McCain's '100 Year' Remark Hands Ammo to War Critics

McCain's 100 years in Iraq remark hands political ammunition to war critics.

ByABC News
March 31, 2008, 8:19 AM

March 31, 2008 — -- In early January, at a town hall-style campaign event for Sen. John McCain in Derry, N.H., a man in the audience stood to ask the Republican presidential candidate a question about his support for the war in Iraq.

What followed was an extraordinary discussion that lasted six minutes. McCain predicted that Gen. David Petraeus' counterinsurgency strategy would eventually make Iraq more secure, allowing economic, social and political progress to take place.

"What happens is American troops withdraw and they withdraw to bases and then they eventually withdraw, or we reach an agreement like we have in South Korea, with Japan," he said. "We still have troops in Bosnia."

The man in the audience wasn't satisfied. We weren't at war in those countries, he said. And he questioned whether the troop surge in Iraq was truly succeeding, as McCain had asserted.

"I do not believe that one U.S. soldier being killed almost every day is success," he said to McCain. "There were three U.S. soldiers killed today. I want to know how long are we going to be there?"

Back and forth it went until the man started to ask another question. "President Bush has talked about our staying in Iraq for 50 years --"

McCain interrupted with words that have haunted him ever since.

He said either "Maybe a 100," or "Make it 100."

McCain continued: "We've been in South Korea, we've been in Japan for 60 years. We've been in South Korea for 50 years or so. That'd be fine with me as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed. Then it's fine with me. I would hope it would be fine with you if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where Al Qaeda is training, recruiting, equipping and motivating people every single day."

With that comment, McCain handed his Democratic opponents and war critics a weapon with which to bludgeon him all the way to Election Day in November. And it didn't take long for the bludgeoning to begin.