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April 30, 2008

John McCain’s “100 Years” putting the controversy to rest
Posted by Moira Whelan

Today, the Annenberg Center’s Factcheck.org weighed in on John McCain’s “100 Years” in
Iraq comments, claiming that the use of the argument has been distorted. This is just the latest in a series of actions calling into question the use of McCain's remarks, but as the facts show, not only did John McCain say it, he was given repeated opportunities to clarify his position and instead repeated the refrain. If one digs deeper into the comments as the
Annenberg Center attempts to do, the facts show that John McCain meant exactly what he said. Further, it demonstrated a distorted view of the war in Iraq demonstrating his lack of understanding of the situation and a “policy” that is as reckless as George W. Bush’s.

I've looked at the whole situation after the jump.

Where “100 Years” came from
National Security Network’s Democracy Arsenal was the first to post the video of John McCain’s remarks on the night of the Iowa Caucuses while he and Joe Lieberman were at a town hall meeting. Many blogs picked up on the story, and the DNC weighed in shortly thereafter with their own video of McCain’s remarks.

John McCain Makes “100 Years” a Bigger Story
Because there was a good deal of shock about John McCain’s comments, the media picked up on it, and three days after the statements, Bob Schieffer asked him about it on Face teh Nation. McCain responded:

We’ve got to get Americans off the front line, have the Iraqis as part of the strategy, take over more and more of the responsibilities. And then I don’t think Americans are concerned if we’re there for 100 years or 1,000 years or 10,000 years. What they care about is a sacrifice of our most precious treasure, and that’s American blood. So what I’m saying is look, if Americans are there in a support role, but they’re not taking casualties, that’s fine. We’re in Kuwait now. As you well recall, we had a war, we stayed in Kuwait. We didn’t stay in Saudi   Arabia. So it’s going to be up to the relationship between the Iraqi government and the United States of America.” [CBS, “Face the Nation,” 1/06/08; emphasis added] 

Today, this second remark was used in a new ad by MoveOn.org.

In the days that followed, McCain modified his “100 Years” to “a Century” but continued the same theme.

I’ve got to tell you that we’re gonna be in this struggle for the rest of this century because it’s a transcendent evil.” [Town Hall Meeting; Sun City Center, FL 01/26/08]

We are in two wars. We are in a greater struggle that is going to be with us for the rest of this century… [Speech in Nashua, New Hampshire, 1/7/08; emphasis added] 

The “Controversy”

It wasn’t until weeks later, that the Republican spin machine got spun up about McCain’s remarks. They claim that the rest of McCain’s remarks were not included in the ads, blog posts and other stories in which “100 Years” is cited, and therefore it’s out of context. This is the text they claim has been omitted that demonstrates what John McCain really meant:

"How long -- we have been in -- we have been in South Korea-- we have been in Japan for 60 years. We have been in South Korea for 50 years or so. That would be fine with me ... as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed. Then it's fine with me. I hope it would be fine with you, if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where al Qaeda is training, recruiting and equipping and motivating people every single day," McCain said.

The RNC also claims that McCain never said staying in  Iraq would be “fine with me” and yet, the video tells a different story. A video, incidentally, viewed nearly 100,000 times indicating that it is sort of silly to say this “omitted” portion of his remarks aren’t out there.

Clarifying the Context

In addition to these remarks, John McCain has also:

  • Often said “there’s going to be more wars” [Rally;Florence,SC 01/18/08; Rally in Pensacola Florida 1/22/08; Town Hall Meeting; Polk City, FL 01/27/08]
  • Reminded voters we’re going to be in Iraq “for a long long time” [Meet and Greet in Leesville SC 12/10/07; Des Moines Register, 6/2/07]

This is also not the first time that his campaign has claimed he was “taken out of context” on a national security issue. The previous time was regarding his repeated confusion of Shia and Sunni and Iran’s cooperation with Al Qaeda. By our estimation, he made this “gaffe” no less than 5 times in a month.

Regarding RNC claims (echoed by the Annenberg Center) that McCain is talking about a model where no one dies in Iraq but US forces are there for a century, it is true that John McCain has often referred to South Korea, Japan, Germany, and other US conflicts as reflective of what he’s talking about. There are, however a few problems with this:

John McCain clearly doesn’t understand that the war in Iraq is not the Cold War. The
US occupations cited by John McCain are cases in which the United States entered a country to liberate it from an outside aggressor. He’s often conflated Iran and Al Qaeda and labeled them as the outside aggressors in Iraq that must be removed. This, however, is not an accurate depiction of the civil war being fought in Iraq. His lack of understanding is demonstrated by his repeated Sunni/Shia “gaffe.”

John McCain has no plan for making his magical “no deaths” standard a reality. John McCain is repeatedly telling voters that chaos will ensue if we leave Iraq and that success can be defined as no one dying, which will enable us to stay…for 100 years, which would be fine with him. However, he does not offer a reason for staying. Perhaps more offensive to those men and women who are dying is that there is no plan for what they should be doing to achieve this standard of “no deaths”. 

Conclusion
Bottom line, there is no controversy. John McCain said “100 Years” in Iraq. If he actually meant the United States military should stay in a magical war torn land where no one dies for 100 years, then so be it. I’m guessing the American voter will see this as a distinction without a difference. Once he offers a clear reason as to why we should do that and how he plans to achieve this end state, then accusations that the remarks he repeated were “taken out of context” will have some validity.

Until then, the pie-in-the-sky rhetoric coupled with some unachievable dreamland state sounds a lot like what we’ve seen from George W. Bush in the past 5 years since he started down this reckless path.

 

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Comments

Three points regarding this subject: first, only South Korea has an American military presence that had its origins in a liberation from outside aggression. Germany and Japan were aggressor nations in the first place. That's why they ended up under occupation.

Second, McCain's vision and reasoning about the next 100 years of Iraqi history are certainly open to question, but there isn't much doubt that he is dead right about one thing: as American casualties in Iraq decline, American interest in the war declines also. If we ever did get to a point at which no Americans were dying in Iraq, the political pressure to remove whatever forces we had there would be close to nonexistent.

Finally, election campaigns are in large measure about contrasts. McCain has one position, made clearer perhaps because it is also the position of the incumbent administration, about both the American commitment in Iraq and its context -- the surpassing importance of the Middle East in American foreign policy, the necessity of maintaining a large military presence confronting Iran, the unimaginable disasters that would envelop Iraq and the region without an American army in Baghdad and so forth.

McCain's opponents have a different position about the commitment, but not about the context. They don't disagree about the surpassing importance of the Middle East in American foreign policy. They are just as fretful about Iran as McCain is. Their pledges to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq are conditional; if things get really bad there, sectarian strife on a large scale resumes, the Iranian influence in the country grows too great, withdrawal can be paused, suspended, maybe for a little while, maybe indefinitely -- "we must be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in."

Forgive me, but this isn't much of a contrast. Both Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama approach this subject reactively, opposing what the Bush administration has done and proposing to do things it has rejected -- as far as one can tell, just because it has rejected them. At a time when reduced American casualties in Iraq, along with an increase in economic problems at home, have diminished the public's interest in the war, simply being reactive doesn't get you very far with this issue. A lot of Americans, even those who disagree with McCain on this subject, will compare him to two Democratic Senators whose opposition to the administration in Congress has been intermittent and ineffectual, and who share most of McCain's (and Bush's) assumptions about how important Iraq is to the United States, and end up asking what the difference is.

Reviewing some recent posts on this site, I can guess one big difference. It isn't of much interest to me, and won't be of much interest to most of the American people. Neither I nor they are likely candidates for jobs in the next Democratic administration.

So what we have is a nothing more than a political game of spin created by those who know better being played on those in their own party who don't have a clue...I don't know about you but, I'ld be livid about being played an idiot.


McCain doesn't seem to understand that the United States cannot afford to stay in Iraq indefinitely. With debt increasing and the dollar falling the Iraqi occupation is breaking the back of the American consumer. John McCain seems to lack the knowledge that wars cannot be won just on battlefield success or in the Iraq case presumed success, they need to also be won through economic management and having a clear political settlement which is lacking in Iraq. As I have written before on DA there needs to be a regional settlement that includes Iran in order for the Americans to get out of Iraq. By threatening Iran by sending an extra aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf, the Bush administration seems to be adding fuel to the fire.

long story short: Republicans suck. Hard.

McCain said it and now they want to insist he didn't really say what he said repeatedly, because they know it is disaster at the polls. I suppose they should next insist that McCain didn't really give Bush a bear hug.

Well, once again, I fear there will be no effective opposition to the indefinitely extended US presence in Iraq, which will almost certainly evolve over time into a permanent US presence in Iraq. And the reason there will be no effective opposition is because the groups that have the potential to form an effective opposition are divided among themselves, and do not speak with a coherent message. The unapologetic imperialists on the right are being opposed by a confused assortment of hand-wringing imperialists in the center left and actual anti-imperialists on the left - and sometimes even on part of the right.

What I read on this site is a lot of commentary that tends in the direction of arguing that the reason the United States shouldn't stay in Iraq is because there is too much popular opposition in Iraq, or because the violence is bound to continue and the civil war will go on indefinitely. In other words, it is a political position and strategy that bets on, and is in fact invested in, continued chaos in Iraq as an excuse for withdrawal. There is no principled opposition to imperial takeovers in general, only imperial takeovers that don't work.

But suppose Iraq is gradually pacified, at least to tolerable levels, and casualties all around continue to drop, and the US and Iraqi government conclude a status of forces agreement with only partial US redeployment and withdrawal, and the Iraqi government continues to consolidate its power with what looks now like a combination of full Iranian support and US support. At that point, what will the center left have to fall back on? Will they then decide that the whole criminal spree of militarized butchery, destruction and torture was worth it after all?

The biggest contrast that both sides appear to be trying to out outline is that under Republican rule the de facto position is to keep the established presence of our military in the Middle East and specifically Iraq indefinitely, while the Democrats want to withdraw as many forces as quickly as is responsibly possible with an eye towards eventually withdrawing our troop to areas where they are accepted like Kuwait and the UAE.
Because of the mess we have made over in Mesopotamia it may not be possible (probably will not be possible) to responsibly reduce our forces in the foreseeable future. The question the American people will have to decide in November is what is the more reasonable position, to want to be there or to want to get out, given that neither side will be able to leave anyway without leaving a bloodbath in our wake.
Another question that we should ask ourselves is if our presence will ever be accepted in that area of the world given the history of the Western presence there as well as our support of the state of Israel. The idea here is that will the fear of Iran overwhelm the enmity towards our military power being ever present in areas that hold what Muslims consider some of their most sacred sites.
This doesn't even bring into the picture any thought of who is responsible for putting us into this no win situation and in the grand American tradition thinking in terms of the blame.
Whatever else, I have a feeling that anyone over there with a US flag as part of their clothing gets up every morning realizing that we screwed and they're screwed no matter what happens in the next election.

The key question McCain never answers is how long he is willing to accept casualties in Iraq? His comments about "a greater struggle that is going to be with us for the rest of this century" indicates a long, long time. No casualties 100 years from now is fine, but what about 10,20 or 100 deaths a month five years from now, or 10 years from now, or 20 years from now? That's the question he needs to answer.

I think we can just make this a lot more simple.

1. John McCain wants to stay and fight a war in Iraq for as long as it takes to "win"
2. After we've won, he would like a permanent U.S. military presence there for 100 years.

That's his position. No "context" or manipulation neeed. Fight 'til we've won (no timelines) and once we've won, we stay and occupy.

So what we have is a nothing more than a political game of spin created by those who know better being played on those in their own party who don't have a clue...ilanI don't know about you but, I'ld be livid about being played an idiot.


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