Republican Presidential candidate Sen. John McCain spoke on Wednesday morning at the Virginia Military Institute about his recent trip to Iraq, the progress he saw there, and why the United States needs to stay the course in both Iraq, and the war on terror.

 First McCain spoke about the signs of progress he saw in Baghdad, “For the first time in my visits to Iraq, our delegation was able to drive – not fly by helicopter– from the airport to downtown Baghdad. For the first time we met with a Sunni tribal leader in Anbar province, who is working with American and Iraqi forces to fight al Qaeda. Sixteen of the twenty-four Sunni tribal leaders in Anbar are now working with us. We visited Iraqi and American forces deployed together in Baghdad – an integral part of the new security plan – where they maintain a presence in a neighborhood cleared of militias and terrorists, and hold the ground they have retaken rather than return to base, after which the enemy returns to impose its will again on a defenseless population.”

 McCain also argued if America left Iraq, the nation would become an al-Qaeda terrorist haven, like Afghanistan was before 9/11. “America has a vital interest in preventing the emergence of Iraq as a Wild West for terrorists, similar to Afghanistan before 9/11. By leaving Iraq before there is a stable Iraqi governing authority we risk precisely this, and the potential consequence of allowing terrorists sanctuary in Iraq is another 9/11 or worse. In Iraq today, terrorists have resorted to levels of barbarism that shock the world and we should not be so naive as to believe their intentions are limited solely to the borders of that country. We Americans are their primary enemy, and we Americans are their ultimate target.”

 McCain believes that terrorists are behind the sectarian violence in Iraq. “It is impossible to separate sectarian violence from the war against al Qaeda. Al Qaeda is following an explicit strategy to foment civil war in Iraq. The only way to reduce and finally end sectarian violence is to provide greater security to the population than we have in the past, as we are doing now in Baghdad; to encourage Iraqis to abandon their reliance on local militias, and to destroy al Qaeda and other truly irreconcilable enemies of the United States and the Iraqi people,” he said Boy, McCain is just plain wrong here. The civil war is starting because of tensions that existed between the Kurds, Sunnis, and, Shiites that the ironfisted rule of Saddam Hussein was able to keep a lid. McCain is demonstrating his ignorance about the history of the nation.

Lastly, McCain blasted the Democrats for not supporting the administration’s view of the war in Iraq. “Democrats who voted to authorize this war, and criticized the failed strategy that has led us to this perilous moment, have the same responsibility I do, to offer support when that failure is recognized and the right strategy is proposed and the right commanders take the field to implement it or, at the least, to offer an alternative strategy that has some relationship to reality. Democrats argue we should redirect American resources to the ‘real’ war on terror, of which Iraq is just a sideshow. But whether or not al Qaeda terrorists were a present danger in Iraq before the war, there is no disputing they are there now, and their leaders recognize Iraq as the main battleground in the war on terror,” McCain said.

McCain is staking his entire presidential campaign on the war in Iraq. However, I question the logic of trying to revive a struggling presidential campaign by essentially parroting an unpopular presidential administration’s views on what has become an unpopular war. If anything, this speech serves to further entrench the impression of John McCain as the lap dog for the Bush administration.

The logic behind McCain’s strategy is simple. Almost all the remaining domestic support for this war can be found among Republicans who are still strong supporters of the president. This is a large segment of the GOP, so in theory, if McCain captures these primary voters then he could win the nomination. However, the cost of winning the nomination by these means will be probably be defeat in the general election. It is very possible that if things don’t take a turn for the better in Iraq, by using this strategy, McCain could win the GOP battle, but lose the general election war.

Full Text of John McCain’s VMI speech

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at

Jason can also be heard every Sunday afternoon at 1:30 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at
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