ABC News’ Jan Simmonds reports: Challenging the Iraq War views of Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, Republican nominee Sen. John McCain today asked that the two Democrats put their own ambitions aside and do what is best for the nation.
Speaking before the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Kansas City, Missouri, McCain warned that should the United States withdraw from Iraq before a "level of security is established" that the nation’s goals in the Middle East will be "infinitely harder if not impossible to attain."
Urging both Republicans and Democrats, he asked that America’s leaders in Washington to have the "patience to allow us the time necessary to obtain our objectives."
"That honesty is my responsibility, and it is also the responsibility of Senators Obama and Clinton, as well as Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress," said McCain. "Doing the right thing in the heat of a political campaign is not always the easiest thing. But when 4000 Americans have given their lives so that America does not suffer the worst consequences of our failure in Iraq, it is a necessary thing. In such a grave matter, we must put the nation’s interests before our own ambitions."
Trying to move beyond criticism of his "100 years" comment, which most recently Obama and 2004 Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry have tried to used against him, McCain said that he does not want to "keep our troops in Iraq a minute longer than necessary to secure our interests there."
As for success in Iraq, McCain outlined such an achievement as being as the "establishment of a generally peaceful, stable, prosperous, democratic state that poses no threat to its neighbors and contributes to the defeat of terrorists."
"Our goal is an Iraq that can stand on its own as a democratic ally and a responsible force for peace in its neighborhood. Our goal is an Iraq that no longer needs American troops. And I believe we can achieve that goal, perhaps sooner than many imagine," he added.
McCain praised the military and General David Petreaus for their efforts during the surge.
"In the year that has passed, our nation showed its strength, and its deep sense of global responsibility," said McCain. "Instead of abandoning Iraq to civil war, genocide, and terror, and the Middle East to the destabilizing effects of these consequences, we changed strategies. We sent to Iraq additional troops, many of them on their third or fourth tour, and a great, seasoned general to lead them, with a battle plan that, at long last, actually addressed the challenges we faced in Iraq."
Tomorrow, General Petreaus will go before Senator McCain and the other members of the Senate Armed Services Committee to update the Congress on the status of the war in Iraq.
While the goals in Iraq are "within reach" said McCain, should the United States withdraw from Iraq "before that level of security is established" it would allow Al Qaeda in Iraq to "proclaim victory and increase its efforts to provoke sectarian tensions in Iraq into a full scale civil war that could descend into genocide and destabilize the Middle East."
In closing McCain vowed to do everything in his power to "ensure that those who serve today and those who have served in the past have access to the highest quality health, mental health and rehabilitative care in the world."
"Whatever our commitments to veterans cost, we will keep them, as you have kept every commitment to us," he said. "The honor of a great nation is at stake."
Following the speech, McCain took a brief tour of the World War I Museum, the site of today’s remarks.