John McCain was taped at a town hall meeting in Derry, New Hampshire, back in January, saying, in answer to a question alluding to Bush's comment that we could be in Iraq for fifty years -- "or a hundred." Then after pointing out how long we've been in Japan (60 years) and other countries, he says, "fine with me." He then explains to Tim Russert some time later (also on YouTube), that Americans don't mind our troops being in all these other countries -- he cites Turkey and Kuwait as well as Japan -- what they mind is people getting killed, and injured. He exhibits no interest in explaining how long it would take -- staying in Iraq -- before soldiers aren't being injured and killed there. His only vision of "success" seems to be holding on in Iraq until American soldiers aren't dying, or being maimed.
The upsurge in violence in Iraq, and even attacks on the Green Zone, would seem to indicate a rather longer than shorter time, maybe not 100 years, but a long time.
So, now Redstate and other conservatives are trying to press the idea that Obama "lied" about what McCain said because he said, ""We can't afford to stay in Iraq like John McCain said, for another 100 years." But McCain did say that; it's on YouTube. ABC then adds, "The suggestion being that McCain wants to keep the surge going another century." But he didn't say "wants" and McCain is very careful not to say that either -- but the implication is there.
Then the Washington Times reported: "Obama said it is 'entirely fair' to say that McCain would continue the war for 100 years, since he hasn't defined success, or criteria for withdrawal, and for him to argue...that any suggestion that we withdraw troops is surrendering, that implies that we will be there as long as he thinks it's necessary for us to be there."
Then, Fox News reports on a report by a "non-partisan group" factcheck.org (quotation marks in US News report) "says Obama's claim that McCain wants 100 years in Iraq is a serious distortion to the point of rank falsehood." This is a direct quote from a Columbia Journalism Review, which goes on, Obama said... "We can't afford to stay in Iraq, like John McCain said, for another hundred years. It's technically true that McCain said that, but Obama's clear goal in phrasing it that way was to imply, falsely, that McCain wants the war to continue..."
But what else does it mean, when he cites Japan and South Korea in explaining his 100-years comment? If we're going to stay in Iraq, there's going to be a lot more maiming and dying before American troops could possibly evolve to the stage where they peacefully man bases there, Iraqis want them there, and Americans aren't being killed. And yet both were very careful not to say "I want," or "he wanted." And the You-tube videos are pretty unequivocal, showing what McCain did say. And what he implied, which was welcoming the idea that Americans would be in Iraq until long after the killing and maiming had stopped.
Someone might ask what if the killing and maiming just go on and on? They could; Iraq is a deeply wounded, divided, destroyed nation, largely because of the US invasion. But McCain doesn't address this issue. He just holds out the implied hope that Iraq will become like Japan, a nation that tolerates American bases which also obviate the need for Japan to spend so much on defense.
But Japan was totally defeated and never resisted a benign occupation, made so by the enlightenment of General MacArthur. Iraq has resisted occupation from the get-go, and with civilian deaths somewhere between 50,000 and 1 million (depending upon how you count them), continuing devastation, new bombing attacks even as I write this, you couldn't say that the current US occupation was particularly benign after five years, even if we do try to pay for civilian lives "accidentally" lost due to US fire, and do try to help "rebuild" the country (by giving US contractors more no-bid contracts?)
So, now Redstate has mounted a campaign to call reporters at the LA Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, the Boston Globe, amd MSNBC to "set them straight," citing the above reports. Their links are here. Perhaps progressives should write to them, too. Because, McCain did say, not that we'd be fighting in Iraq for 100 years, but that we'd be there. The proof is in the videos. To be there that long, given the recurring violence, implies that we'll be fighting there for a long time to come before that peaceful age he envisions -- a sustained presence on the model of post-World War II troop commitments to Europe. At the present rate, that could be 100 years, or at least a long time after John McCain has gone to meet his Maker.
The US would go bankrupt first, but then McCain has also been quoted as saying that he didn't know much about Economics, as if it didn't matter.
To tie this into my own study of the parallels between the current period and the late Roman Empire, it was precisely this unwillingness to accept limits, this determination to act as an empire even after Rome couldn't afford to, that led to its own demise -- when it couldn't pay the mercenaries who had taken over fighting their wars for them -- just as we are progressively doing ourselves (180,000 in Iraq, more than the US troops there).