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July 22, 2008

Not a Gaffe: A Fundamental Misunderstanding of Iraq
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

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.  But anyway, what happened.

On Katie Couric tonight McCain says:

Kate Couric: Senator McCain, Senator Obama says, while the increased number of US 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 as-- 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.

One problem.  The surge wasn't even announced until a few months after the Anbar Awakening.  Via Spencer Ackerman, here is Colonel MacFarland explaining the Anbar Awakening to Pam Hess of UPI, on September 29 2006.  That would be almost four months before the President even announced the surge.  Petraeus wasn't even in Iraq yet.

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.

And here is the NY Times talking about the Anbar Awakening back in March 2007.

The formation of the group in September shocked many Sunni Arabs. It was the most public stand anyone in Anbar had taken against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, which was founded by the Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

And here is Colin Kahl in Foreign Affairs

The Awakening began in Anbar Province more than a year before the surge and took off in the summer and fall of 2006 in Ramadi and elsewhere, long before extra U.S. forces started flowing into Iraq in February and March of 2007. Throughout the war, enemy-of-my-enemy logic has driven Sunni decision-making. The Sunnis have seen three "occupiers" as threats: the United States, the Shiites (and their presumed Iranian patrons), and the foreigners and extremists in AQI. Crucial to the Awakening was the reordering of these threats.

This is not controversial history.  It is history that anyone trying out for Commander in 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. 

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Comments

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

Ilan, even if Sen. McCain DOES have some sort of accurate understanding of the timeline/history of the Iraq War, isn't it simply more likely that he doesn't care if his public pronouncements on it are accurate?

Virtually the entirety of Sen. McCain's campaign thus far has consisted primarily of repetitiously trumpeting his own "superior" "strategy" for dealing with Iraq, and mostly, said strategy has been to push a simpleminded "win-vs-lose" narrative, parading himself as the "win" candidate, and Sen. Obama as the "lose" one.

It's Rovian campaign strategy at its finest [sic]: message is all, image is vital; and the voting public is hugely unlikely to much care. Things like truth (still less historical accuracy) are optional extras, at best.

Yes, McCain doesn't care if he is right on the facts or wrong on the facts, as long as he projects as a man who will utilize all of our US military resources (everything he can do) to keep us safe.

When Obama supporters see this they say. OMG not McCain. When the rest of the country sees it, they say, he's tough, I like that. When I see it, I wonder if he's talking out of his ass by mistake or doing in intentionally.

I thank the authors for this article because it exposes the shocking misrepresentations that Sen Obambi has been making to the national and international press corps.

Sen Obama has asserted abroad and to Couric and Moran that NO ONE could have anticipated that the Sunnis in the Anbar Awakening would turn against Al Queada.

Here are the quotes:

Obama says to Couric: "There is no doubt that the extraordinary work of our U.S. forces has contributed to a lessening of the violence, just as making sure that the Sadr militia stood down or the fact that the Sunni tribes decided to flip and work with us instead of with al-Qaeda - something that we hadn't anticipated
happening."

"SOmething that we hadn't anticipated happening".

Similarly on Nightline,

"Here is what I will say," Obama said, "I think that, I did not anticipate,and I think that this is a fair characterization, the convergence of not only the surge but the Sunni awakening in which a whole host of Sunni tribal leaders decided that they had had enough with Al Qaeda, in the Shii’a community the militias standing
down to some degrees. So what you had is a combination of political factors inside of Iraq that then came right at the same time as terrific work by our troops. Had those political factors not occurred, I think that my assessment would have been correct."

How did Sen Obama fail to anticipate the "Sunni flip" if it had started before his votes on the surge.

Seems to me Sen Obama failed to investigate the facts on the ground before he opposed the surge. Seems to me Sen Obama didn't even bother to check the facts before he made these bald faced lies to the international press corp. And this is the guy that Americans should entrust the lives of our troops? I "hope" not.

I thank the authors for this article because it exposes the shocking misrepresentations that Sen Obambi has been making to the national and international press corps.

Sen Obama has asserted abroad and to Couric and Moran that NO ONE could have anticipated that the Sunnis in the Anbar Awakening would turn against Al Queada.

Here are the quotes:

Obama says to Couric: "There is no doubt that the extraordinary work of our U.S. forces has contributed to a lessening of the violence, just as making sure that the Sadr militia stood down or the fact that the Sunni tribes decided to flip and work with us instead of with al-Qaeda - something that we hadn't anticipated
happening."

"SOmething that we hadn't anticipated happening".

Similarly on Nightline,

"Here is what I will say," Obama said, "I think that, I did not anticipate,and I think that this is a fair characterization, the convergence of not only the surge but the Sunni awakening in which a whole host of Sunni tribal leaders decided that they had had enough with Al Qaeda, in the Shii’a community the militias standing
down to some degrees. So what you had is a combination of political factors inside of Iraq that then came right at the same time as terrific work by our troops. Had those political factors not occurred, I think that my assessment would have been correct."

How did Sen Obama fail to anticipate the "Sunni flip" if it had started before his votes on the surge.

Seems to me Sen Obama failed to investigate the facts on the ground before he opposed the surge. Seems to me Sen Obama didn't even bother to check the facts before he made these bald faced lies to the international press corp. And this is the guy that Americans should entrust the lives of our troops? I "hope" not.

I thank the authors for this article because it exposes the shocking misrepresentations that Sen Obambi has been making to the national and international press corps.

Sen Obama has asserted abroad and to Couric and Moran that NO ONE could have anticipated that the Sunnis in the Anbar Awakening would turn against Al Queada.

Here are the quotes:

Obama says to Couric: "There is no doubt that the extraordinary work of our U.S. forces has contributed to a lessening of the violence, just as making sure that the Sadr militia stood down or the fact that the Sunni tribes decided to flip and work with us instead of with al-Qaeda - something that we hadn't anticipated
happening."

"SOmething that we hadn't anticipated happening".

Similarly on Nightline,

"Here is what I will say," Obama said, "I think that, I did not anticipate,and I think that this is a fair characterization, the convergence of not only the surge but the Sunni awakening in which a whole host of Sunni tribal leaders decided that they had had enough with Al Qaeda, in the Shii’a community the militias standing
down to some degrees. So what you had is a combination of political factors inside of Iraq that then came right at the same time as terrific work by our troops. Had those political factors not occurred, I think that my assessment would have been correct."

How did Sen Obama fail to anticipate the "Sunni flip" if it had started before his votes on the surge.

Seems to me Sen Obama failed to investigate the facts on the ground before he opposed the surge. Seems to me Sen Obama didn't even bother to check the facts before he made these bald faced lies to the international press corp. And this is the guy that Americans should entrust the lives of our troops? I "hope" not.

I thank the authors for this article because it exposes the shocking misrepresentations that Sen Obambi has been making to the national and international press corps.

Sen Obama has asserted abroad and to Couric and Moran that NO ONE could have anticipated that the Sunnis in the Anbar Awakening would turn against Al Queada.

Here are the quotes:

Obama says to Couric: "There is no doubt that the extraordinary work of our U.S. forces has contributed to a lessening of the violence, just as making sure that the Sadr militia stood down or the fact that the Sunni tribes decided to flip and work with us instead of with al-Qaeda - something that we hadn't anticipated
happening."

"SOmething that we hadn't anticipated happening".

Similarly on Nightline,

"Here is what I will say," Obama said, "I think that, I did not anticipate,and I think that this is a fair characterization, the convergence of not only the surge but the Sunni awakening in which a whole host of Sunni tribal leaders decided that they had had enough with Al Qaeda, in the Shii’a community the militias standing
down to some degrees. So what you had is a combination of political factors inside of Iraq that then came right at the same time as terrific work by our troops. Had those political factors not occurred, I think that my assessment would have been correct."

How did Sen Obama fail to anticipate the "Sunni flip" if it had started before his votes on the surge.

Seems to me Sen Obama failed to investigate the facts on the ground before he opposed the surge. Seems to me Sen Obama didn't even bother to check the facts before he made these bald faced lies to the international press corp. And this is the guy that Americans should entrust the lives of our troops? I "hope" not.

McCain's a little confused...again...

JAZ,
Obama is not claiming that he didn't anticipate the Sunni flip. He's saying that he did not anticipate the Sunni flip AND the Shi'ite militia ceasefire (in August 2007) as being enough - in conjunction with the surge and Petraeus' appointment - to lower the violence. Oh, and the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad in the spring of 2007 helped too. Obama DID predict that would happen. Petraeus's walls helped pacify Baghdad because Sadr stood down and because the walls kept the gangsters out. Then Petraeus applied the Anbar model to the now-homogeneous Baghdad neighborhoods, which helped local neighborhood patrols keep out Al Qaeda.

The surge helped, but it was more supplementary than anything else. McCain is lying about the chronology of events. Obama is telling the truth about what he thought would happen.

Nice try though.

http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=MGM2YWI4ODI0MDA1ZjczOTFjNDNkMGQzMzM0MGQ4Mjg=

Fred Kagan national review: A few sunnis were taking part in the sunni awakening before the surge and grew to 14,000 after the surge.

Anbar and the Surge
The tribal leaders in Anbar began to turn against al Qaeda in Iraq last year, largely due to unspeakable atrocities committed by the terrorists against their own hosts. Many analysts and observers have seized upon this fact to argue that the movement in Anbar had nothing to do with the surge, began before the surge did, and would continue even without the surge. This argument is invalid. Anbari tribal leaders did begin to turn against AQI in their areas last year before the surge began, but not before Colonel Sean MacFarland began to apply in Ramadi the tactics and techniques that are the basis of the current strategy in Baghdad. His soldiers and Marines fought tenaciously to establish a foothold in Anbar’s capital, which was then a terrorist stronghold, and thereby demonstrated to the local leaders that they could count on American support as they began to fight their erstwhile allies. Even so, the movement proceeded slowly and fitfully for most of 2006 and, indeed, into 2007. But when Colonel John Charlton’s brigade relieved MacFarland’s in Ramadi and was joined by two additional Marine battalions (part of the surge) elsewhere in Anbar, the “awakening” began to accelerate very rapidly. At the start of 2007 there were only a handful of Anbaris in the local security forces. By the summer there were over 14,000. Before the surge, Ramadi was one of the most dangerous cities in Iraq; now it is possible for Americans to walk through its market with limited security details and without body armor. David Kilcullen describes the relationship between the surge and the movement very well in his Small Wars Journal posting, and I have also addressed the issue in detail in a recent Weekly Standard article . The fact is that neither the surge nor the turn of the tribal leaders would in itself have been enough to turn Anbar around — both were necessary, and will remain so for some time.


Obama said in January 2007 on MSNBC that the surge would have the opposite effect of reducing violence and in fact adding more troops would create more sectarian violence.

The nutroots are silent on that quote.

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