got some heat about his comment that the US military could stay in Iraq for "a hundred years".
To be fair, the full context of that comment was at a town hall meeting in response to a question, which, should be pointed out, McCain never let be fully asked...
Q: President Bush has talked about our staying in Iraq for 50 years
McCain: Make it a hundred.
Q: Is that …
McCain: We’ve been in South Korea … we’ve been in Japan for 60 years. We’ve been in South Korea for 50 years or so. That would be fine with me. As long as Americans … As long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed. That’s fine with me, I hope that would be fine with you, if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where Al Queada is training, recruiting and equipping and motivating people every single day.
[See the full video of it, where you can hear McCain
rudely cut off the questioner.]
Later, in TV interviews, McCain clarifies:
My point was and continues to be, how long do we have to stay in Bosnia? How long do we have to stay in South Korea? How long are we going to stay in Japan? How long are we going to stay in Germany? All of those, 50-, 60-year period. No one complains. In fact, they contribute enormously, their presence, to stability in the world.
The point is, it's American casualties. We've got to get Americans off the front line, have the Iraqis as part of the strategy, take over more and more of the responsibilities. And then I don't think Americans are concerned if we're there for 100 years or 1,000 years or 10,000 years. What they care about is a sacrifice of our most precious treasure, and that's American blood. So what I'm saying is look, if Americans are there in a support role, but they're not taking casualties, that's fine.
Could be 1,000 years or a million years... We have bases in Kuwait right now. We have bases in South Korea and Japan, Germany. I mean it's a straw man. It's a fallacious argument by people who don't understand that it's not American presence, it's American casualties. If we can get American casualties down and eliminate them, Americans are not concerned — in fact, they may be glad we have a secure base in that part of the world as we do in Kuwait.
In full context, this doesn't seem so bad, but I think John McCain needs a little lesson in history.
First of all, comparing Iraq to South Korea, Japan, Germany, even Bosnia is not fair. In each of these situations, the United States' participation in military retaliation came as a result of unprovoked attacks.
Our presence in Korea was a result of a war of Soviet/Chinese aggression, and North Korea remains a significant source of instability in the region. More importantly, the reason for our involvement, and continued presence, in Korea was based on a rogue state which has aggressively pursued nuclear weapons to maintain its chokehold on the North in light of having its traditional Soviet/Chinese lifelines cut.
Our presence in Japan and Germany were also in response to the Soviet threat. Had we not maintained significant troop levels, the Soviet influence in the East and the West would have simultaneously expanded like the Soviets attempted in both Vietnam and Korea. And as victors of World War II fighting the Nazis and the Japanese, it was a right we had cause to exercise, and this has come to be accepted by the Japanese and German citizenry today, an overwhelming majority of whom repudiate the actions of the imperial Japanese and Nazi regimes.
Our action in Bosnia was supported by UN resolutions, and a direct result of violent action against UN peacekeeping troops in response to active and on-going genocide. And the fact remains that our continuing presence in Bosnia is a result of our participation in international treaties.
Similarly, in Kuwait, we were invited to protect their borders after the war of Kuwaiti liberation by the Kuwaitis. Iraq was clearly the aggressor in that fight and again a multinational UN force was employed, including Arab states, to push back the aggressors.
Contrast this with Iraq. Clearly Saddam was no boy scout, but he was not a threat to US security or to US interests in the region. (Anyone who thinks that the Israelis, the Turks, or the Saudis couldn't have repelled an Iraqi attack, even without the promise of US support that would have quickly been provided, is badly deluded)
He possessed no demonstrable WMDs. He was not credibly aiding or abetting Al-Qaeda forces. And while the Iraqis may have embraced the deposition of Saddam, that could have been accomplished without US military involvement. (The first Gulf war, the ensuing no-fly zones and embargoes deprived Iraq of any significant air force, and as the first Gulf War demonstrated, air superiority is a critical advantage over a tank/infantry-heavy Iraqi army)
So with an illegitimate causus-belli, what we opened was a huge can of worms that Al Qaeda was happy to exploit, both in Afghanistan and in Iraq. Fringe elements in Iran took advantage of this weakness to destabilize the region further.
The question is, now that we are in this mess (which, it bears pointing out, rightfully should result in the impeachment of Bush and Cheney), what is the right thing to do, both to restore US credibility around the world, and for US security?
The answer certainly doesn't start with suggesting that the US has cause and the right to remain in Iraq for 100, 1000 or a million years, as McCain arrogantly brags-- as if Iraq wasn't a sovereign nation that we attacked, unprovoked, while the actual provocateur for 9/11 remains, to this day
un-apprehended in the mountains along Afghanistan and Pakistan! Rather, the US strategy should be to extricate itself, while showing accountability for what is clearly a war of unprovoked aggression against the Hussein regime by holding those who falsified intelligence accountable for tens of thousands of casualties, American and Iraqi alike.
In Japan, Germany, Korea and Bosnia, our troops weren't regarded as imperialists, as unscrupulous torturers and murderers. But in light of some of the scandals that have rocked our invasion of Iraq, from Abu Ghraib to Haditha, the US needs to, as gracefully as possible, remove its presence from the region while inviting Egyptian, Saudi and Jordanese peacekeeping troops into the area to take up the cause of peacekeeping with our UN allies.
If we don't do this, then I think John McCain is deluding himself if he thinks that our enemies won't be able to exploit our illegitimate presence in this area to continue spilling American blood. The illegitimate invasion of Iraq will continue to be a polarizing factor in extremist muslim communities priming the extremist propoganda machine for new jihadist recruits.
It is disingenuous to equate Iraq with areas where we have had a legal and moral cause to take military action, and to suggest that our ongoing presence there is either convenient, morally justifiable, or in the interest of US national security indicates a stunning display of poor judgement.