Republican presidential candidate John McCain said his opposition to a premature withdrawal from Iraq is based on his hatred of war and criticized his Democratic opponents in a major foreign policy address Wednesday.
“I do not argue against withdrawal, any more than I argued several years ago for the change in tactics and additional forces that are now succeeding in Iraq, because I am somehow indifferent to war and the suffering it inflicts on too many American families,” McCain told the Los Angeles World Affairs Council after returning from a weeklong trip abroad where he met with foreign leaders. “I hold my position because I hate war, and I know very well and very personally how grievous its wages are. But I know, too, that we must sometimes pay those wages to avoid paying even higher ones later.”
On the campaign trail Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, both fighting for the Democratic nomination, often say ending the war in Iraq would improve America’s world image. McCain refuted this position in his speech.
“Our critics say America needs to repair its image in the world,” McCain said. “How can they argue at the same time for the morally reprehensible abandonment of our responsibilities in Iraq?”
“Those who argue for it [withdrawal], as both Democratic candidates do, are arguing for a course that would eventually draw us into a wider and more difficult war that would entail far greater dangers and sacrifices than we have suffered to date,” McCain said.
Clinton and Obama have also repeatedly said they do not believe success is likely in Iraq. Clinton told General David H. Petraeus at a Senate Armed Forces hearing last year it would take the “willing suspension of disbelief” to believe the General’s testimony about progress in Iraq were true.
“Those who argue that goals in Iraq are unachievable are wrong, just as they were wrong a year ago when they declared the war in Iraq already lost,” McCain said. “Since June 2007 sectarian and ethnic violence in Iraq has been reduced by 90 percent. Overall civilian deaths have been reduced by more than 70 percent. Deaths of coalition forces have fallen by 70 percent. The dramatic reduction in violence has opened the way for a return to something approaching normal political and economic life for the average Iraqi.”
McCain has been criticized by liberal special interest groups, such as MoveOn.org, for supporting “100 years of war” in Iraq. At a townhall meeting earlier this year, McCain said he could foresee keeping troops in Iraq for 100 years, as long as they were not being killed or wounded. McCain’s Democratic opponents have used these remarks to paint him as a war monger.
Following their lead Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean issued this statement after McCain's speech: "John McCain's empty rhetoric today can't change the fact that he has steadfastly stood with President Bush from day one and is now talking about keeping our troops in Iraq for 100 years."
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