that are taken back into Iran , given training as leaders, and they're moving back into Iraq ." [New York Times, 3/19/08; Entire Transcript at http://hughhewitt.townhall.com/talkradio/transcripts/Transcript.aspx?ContentGuid=ae522a49-6c82-4791-a76e-44ebb718bf32]

March 18, 2008 : In Jordan after a trip to Iraq , McCain said at a press conference that "'We continue to be concerned about Iranian [operatives] taking al-Qaeda into Iran , training them and sending them back,' he said in comments after meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah II on Tuesday afternoon. Pressed to elaborate, McCain said it is 'common knowledge and has been reported in the media that al-Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran ; that's well known. And it's unfortunate.' A few moments later, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), standing just behind McCain, stepped forward and whispered in his ear. McCain then said, 'I'm sorry, the Iranians are training extremists, not al-Qaeda.'" [Washington Post, 3/19/08]

March 19, 2008 : The next day however, in a press release on the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq , McCain said "Al Qaeda and Shia extremists -- with support from external powers such as Iran -- are on the run but not defeated." [McCain Presidential Campaign Press Release via Targeted News Service, 3/19/08]

November 2007 : McCain Said that Al Qaeda is Getting "Supplies and Equipment" from Iran . "Al Qaeda is not defeated," McCain told George Stephanopoulos on ABC's This Week. "They're on the run, but they are not defeated, and they continue to get supplies and equipment through Iran , and they continue to get suicide bombers through Syria ." [ABC, This Week with George Stephanopoulos , 11/25/07]

April 8, 2008 : McCain Referred to Al Qaeda as a "Sect Of Shiites." MCCAIN: Do you still view al Qaeda in Iraq as a major threat? PETRAEUS: It is still a major threat, though it is certainly not as major a threat as it was say 15 months ago. MCCAIN: Certainly not an obscure sect of the Shiites overall? [CNN, 4/8/08, view video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IdNKQ8XapIA]

Mistake Undermines Central Assertion Of McCain's Campaign. The Trail wrote, "The mistake threatened to undermine McCain's argument that his decades of foreign policy experience make him the natural choice to lead a country at war with terrorists. In recent days, McCain has repeatedly said his intimate knowledge of foreign policy make him the best equipped to answer a phone ringing in the White House late at night." [The Trail, WashingtonPost.com, 3/18/08]


McCain Insisted Sadr Sought Cease-Fire in Basra. On a late March 2008 ceasefire, McCain said "Apparently it was Sadr who asked for the ceasefire, declared a ceasefire. It wasn't Maliki. Very rarely do I see the winning side declare a ceasefire. So we'll see." [Washington Post, "The Trail," 3/31/08; New York Times, "The Caucus," 3/31/08]

In Reality, Iraqi Lawmakers Sought Iran's Help to Persuade al-Sadr to Stand Down. According to members of the Iraqi Parliament, "Iraqi lawmakers traveled to the Iranian holy city of Qom over the weekend to win the support of the commander of Iran's Qods brigades in persuading Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr to order his followers to stop military operations." "We asked Iranian officials to help us persuade him that we were not cracking down on the Sadr group," admitted an Iraqi official. Echoed another Iraqi official, "Given its influence over al-Sadr," echoed seconded another Iraqi official, " Iran convinced the Sadrists to stop fighting." [McClatchy, 3/30/08; Associated Press, 4/5/08]

Time Magazine's Joe Klein : McCain Has "a Fundamental Misreading" of the Situation. McCain's rosy view of the Basra ceasefire, "is a fundamental misreading of Sadr's aim and of the situation," wrote Time columnist Joe Klein . [Time, Swampland, 4/6/08]


McCain: We Asked Government to Act and They Were Effective. "We have asked the government time after time to act effectively, that we want this government to act. They acted." He continued to say the Iraqi army does "have control of the port of Basra now. That's one of the major economic areas of Iraq because of the oil that goes through there." [Fox News Sunday, 4/6/08]

Reality: Maliki Failed to Disarm Mahdi Army, Didn't Gain Control Over Basra. While Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said that "operations in Basra were a 'success,' despite the Mahdi Army agreeing to a cease-fire without giving up its weapons." Experts noted called it a "failed attempt to disarm the Mahdi militiamen, who after the clashes remain in firm control of many Basra neighborhoods, said Vali Nasr, an expert on Shiite politics and an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations." As GOP Senator Chuck Hagel pointed out, the Bush [and McCain] spin of the offensive as a success was "astounding," in a "bizarre Orwellian way," considering that the Iraqis had to call us in on a number of occasions the last three days. [Chicago Tribune, 4/2/08; MSNBC, Countdown, 3/31/08]


January 2008 : Basra "Not a Problem," Assures McCain. When asked in January 2008 about the possibility of violence breaking out in Basra, McCain assured Time columnist Joe Klein that the city was, "not a problem." [Time, Swampland, 4/1/08]

March 2008 : A March offensive in Basra by Iraqi forces "triggered clashes across southern Iraq and in Baghdad that left about 600 people dead." The offensive was launched precisely because the "security situation in the city was deteriorating quickly." [Washington Post, 4/4/08]

Maliki Offensive Takes McCain By Surprise. Speaking to reporters after kicking off his biography tour, McCain "expressed surprise that Iraqi leader Nouri al-Maliki instigated a battle" against cleric Muqtada al-Sadri in Basra without "notifying the U.S. first." "Maliki decided to take on this operation without consulting the Americans," McCain said, "I just am surprised that he would take it on himself, to go down and take charge of a military offensive. I had not anticipated he would do that." [Washington Post, "The Trail," 3/31/08; New York Times, "The Caucus," 3/31/08]


McCain Asserted Withdrawal From Iraq Would Prompt Al Qaeda Take Over. "Al Qaeda is in Iraq . It's called 'Al Qaeda in Iraq ,'" McCain told his audience during a town hall in Texas . "My friends, if we left, they wouldn't be establishing a base," he continued, "They'd be taking a country, and I'm not going to allow that to happen. I will not surrender. I will not surrender to al-Qaeda." [New York Times, 2/28/08; NPR, 2/27/08]

Gen. Odom: Idea That Al Qaeda Would Take Over Iraq is "Utter Nonsense." "The concern we hear the president and his aides express about a residual base left for al Qaeda if we withdraw is utter nonsense," said former NSA director Lt. General William Odom in congressional testimony. "The Sunnis will soon destroy al Qaeda if we leave," Odom told the Senate, "The Kurds do not allow them in their region, and the Shiites, like the Iranians, detest al Qaeda." McCain's erroneous statement also provoked a swift response from Time's Joe Klein , who declared that " John McCain continues to fight a different war in Iraq than...the U.S. military." [Time, Swampland, 2/27/08, www.time-blog.com/swampland/2008/02/mccains_iraq_fantasia.html ; Hearing of Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 4/2/08]


McCain: If We Leave Iraq, They Will Follow Us Home. During 2007, McCain repeatedly said on the campaign trail that "If you read Zarqawi, you read bin Laden, you read Al Qaida, they'll tell you, they want to follow us home," and that "If we leave Iraq , there will be chaos, there will be genocide, and they will follow us home," McCain warned during a South Carolina campaign stop. [GOP Debate In SC, 5/15/07; Associated Press, 4/27/2007]

REALITY: No One Credible Believes "They Will Follow Us Home." "Many military and intelligence analysts say the U.S. presence in Iraq - and elsewhere in the Middle East - is what really upsets the terrorists and mobilizes their base. 'There's no national security analyst that's really credible who thinks that people are going to come from Iraq and attack the United States , that that's a credible scenario,' said retired Army Lt. Col. James Carafano , a specialist in international security threats at the conservative Heritage Foundation." [National Public Radio, 4/30/07]


McCain: Iraqis are "Going About Their Normal Lives." During his March 2008 trip, "McCain said he thought that the situation in Iraq was improving. 'People are going about their normal lives,' he said." [The Guardian ( London, UK ), 3/20/08]

REALITY: March Actually Saw RISE In Baghdad Attacks. Soon after McCain's visit, a military report conclude that "After an overall decline in attacks against civilians and American and Iraqi security forces in Baghdad over the past several months, the number more than doubled in March from the previous month, according to statistics compiled by the American military in Baghdad ." There were 631 attacks in March 2008 , up from 239 in February [New York Times, 4/8/08]


First, McCain Claimed He Could Safely Walk Around Certain Baghdad Neighborhoods. "McCain's latest problem began before he left for the region, when he told Bill Bennett on the radio that 'there are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk today.' After Michael Ware of CNN's Baghdad bureau accused the senator of living in 'Neverland,' McCain charged that it's reporters who are living in a 'time warp of three months ago.'" [Newsweek, 4/16/2007]

Then McCain Was Forced to Admit He "Misspoke" When He Failed to Mention His Massive Security During Baghdad Market Trip. "Wearing a bulletproof vest and surrounded by 100 soldiers in Baghdad's central market, McCain said: 'Never have I been able to go out into the city as I was today.' Headlines soon after called his statements 'propaganda' and a 'magic-carpet ride.'" Chastened, McCain issued a half-hearted apology a few days later, saying he 'misspoke." [Washington Post, 4/7/2007]

SOURCE Democratic National Committee