During an exclusive interview Tuesday with Katie Couric, John McCain revealed a clear and fundamental misunderstanding of the situation in Iraq. However, you wouldn't have seen it if you watched the CBS broadcast version, because this part was left on the cutting room floor. In response to a question about Barack Obama's contention that it was a confluence of events, not just The Surge™, that was responsible for the reduction of violence, McCain falsely states that the Anbar Awakening was a direct byproduct of The Surge™, even though the Awakening began months before President Bush first announced the buildup of force.
Couric: Senator McCain, Senator Obama says, while the increased number of US troops contributed to increased security in Iraq, he also credits the Sunni awakening and the Shiite government going after militias. And says that there might have been improved security even without the surge. What's your response to that?
McCain: I don't know how you respond to something that is as -- such a false depiction of what actually happened. Colonel McFarlane [phonetic] was contacted by one of the major Sunni sheiks. Because of the surge we were able to go out and protect that sheik and others. And it began the Anbar awakening. I mean, that's just a matter of history. Thanks to General Petraeus, our leadership, and the sacrifice of brave young Americans. I mean, to deny that their sacrifice didn't make possible the success of the surge in Iraq, I think, does a great disservice to young men and women who are serving and have sacrificed.
Thanks to FDL's Spencer Ackerman, this is what Colonel MacFarland, the man to whom McCain refers in his answer, said in September 2006:
With respect to the violence between the Sunnis and the al Qaeda -- actually, I would disagree with the assessment that the al Qaeda have the upper hand. That was true earlier this year when some of the sheikhs began to step forward and some of the insurgent groups began to fight against al Qaeda. The insurgent groups, the nationalist groups, were pretty well beaten by al Qaeda.
This is a different phenomena that's going on right now. I think that it's not so much the insurgent groups that are fighting al Qaeda, it's the -- well, it used to be the fence-sitters, the tribal leaders, are stepping forward and cooperating with the Iraqi security forces against al Qaeda, and it's had a very different result. I think al Qaeda has been pushed up against the ropes by this, and now they're finding themselves trapped between the coalition and ISF on the one side, and the people on the other.
Furthermore, MacFarland even co-wrote an article (.pdf) published earlier this year in which he explained how most of the Anbar progress occurred between June 2006 and February 2007, months before the first surge troops even arrived.
The Anbar Awakening is argued by many to be one of the most crucial turning points in the war. For McCain to falsely claim that The Surge was responsible for it is rank dishonesty and a blatant attempt to re-write history.
McCain has recently sunk so low as to say this about Obama:
This is a clear choice that the American people have. I had the courage and the judgment to say I would rather lose a political campaign than lose a war. It seems to me that Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign.
Well, here's my response: McCain is essentially betting his entire presidential bid on his support for The Surge, so if he has to lie about its effects, he will; it's his only shot.
As ThinkProgress notes, even President Bush made mention of this fact in a speech to the Naval War College last year.
Anticipating that they were going to get hammered for the screw-up, the McCain campaign released a statement last night that the Andersen Cooper panel largely bought hook, line and sinker.
Ackerman nails it:
"For McCain to say that the Anbar Awakening is the product of the surge is either a lie or professional malpractice for a presidential candidate who is staking his election on his allegedly superior Iraq judgment."
So does Ilan Goldenberg at HuffPo:
"YOU CANNOT GET THIS WRONG. [...] John McCain made a mistake this evening, which as far as I'm concerned, disqualifies him from being president. It is so appalling and so factually wrong that I'm actually sitting here wondering who McCain's advisers are. This isn't some gaffe where he talks about the Iraq-Pakistan border. It's a real misunderstanding of what has happened in Iraq over the past year."