In the Arena

McCain’s Iraq Fantasia

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John McCain continues to fight a different war in Iraq than…the U.S. military. It is a simple war of good v. evil, us v. Al Qaeda. There are aspects of truth to what he says–we’ve had good success this past year in the fight against the local branch of Al Qaeda, which the military calls Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). But we’ve had that success mostly because Iraq’s Sunni population turned on the terrorists and sent them packing.

Which brings us to today’s edition. The political news was: McCain takes a roundhouse swing at Obama; Obama counterpunches elegantly. But what caught my Iraq-obsessed eye was this statement from McCain:

“And my friends, if we left, they (al-Qaida) wouldn’t be establishing a base,” McCain said Wednesday. “They’d be taking a country, and I’m not going to allow that to happen, my friends. I will not surrender. I will not surrender to al-Qaida.”

They’d be taking a country? Last time I checked, Iraq has a Shi’ite majority. McCain thinks the Shi’ites–the Mahdi Army, the Badr Corps (and yes, the Iranians)–would allow a small group of Sunni extremists to take over? In fact, as noted above, the vast majority of indigenous Iraqi Sunnis aren’t too thrilled about the AQI presence in their country, either. (The usual caveats apply: AQI is barbaric, dastardly and intent on violating the Qu’ran by engaging in the annihilation of innocents. We can’t get rid of them fast enough.)
The sadness here is that McCain knows better. He knows the complexities of the world, and the region. But I suspect he’s overplaying his Iraq hand in order to win favor with the wingnuts in his party. That is extremely unfortunate: As McCain should know better than anyone, it is extremely dishonorable for politicians to play bloody-shirt games when the nation is at war.