McCain Off On His Timing...Again!

As KO just reported on Countdown, CBS news' Katie Couric interviewed John McCain today in which he was asked about the Obama's view of the Surge and how it aided in establishing the Anbar awakening. Exchange below...

Couric: Senator McCain, Sen. Obama says, while the increased number of U.S. troops contributed to increased security in Iraq, he also credits the Sunni awakening and the Shiite government going after militias. And says that there might have been improved security even without the surge. What's your response to that?

McCain: I don't know how you respond to something that is 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.

They were out there. They were protecting these sheiks. We had the Anbar awakening.

False depiction? Problems here folks with John McCain's knowledge of foreign policy, the Anbar Awakening, the "Surge" and dates...

The colonel in question is now a one-star general, and his name is Sean MacFarland. He was commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, based in Ramadi in 2006 and early 2007 and is a key figure in embracing the Anbar Awakening before it even had that name. Here he is explaining what was going on to Pam Hess, then of UPI, on September 29, 2006, at least two months before Bush decided upon the surge, and about three before he announced it to the public:

   "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."

For McCain to say that the Anbar Awakening is the product of the surge is either a lie or professional malpractice for a presidential candidate who is staking his election on his allegedly superior Iraq judgment.

So in September 2006 General MacFarland was already reporting on the success of the Anbar Awakening against insurgents and Al Qaeda, and this all happened 9 months before the the "Surge" operations began.

June 15, 2007: The troop surge operations begin. The U.S. military reports that 28,000 troops required for the surge have arrived in Iraq and that the surge operations can now commence. "All the forces initially identified as part of the surge have completed their strategic movements into theatre in Iraq,"[54][55]

McCain is now having problems recalling the last couple years and how operations went down...Is he really the Foreign Policy "expert" he claims to be?

http://washingtonindependent.com/view/on -the-surge-and-the

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/07/2 2/eveningnews/main4283813.shtml

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraq_War_tr oop_surge_of_2007

[editor's note, by hootie4170] DPW brings up a good point on how this should be framed and I agree so I am adding it with his/her consent:

"In any case, whether this story has legs will depend on how we frame the criticisms. We shouldn't try so hard to argue that the surge didn't produce some of the improvement in Iraq. Rather, we should use this to argue that McCain is either lying about the facts, doesn't understand the facts, or just doesn't care about the facts. And, assuming that he isn't lying, this gaffe also reveal a poor understanding of what the surge was intended to accomplish, which was primarily the stabilization of Baghdad, not Anbar. So, his claim that the Anbar Awakening was the product of the surge just reflects a confused appreciation of the surge's design and chief objective."

Tags: al qaeda, Anbar Awakening, Barack Obama, General Sean MacFarland, Iraq War, John McCain, Katie Couric, the Surge (all tags)

Comments

33 Comments

The 'surge'

I recently posted this on the front page but it seems relevant to this diary, so forgive me if you've seen it already:


McCain keeps boasting about being "right" about the "surge" and saying Obama was "wrong."

Look, it is more important that McCain was consistently wrong.  He was wrong about the desirability of going to war against Iraq.  He was wrong about it being a cakewalk.  He was wrong about there being WMD there.  He was wrong about everything.  And he was wrong about the troop escalation making things better.  The casualty figures dropped in al-Anbar, where few extra US troops were ever sent.  They dropped in Basra, from which the British withdrew.  Something happened.  Putting it all on 30,000 extra troops seems a stretch.  And what about all the ethnic cleansing and displacing of persons that took place under the nose of the "surge?"  McCain has been wrong about everything to do with Iraq.  And he is boasting about his wisdom on it!

Juan Cole - Troop Agreement Misses Deadline; Provincial Law Misses Deadline; Bombings in Mosul, Diyala, Fallujah Informed Comment 22 Jul 08

Hmmm...  The cake... er... 'surge' is a truthiness.

by Shaun Appleby 2008-07-22 05:01PM | 0 recs
That's OK...

It's Juan Cole, and he knows much more about Iraq than John McBush... So you're forgiven. ;-)

by atdleft 2008-07-22 05:33PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Off On His Timing...Again!

I think the other interesting part of the story (if I'm correct) is that CBS didn't air the McCain gaffe.

In any case, whether this story has legs will depend on how we frame the criticisms. We shouldn't try so hard to argue that the surge didn't produce some of the improvement in Iraq. Rather, we should use this to argue that McCain is either lying about the facts, doesn't understand the facts, or just doesn't care about the facts. And, assuming that he isn't lying, this gaffe also reveal a poor understanding of what the surge was intended to accomplish, which was primarily the stabilization of Baghdad, not Anbar. So, his claim that the Anbar Awakening was the product of the surge just reflects a confused appreciation of the surge's design and chief objective.

by DPW 2008-07-22 05:04PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Off On His Timing...Again!

Just to be clear, the surge did send some troops to Al Anbar, however more than 80% of the surge troops were dedicated to Baghdad, I believe.

by DPW 2008-07-22 05:13PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Off On His Timing...Again!

I may be wrong but it was my understanding that the "Surge" did not officially begin unitl June of 2007, well after the Anbar awakenings began.

When the surge began they may have sent troops to Anbar but by then the Awakening was well established and successful.

by hootie4170 2008-07-22 05:23PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Off On His Timing...Again!

Yes, you're correct. I'm not claiming that the surge troops that were sent into Al Anbar had any causal influence on the Anbar Awakening. I just wanted to clarify something I had said above before someone accused me of ignorance.

But, yes, the Anbar Awakening began well before these additional troops were sent into that region. The 4,000 additional troops probably did help matters in the region, but the most important shift in dynamics (the Awakening) was happening before they even got there.

by DPW 2008-07-22 05:30PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Off On His Timing...Again!

OK...Hey do you mind if I quote you in my diary about the right way to frame this...I think it is important.

by hootie4170 2008-07-22 05:38PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Off On His Timing...Again!

Of course.

by DPW 2008-07-22 05:41PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Off On His Timing...Again!

Of course, I don't mind, that is.

by DPW 2008-07-22 05:42PM | 0 recs
Well, then...

I guess that shows the "Anbar Awakening" didn't depend on escalating our occupation. So if our occupation didn't contribute much (if anything) to the stabilization of troubled regions like Anbar, why do Bush & McCain want to keep our troops in Iraq indefinitely?

by atdleft 2008-07-22 05:37PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Off On His Timing...Again!

An unusually confounded view for a self-proclaimed 'military expert' on the whole issue.  And I wonder how many Americans are aware of the somewhat dramatically different socio-military strategy which was successfully pursued by the British.  Our loyal and professional allies in Iraq who have been quite vocal earlier this year in criticism of our collective strategy to win 'hearts and minds' in Afghanistan.  'Collateral damage' translates differently in Anglicised English and it is as strong a bar to promotion in British ranks as 'friendly fire' is in our own.

by Shaun Appleby 2008-07-22 05:14PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Off On His Timing...Again!

Thanks for bringing Colonel McFarland to our attention.  I cannot recommend highly enough the article cited below in which he describes, in great detail, the entire military and social process in the language of a professional military officer with a clear grasp of the objectives for 'success':


The tribes represent the people of Iraq, and the populace represents the "key terrain" of the conflict. The force that supports the population by taking the moral high ground has as sure an advantage in COIN as a maneuver commander who occupies dominant terrain in a conventional battle.

Major Niel Smith and Colonel Sean Macfarland - Anbar Awakens: The Tipping Point pp 75-90 Australian Army Journal Vol V, No 2 Winter 2009

If any of you are seriously interested in how the Anwar 'awakening' was actually accomplished it is a compelling read and a strong endorsement of the professionalism of the British Army.

by Shaun Appleby 2008-07-22 05:37PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Off On His Timing...Again!

Correction: In the above comment I mistakenly inferred General McFarland was British, which further compounds my error with one of geography, from the same document:


Colonel Sean MacFarland commanded the Ready First Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, in Al Anbar province, returning with the unit in February 2007. He holds a B.S. from the United States Military Academy and an M.S. from Georgia Tech, and he is a graduate of the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. COL MacFarland's
deployments include Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm and two tours as part of
Operations Iraqi Freedom. He currently serves as chief of the Iraq Division, Strategic Plans
and Policy Office (J5), Joint Chiefs of Staff.

by Shaun Appleby 2008-07-23 05:10PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Off On His Timing...Again!

Cool, Huffington is now running this as the top story on the front page, with the caption "Funadamental Misunderstanding of Iraq." That's the story we want to see, and hopefully this is how the wider media will pick up the story, if in fact they do.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

by DPW 2008-07-22 05:54PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Off On His Timing...Again!

And, now Anderson Cooper is burning McCain on this. This is good and could really hurt McCain.

by DPW 2008-07-22 06:02PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Off On His Timing...Again!

Shazzam.  The gift that keeps on giving, McCain's mouth:


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.

Ilan Goldenberg - Not a Gaffe: A Fundamental Misunderstanding of Iraq The Huffington Post 22 Jul 08

From your cable-modem to the media's ears, eh, DPW?

by Shaun Appleby 2008-07-22 06:05PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Off On His Timing...Again!

This really is a gaffe of a different order than all that previous stuff. I really hope our media recognizes this and gives it the attention it deserves, but I think it's going to require a little pressure. After today's whine-fest about media bias, the MSM may be reluctant to immediately go after him too harshly. But, this can't be ignored precisely because McCain depends so heavily on his surge arguments and his foreign policy chops, more generally.

by DPW 2008-07-22 06:12PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Off On His Timing...Again!

Allowing for even a modicum of integrity on the part of the media, not to mention their taste for blood in the water, this has got to get a bit of mileage.  And we were wondering if McCain could big-foot a news cycle while Obama was abroad?  I'd say he has accomplished that at least.  Gee...  I wonder what he has to fall back on in the way of domestic policy?  Gas tax holidays?  Man I wish I had hit InTrade harder a while back.

by Shaun Appleby 2008-07-22 06:18PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Off On His Timing...Again!

Man, intrade. I remember back last November, when Obama was trading at, like, 10 or something. Yet, I was actually feeling a little confident and seriously considered purchasing more than a few Obama contracts. But, I'm just not the gambling type. Too bad for me. I'm sure a few people made some good money, though.

by DPW 2008-07-22 06:23PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Off On His Timing...Again!

Yikes:


This is not controversial history.  It is history that anyone trying out for Commander and Chief must understand when there are 150,000 American troops stationed in Iraq.  It is an absolutely essential element to the story of the past two years. YOU CANNOT GET THIS WRONG.  Moreover, what is most disturbing is that according to McCain's inaccurate version of history, military force came first and solved all of our problems.  If that is the lesson he takes from the Anbar Awakening, I am afraid it is the lesson he will apply to every other crisis he faces including, for example, Iran.

This is just incredibly disturbing. I have no choice but to conclude that John McCain has simply no idea what is actually happened and happening in Iraq.  

Ilan Goldenberg - Not a Gaffe: A Fundamental Misunderstanding of Iraq The Huffington Post 22 Jul 08

Let's see McCain's long-suffering gaffe patrol spin this.  Cry me a river.

by Shaun Appleby 2008-07-22 06:14PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Off On His Timing...Again!

The Ilan Goldenberg story has advanced as far as a link on Ben Smith's blog on Politico.  Other than Huffington Post, the Atlantic and TPM I don't see much of anything else.  Sigh.

by Shaun Appleby 2008-07-22 08:46PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Off On His Timing...Again!

CNN covered it for about 15 minutes tonight, but the guests were not especially hard on him. I think the story will pick up a little steam tomorrow. But, this particular story doesn't necessarily need to dominate headlines for an entire week to do damage. If nothing else, it may cause the press to reevaluate the uncritical deference it extends to McCain on foreign policy matters. Maybe I'm dreaming, but I think the press is beginning to question McCain's putative expertise and competence on foreign policy, and stories like this add a few more cracks to McCain's foundation. Of course, I may be wrong. We'll see.

So far, we haven't see the official response from McCain in defense of the remark. That will be interesting and extend the story a bit. Also, I think CBS's editing will be subjected to some professional scrutiny on other networks (including Fox, which loves to pick on other news divisions), so that too will give the story greater currency and relevance.

by DPW 2008-07-22 09:29PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Off On His Timing...Again!

Agreed.  AP apparently has got it now, though much watered down, and that's always a good sign.

by Shaun Appleby 2008-07-22 09:35PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Off On His Timing...Again!

You are great Shaun.

by Politicalslave 2008-07-22 06:11PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Off On His Timing...Again!

Gee, thanks, but I reckon it is Hootie and DPW who are the star of this show.  Woohoo!

by Shaun Appleby 2008-07-22 06:19PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Off On His Timing...Again!

Spencer Ackerman was actually on this much earlier today, presenting it in a letter to the press urging them to do their job and report this.

http://attackerman.firedoglake.com/2008/ 07/22/macfarlandknowsbetterthanmccain/

by DPW 2008-07-22 06:27PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Off On His Timing...Again!

Summed up nicely:


For McCain to say that the Anbar Awakening is the product of the surge is either a lie or professional malpractice for a presidential candidate who is staking his election on his allegedly superior Iraq judgment.

Spencer Ackerman - History Rears Up To Spit In Your Face FireDogLake 22 Jul 08

Why am I getting the distinct impression that McCain's world-view, and notions of 'victory and honour,' has been overwhelmingly informed by his experiences of a certain war in South East Asia almost forty years ago?  I was having difficulty imagining anything worse than the neo-conservative Weltanschauung we have been so nefariously inducted into recently, but this would have to qualify.

by Shaun Appleby 2008-07-22 06:43PM | 0 recs
That guy is really off his rocker.

The Repubs should just keep him in a box so he doesn't embarrass himself anymore.

At least let him lose with dignity.

by Bush Bites 2008-07-22 07:22PM | 0 recs
McCain's Tuzla moment

Call a spade a spade, people. John McCain got caught lying. Sorry to dig up an old wound here, folks, but this is every bit as bad as Tuzla. He completely rearranged history to make himself look more heroic. He's a fabulist and a desperate one at that.

How does a man so concerned with his honor go out and make such a bald-faced lie. The same day he accuses Barack Obama of wanting to lose a war more than lose a campaign, John McCain proceeds to distort the historical record.

by elrod 2008-07-22 07:27PM | 0 recs
Just for the Record

The Olbermann broadcast and CBS editing sleight-of-hand, courtesy of The Jed Report:


by Shaun Appleby 2008-07-22 07:51PM | 0 recs
Brilliant effective diary, Shaun

I've always thought that McCain was a bit of a pterodactyl on foreign policy - I call him that because I don't know any other word that combines 'hawk' with 'dinosaur'.

He genuinely scares me now with his 60s world view.

Kudos to you and all involved for making us all aware.

Hope this tops the rec list. It deserves to.

by duende 2008-07-23 02:52AM | 0 recs
Correction: Brilliant effective diary, Hootie

And great comments Shaun and DPW

by duende 2008-07-23 02:53AM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Off On His Timing...Again!

I can't believe no one has posted a diary or comment about the new Rasmussen Poll yesterday that showed McCain beating Obama by 10 points in Ohio.  52% McCain, 42% Obama.  Sounds like he's going to need Hillary to unite the party.  Obama is only winning 70% of Democrats in Ohio.  McCain wins 90% of Republicans.

by karajan72 2008-07-23 06:27AM | 0 recs

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