McCain Once Worried About Impact of Long-Term US Presence in Iraq

By Michael Elmore

Apr 29, 2008 12:23pm

ABC News’ Teddy Davis and Mike Elmore Report: Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., once seemed to reject a long-term U.S. troop presence in Iraq even if those troops were stationed in a fortified place. McCain’s 2005 comments appear to be somewhat at odds with a position he has spoken favorably of in the 2008 campaign.

Appearing on MSNBC’s "Hardball" on Jan. 31, 2005, Chris Matthews asked McCain if the US could get along without making Iraq "the home of a U.S. garrison".

"I not only think we could get along without it," said McCain, "but I think one of our big problems has been the fact that many Iraqis resent American military presence."

The tension between McCain’s 2005 position and his 2008 position was first reported this morning by HuffingtonPost.

The HuffingtonPost story neglects to include the portion of the Hardball transcript in which McCain showed consistency. Just as he has done in his 2008 campaign, McCain said in 2005 that "the key" is "not when the troops come home" but rather when the casualties will stop.

". . . the fact is that the key to it is not when the troops come home," said McCain. ". . .  It is the casualties that creates the discontent amongst Americans. We`ve been in Bosnia for, what, 10, 12, years, Kosovo for 10 years, South Korea for 50 years. Americans aren’t upset about that."

Asked about the 2005 Hardball interview, McCain spokesman Brian Rogers sought to debunk what he called the "urban legend" of the Arizona senator’s "100 Years" remarks at a New Hampshire town-hall meeting in January 2008.

"He has made very clear that any post-war presence would be subject to an agreement between sovereign governments," Rogers told ABC News. "He has never specifically said that it’s desirable to have 50,000 troops in a garrison. What he said is that should you get to a point where it is in our interest and in the mutual interest of Iraq and American national security to have a long-term presence. He thinks that would be acceptable to the American people."

McCain’s "100 Years" comments are currently the subject of a Democratic National Committee television ad targeting McCain on national cable.

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