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July 23, 2008

Digging a Deeper Hole
Posted by Shawn Brimley

John McCain's gaffe yesterday on the history of the Sunni Awakening in Anbar province was pretty clear. He stated that the "surge" allowed U.S. troops to help protect Sunni sheiks in Anbar and allowed the Anbar awakening to begin. As has been pointed out, the Awakening began in 2006 while the "surge" of U.S. troops into Iraq didn't get started until 2007.

McCain didn't back down from that claim today – this from the AP:

It's all a matter of semantics, [McCain] suggested.

McCain said Army Col. Sean MacFarland started carrying out elements of a new counterinsurgency strategy as early as December 2006.

At issue are McCain's comments in a Tuesday interview with CBS. The Arizona senator disputed Democrat Barack Obama's contention that a Sunni revolt against al-Qaida combined with the dispatch of thousands more U.S. combat troops to Iraq to produce the improved security situation there. McCain called that a "false depiction."

McCain asserted he knew that and didn't commit a gaffe. "A surge is really a counterinsurgency made up of a number of components. ... I'm not sure people understand that `surge' is part of a counterinsurgency."

A surge is really a counterinsurgency? That argument isn't going to fly. The word "surge" has always been used to as shorthand referring to President Bush's decision to deploy about 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq in early 2007, the first of which did not arrive in Iraq until later in the spring. By ignoring the fact that a number of important variables combined to help improve the security situation in Iraq in 2007 (Sunni Awakening, Sadr's decision to stand down his militia, the movement of Sunni and Shia in Baghdad into defensible enclaves), the McCain campaign is ignoring important facts, and distorting the historical record.

McCain said that the surge of troops in 2007 "began the Anbar awakening" in 2006. McCain is the one using a "false depiction" in a misguided attempt to score political points. In case his campaign didn't notice, Democrats aren't running away from foreign policy or national security anymore. Bring it on.

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