Jul 20, 2006 7:45 pm


The arrogance of Tim Russett is only matched by his belief that anything printed in a newspaper is, as we say, truth from Sinai. But McCain has no problem putting him in his place by simply being a grown up who accepts the limits of his power and lives comfortably with second choices. One of the best exchanges this morning was the one on troop levels:

MR. RUSSERT: Should we send more American troops and do we have the troops to send?

SEN. McCAIN: I've wanted to send troops. I still think we should have more troops there. But it's not going to happen. And that's just reality. It's not going to happen. But we really needed to expand the size of the Marine Corps and the Army so we didn't have this terrific strain on our Guard and Reserve, particularly our Guard units.

I, like many others who are unhappy with the conduct of the war, would like to see the war prosecuted more not less vigorously and, most specifically, see a return to the Bush doctrine which claimed that countries who harbor terrorists such as Syria and Iran will be treated like terrorists. But we are realizing it is not going to happen and decide what is the next best choice. We also realize that Iraqi democracy is going to be far from ideal. That does not mean we pull a Murtha and advocate throwing in the towel. It means adjusting expectations:

MR. RUSSERT: Senator, the war in Iraq. The president said that we will accept nothing less than complete victory. What is complete victory?

SEN. McCAIN: Complete victory at least in my view is a flawed but functioning democracy in Iraq. I think it's hard to expect us to have a perfect democracy there but one that the people of Iraq will support, economic development, restoration of infrastructure and law and order and the Iraqi military and security personnel being able to take over most of the responsibilities for Iraqi security. And I think it's going to be long and hard and tough.


SEN. McCAIN: Well, when I say years, I think that it's very possible within the next year or two that you could see this transition taking place, but the American troops being a supplement rather than being replaced by, in other words, most of the effort being carried on over time by the Iraqis, but it's going to be tough. And I think that one of the many mistakes that have been made is to inflate the expectations of the American people beginning three years ago that this was going to be some kind of day at the beach, and I never believed it was going to be, and to this day, I don't believe it. I believe the consequences of failure are horrific. I believe the benefits of success are magnificent.

But Russert continues to press for the answer Bin Laden and Zarqawi are anxious to have:

MR. RUSSERT: And if we don't? And if we don't? If six months, a year from now it's status quo, would you then consider withdrawal of the American troops, saying the Iraqis simply aren't willing to stand up?

SEN. McCAIN: I would say that we would have to evaluate our strategy, but we also have to consider the consequences of failure. If we fail--don't take my word for it. Take Zarqawi's. Zarqawi's and bin Laden's version in history is that we were driven out of Vietnam, we were driven out of Lebanon, we were driven out of Somalia, and they're going to go after us in the United States of America. Now, that's not my saying, that's not anybody else--that's what they're saying. This is why there's so much at stake here. This is why I made a controversial comment that this is more important than Vietnam was. The Vietnamese weren't going to come after us. These people are dedicated to our extinction.

Nor does McCain argue that the rules of war cannot be the rules of peace. Just read the following exchange on the story planting"scandal.":

MR. RUSSERT: The Pentagon, in fact, was paying Iraqi journalists to publish articles favorable to the United States' position. The Los Angeles Times first reported it. The Pentagon has now admitted it. Should they stop it?

SEN. McCAIN: If these are accurate stories and written by legitimate people, then I don't think there's anything wrong with it. If they are not accurate and they are made up by different people, then, of course, it should be stopped.

MR. RUSSERT: But here we are trying to teach democracy...

SEN. McCAIN: Yeah.

MR. RUSSERT: ...and freedom of the press...

SEN. McCAIN: Yeah.

MR. RUSSERT: ...and lack of state-sponsored censorship if you will and we're paying Iraqis to print articles?

SEN. McCAIN: Well, I don't know if that's a standard practice or not in Iraq. If these are accurate stories, we should make every effort to get them out if they're accurate. We're in a propaganda war where this is a war for the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people as well. I think we need more details as to exactly what went on, but if it's legitimate...

MR. RUSSERT: But in principle you have not problem paying the Iraqis...

SEN. McCAIN: But if that's the standard procedure in Iraq, if that's what you need to do to get a story in one of these newspapers, but it has to be accurate and it has to be done by a legitimate person. I understand these are men and women who serve in our military that are responsible for these stories. If that's the only way you get stories in, then I'm not terribly offend by it, Tim.

I do have one bone to pick with McCain and that is that the anti torture language he advocates is far too broad.

MR. RUSSERT: You said that you want to ban cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.


MR. RUSSERT: Will you accept any compromise on those words?


May I remind Senator McCain that some Muslims would consider taking the photo of an unveiled woman, degrading. I do not condone torture per se but degrading is too culture bound to provide a reasonable guideline to interrogators. So, John McCain has to put his own history aside and agree to a less sweeping language. The Congress is sure to follow his lead as given a chance I would be happy to follow his lead in 2008.

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More Comments:

Lorraine Paul - 12/25/2005

McCain is using the same phrase used in the US invasion of Vietnam....winning hearts and minds. The absolute hollowness of this PR exercise was shown up by the further statement made by a leading US hawk "(Hell)....when you are holding them by the (testicles) their hearts and minds will follow".

Do these people think we don't have memories?

Robert M - 12/5/2005

McCain as usual was almost as smarmy as Russert. Nothing in McCain's public pronouncements ever indicated the level of disagreement he spoke of on Meet the Press. Whether it was Shinseki saying the level necessary for the Iraq affair was 300,000, lack of body armor for the troops ,etc. McCain is a right wing liar whom has swallowed all his self esteem in his desire to become President so much so that he is now the voice of reason for the administration.
When something goes wrong you tell your students to analyze what happen and make reccomendations to make sure it doesn't happen again by instituting new policies. When you do not see the situtation being corrected you do not leave the same personnel in charge of instituting the new policies do you? That is what McCain is doing by not asking for Rumsfields head yet be willing to shill for the incompetent. That is why I made the charge I did.

BILL - 12/5/2005


Viggo Odin - 12/4/2005

At the PBS, "Frontline" Home Page, can you read interviews with two American Interrogation Leaders from Iraq, who tell 98% of the prisoners in the American prisons in Iraq, are innocent civilians.

Nearly 100.000 innocent civilians, have now been abused or tortured, in American prisons in Iraq.

The arrogant and ignorant behaviour of the American soldier's, who don't try to understand the culture, they visit, make the Insurgency stronger and stronger. And can create chaos and a horrible civil war.

US create misery, death and chaos.

Cornellian - 12/4/2005

Since Sen. McCain is putting forth rules to be encompassed in US law, to govern US interrogators and jailers, presumably by "cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment" he means what those words would mean in US law, not what they might mean under any other legal system, such as the Iraqi legal system (such as it is). In other words, if it's not degrading to us, we can do it even if it's degrading to them.

Kal Palnicki - 12/4/2005

If anyone in the Neocon portion of the administaration had paid any attention to the Powell Doctrine, we would not be in the current quagmire. Since the Neocons were and still are chickenhawks they look at war as though it were a B movie. Being inexperienced and being stupidly arrogant, they chose to ignore any expert advice that conflicted with their fantasies about turning Iraq into America-lite. Being as arrogant as they are, they lack the capacity to admit error and to change course. If you look at how Assad solved his problem with the Moslem Brotherhood in Hama you would see the solution that can be applied. Unfortunately, the chickenhawks lack the cojones to apply it. They will sit still, suffer thousands of American Deaths and walk away in 2008 after they are kicked out of office. They will mutter loudly that America lost its will and surely would rue the day the voted those paragons of militray planning, AKA the Neocons.