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The Myth of McCain's Impeccable National Security Credentials

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Now that John McCain is the presumptive Republican candidate for President, Americans should insist that the mainstream news media cease its fawning coverage of the so-called straight talking maverick and produce unbiased reporting on the inside-the-beltway elitist from "third generation Navy royalty," whose "impeccable" national security credentials consist of little more than militarism and a willingness, indeed eagerness, to impose America's "exceptional" values on the rest of the world.

In his new book, Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam After Iraq former CIA Osama bin Laden expert, Michael Scheuer, decries the price average Americans pay for their lack of interest in foreign affairs: "The most dangerous aspect of the division between the domestic focus of Americans and the international fixation of their elite…lies in the elite's easy willingness to sacrifice the lives of the former's sons and daughters in wars meant to install freedom and democracy in the Islamic world. These men and women have consciously made the decision that they will steadily spend the lives of our children to bring democracy, women's rights, parliamentary governments, human rights, and secularism to those who want no part of any of them in the Westernized form that is offered." [p. 253]

The elite's easy willingness to meddle in the Middle East is especially harmful to U.S. national security, because "Muslim hatred is motivated by U.S. interventionism more than any other factor." According the Mr. Scheuer, "The debate over which candidate is experienced enough to be commander in chief is farcial." Why? Because each of the three remaining "Clueless Candidates" is "an interventionist and will simply abide by the dogma kept in place by America's political class for 30-plus years."

Although he's certainly correct, he should have noted that Senator Obama did oppose Bush's military intervention in Iraq. Speaking in 2002, Mr. Obama noted: "I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences." (Witness the needless American and Iraqi deaths, the insurgency, the civil war, Iran's regional ascendance, Turkey's recent invasion and the economic cost; 50-60 times more than Bush's people estimated and a central cause of the sub-prime banking crisis, according to Joseph Stiglitz.) Moreover, during his campaign, Obama has asserted: "I want to end the mindset that got us into war." (It's a promising assertion that places his candidacy in stark contrast with Senator McCain's.)

Nevertheless, Mr. Scheuer properly excoriates the profound ignorance upon which the elite based its arguments for invading Iraq. "Not a lick of classified intelligence information was needed to know what repercussion the invasion of Iraq would cause: all that was needed was to read the words of our Islamist enemies, know a bit about Islam and its history, and ignore the advice of politically motivated experts like Bernard Lewis, Charles Krauthammer, Fareed Zakaria, Max Boot, Fawaz Gerges Reuel Marc Gerecht and the rest of the prowar lobby that helped sink U.S. interests in the sand of Iraq." [p. 129]

Unfortunately, America is entering a second round of crooked talk and thinking about Iraq, especially by Senator John McCain. And some Americans appear to be falling for it. Not only has McCain claimed that the "U.S. has succeeded in its war in Iraq," [Bill Ruthhart, INDYSTAR.COM Feb. 22, 2008] but he also has criticized both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for being wrong "when they said the surge would fail. And they were wrong when they said that the political process would not move forward." [VOA News, 25 Feb. 2008]

Yet, it was McCain (and Senator Clinton) who helped President George W. Bush drive "the bus into the ditch" (to quote Senator Obama) by voting to authorize his invasion Iraq. McCain not only failed to exercise sound national security judgment on America's most important national security issue of the 21st century, he also voted to authorize Bush's invasion of Iraq without even reading the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate concerning Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

His lust for heroic foreign intervention is a family tradition, stretching back through McCain's father, John McCain Jr. (a Navy officer, who "rose to [the] rank of Commander in Chief, Pacific Command … from which he prosecuted the Vietnam War") to grandfather, John "Slew" McCain, the four-star admiral who "rode in Teddy Roosevelt's globe-spanning Great White Fleet" [Matt Welch, McCain: The Myth of a Maverick, p. 209, p. 4]. But, to support Bush's intervention in Iraq without even reading the NIE was clearly irresponsible.

And it showed. McCain not only exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein (he's "on a crash course to construct a nuclear weapon," he also asserted that "regime change in Iraq" could result in a "demand for self-determination" throughout the Middle East.

In January 2003, the Arizona Senator with the supposedly impeccable national security credentials asserted: "I think the victory will be rapid, within about three weeks." In April, McCain claimed, "It's clear that the end is very much in sight." And in May 2003, a cheerleading McCain proclaimed, "the war in Iraq succeeded beyond the most optimistic expectations." That was almost five years ago!

In short, the Senator with the supposedly impeccable national security credentials has been wrong on Iraq since day one. Until recently, McCain said you should believe him when he claims the surge is working, but be prepared to stay in Iraq until America succeeds - whatever that means - even if we are there for a hundred years.

Recently, however -- apparently sensing that his "100 year thing" won't stand up against Obama's or Clinton's promise to get out of Iraq or impress the 60 percent of Americans who now believe the war was a mistake - the straight talker flip-flopped. Forget my words about "100 years." Instead: "My friends, the war will be over soon." I've been talking to my friend, Senator Lindsay Graham [another wrong-headed interventionist], who recently visited Baghdad. He says, "it's generally quiet" there.

Generally quiet? Senator McCain would do well to read the news reports from Baghdad by Ali al-Fadhily and Dahr Jamail showing the surge to be an ongoing catastrophe for many Iraqis [See "Iraqis: 'Surge' Is a Catastrophe,", Feb. 23, 2008].

Should we believe McCain or the recent report from Baghdad by Nir Rosen ("The Myth of the Surge")? Mr. Rosen notes that the U.S. is arming both sides in the civil war and quotes Chas Freeman (former ambassador to Saudi Arabia): "Those we are arming and training are arming and training themselves not to facilitate our objectives but to pursue their own objectives vis-à-vis other Iraqis. It means that the sectarian and ethnic conflicts that are now suppressed are likely to burst out with even greater ferocity in the future."

Mr. Rosen ominously adds: "With American forces now arming both sides in the civil war, the violence in Iraq has once again started to escalate. In January, some 100 members of the new Sunni militias - whom the Americans have now taken to calling the 'Sons of Iraq' - were assassinated in Baghdad and other urban areas."

Moreover, it's Senator McCain who has been proven wrong again for accusing Senators Obama and Clinton for being "wrong when they said that the political process would not move forward." As McClatchy's Washington Bureau reported on February 27th, "Iraq's three-man presidency council Wednesday announced that it's vetoed legislation that U.S. officials [including McCain] two weeks ago hailed as significant progress." Thus, the New York Times hit the nail on the head when it reported, "the major steps toward political reconciliation that the troop increase was supposed to help usher in have not occurred."

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Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San (more...)
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