Overall, McCain's travels to Iraq offer a textured portrait of a man whose reputation for skepticism and patented "straight talk" is accurate but extends only so far. They reveal an independent-thinking critic who nonetheless held his tongue in moments where a dissenting voice would have been of greater service to his commander in chief. Perhaps most of all, McCain's Iraq saga evokes the complex image of a skilled, measured politician and stubborn war hero, a man deeply in the sway of combat valor who could sometimes seem to treasure the morale of the American military more than peace itself.
On that March trip, McCain indulged in one last stop in the Middle East: Tel Aviv, where he visited the country's famed Holocaust museum. Of all the jarring images in that building, one seemed to hit him the hardest. It was a photograph of Jewish concentration-camp prisoners who had been rescued by the Allied troops—only to die a few days later, their bodies too weak to react to the lavish meals prepared for them.
The irony of their sad fate—McCain could not help but appreciate it. Tyranny they could somehow abide, but in liberation they perished. It underscored how, five years into Iraq, little was guaranteed. Progress? Undeniably. Mission accomplished? Not by a long shot. Still worth fighting for? The voters would decide.