John McCain, Iraq War Critic?
It’s entertaining, in that I was the greatest critic of the initial four years, three and a half years. I came back from my first trip to Iraq and said, This is going to fail. We’ve got to change the strategy to the one we’re using now. But life isn’t fair.
But McCain isn’t casting himself as an opponent of the war but rather as a critic of the way it has been carried out. In that regard, his credentials are rather strong.
- The simple truth is that we do not have sufficient forces in Iraq to meet our military objectives.” — John McCain, Nov 6, 2003
- Rumsfeld Takes More Friendly Fire — Nov 11, 2003
- McCain: Iraq plan was ‘inadequate’ — April 16, 2003
- “We invaded Iraq with enough troops to topple the regime, but not enough to prevent looting, stabilize the country, or maintain security. The administration misjudged the natural nationalism of the Iraqi people and hesitated to hand them true power over their own affairs–an error that has compounded the sense of unwanted occupation that prevails in some parts of the country.” — June 28, 2004
- “Yesterday on Fox News Sunday, McCain whacked Bush on Iraq.” — David Korn, Sept 24, 2004
- Rumsfeld Under Fire From GOP – Dec 19, 2004
- McCain, Biden Call for More Troops in Iraq — June 30, 2005
- House Backs McCain on Detainees, Defying Bush [“In an unusual bipartisan rebuke to the Bush administration, the House on Wednesday overwhelmingly endorsed Senator John McCain’s measure to bar cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners in American custody anywhere in the world.”] — Dec 15, 2005
- Senate Supports Interrogation Limits — 90-9 Vote on the Treatment of Detainees Is a Bipartisan Rebuff of the White House [89 senators sided with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a former prisoner of war in Vietnam who led the fight for the interrogation restrictions.] — Oct 6, 2005
- John McCain: No ‘Torture’ for 9/11 Mastermind — Nov 6, 2005
- “We have a strategy now where we basically go into an area and kill insurgents and leave, and then the insurgents come back in. There are some places that we have been to three and four times and all we’ve done, basically, is kill some insurgents.” — Nov 10, 2005
- McCain: Send 20,000 more troops to Iraq — Oct 27, 2006
- McCain: More troops needed in Iraq — Nov 19, 2006
- McCain ranks Rumsfeld among America’s worst military leaders — Feb 20, 2007
Now, whether all this constitutes being the greatest critic is a fair question. But certainly, he has been a persistent critic of the way the war has been fought almost from the beginning. He was the key leader in fighting against torture and abusive treatment of detainees, a key voice for more troops, and for a radical overhaul of the strategy. All as early as 2003, soon after the first signs of serious trouble.
He’s earned the right, I think, to call himself a “critic” by any traditional measure.
Steve Benen lays out his own definition:
* endorse the invasion?
* buy into the Cheney vision of a quick, easy-to-resolve conflict?
* support the administration’s position on every piece of Iraq legislation since 2002?
* consistently support the status quo? (”I’m confident we’re on the right course” — McCain, March 7, 2004)
* endorse the escalation policy?
* oppose any and all measures to include timelines, scheduled withdrawals, or enforced benchmarks?
The answers, in McCain’s case, are: Yes, No, No, No, Yes, and Yes.
McCain believes in the goals for which the war is being fought and thinks losing would be a catastrophe. But he’s been leading the charge to do something other than “stay the course” for years.