John McCain’s Free Fall

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Senator John McCain pretty much destroyed his limping Presidential campaign’s chances today on his appearance on “Meet The Press� with Tim Russert.

McCain’s meteoric fall is as spectacular as his rise in 2004 when he was then perceived as a maverick straight-talking politician. Now, he’s even more Republican than the rank-and-file of the Party, whose members want the United States to quit the Iraq quagmire. Even some party leaders have told President Bush that he’ll have to agree to verifiable benchmarks on Iraq.

The American populace want out: the latest polls show more than 50% want a withdrawal and nearly 60% say the invasion was a mistake. The only verifiable benchmark left in Iraq is a departure date.

McCain is probably one of three people in the world – the others being Bush and VP Dick Cheney – who believe “victory� is still around the corner in Iraq. Four years into the war, there’s no more talk about Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs). Every time that false claim was brought up, it reminded us of whenever O.J. spoke about still searching for the real killer of his ex-wife.

Absent WMDs, McCain says if the US withdraws from Iraq, there will be an inevitable genocide. That without a buffer of US troops, Sunni Muslims, who long reigned under the Saddam Hussein regime, and Shiite Muslims, who bore the yoke for decades, will massacre each other.

Preventing genocide is morally laudable: but why be selective? Why not also intervene in Sudan’s Darfur region or Uganda’s Acholi region, where there is actual –not prospective – genocide? Moreover, an Iraqi genocide can best be dealt with by a broad International coalition headed by the United Nations.

Unless McCain is trying to say the US bears a special responsibility for prospective genocide in Iraq; that the killings would occur because of the vacuum created when the US deposed Saddam Hussein. Even if this is what McCain means, a broad international force involving the United Nations and Muslim countries would stand a better chance.

Moreover, the Iraq regime is incompetent and undeserving of US sponsorship. There is no policy of reconciliation—rather sectarianism and vengeance guide Iraq’s present rulers. Corruption is rampant, with media reports this week of $15 million in oil revenue disappearing everyday – this translates to nearly $5 billion a year, which would make Nigeria seem like a haven of integrity.

 3,380 Americans have been killed in the war – well more than the 2,602 that perished in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center– and tens of thousands injured. The US has spent hundreds of billions of dollars on the war. All for what?

As US casualties mount daily, the Iraq Parliament, in all its great wisdom, has announced that it will adjourn for a two-month vacation. This is asking too much from hardworking Americans---and John McCain is still trying to sell this war?

McCain was asked about his embarrassing visit a few weeks ago to a market in Baghdad where he bought some fruits and afterwards proclaimed that things were getting “better.� McCain lost composure when Russert confronted him with the fact that he wore a bullet proof vest and was accompanied by more than 100 troops in armored vehicles, with a helicopter hovering overhead.

“I had an armed escort because general Patreus said that’s what we ought to have,� McCain said, referring to US Supreme Commander Gen. Dave Patreus.  Sounding desperate, in a pathetic “macho� display, the senator added: “I will be glad to go back to that market, with or without military protection…� Yes, of course, McCain.

After four years, out of 12 Iraqi battalions, only two are ready to fight independently without US support; that’s a mere 6,000 troops. What happened to the 170,000 troops fantasy that former defense secretary Don Rumsfeld once claimed? At this rate, it will take at least 30 years for Iraq to have another 45,000 troops ready. When Russert asked McCain how long Iraq would need a US presence, he lost his composure and snapped, “We’ve had troops in South Korea for 60 years.�

Iraq is no better now than it was under Hussein. Iraqi VP Tariq al-Hashimi has said: “I can’t see any light in the horizon.� Perhaps McCain should heed these words.


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