McCain, Kerry Draw Iraq Battle Lines

McCain backs troop surge, defends Petraeus.

February 12, 2009, 7:46 AM

Sept. 9, 2007 — -- Two leading senators — presidential candidates of past and present — traded barbs about the Iraq debate on Capitol Hill in Sunday morning appearances on ABC News' "This Week With George Stephanopoulos."

         Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., dismissed Democratic claims that the report by Gen. David Petraeus on the progress of the troop surge will be heavily influenced by Bush.

            "Everything I know about Gen. Petraeus is that he has been candid and forthcoming in his views," McCain said. "And if we start disparaging the men and women who are serving in uniform and their honor, then I think we've reached a sad place in American politics."

            Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, expressed optimism about Petraeus' testimony, but said any military headway is not as important as political progress.

            "I think the general will present the facts with respect to the statistics and the tactical successes or situations as he sees them," Kerry said. "But none of us should be fooled — not the American people, not you in the media, not us in Congress. We should not be fooled into this tactical success debate. … The only way in which this is ultimately going to be resolved and honor the troops and meet our national interests is to have the political reconciliation."

            McCain admitted to being dissatisfied with Iraqi Prime Minister's Nouri al-Maliki's government, but asked Congress to give the surge more time to change the situation in Iraq.

            "Am I frustrated at the Maliki government? Of course I am frustrated," McCain said. "But this strategy has only begun when you look at the fact that some of these troops have only been there for some months. And I think we're at a point where you could, in some months from now, start redeploying and withdrawing troops if you give it a chance to succeed."

            Kerry fired back, calling McCain's approach a reminder of the mistakes made in previous divisive wars.

"That's the same kind of flawed thinking, I regret to say, that has brought us the first 4½ years of this disastrous war," he said. "And the same kind of thinking, actually, that got us mired in Vietnam."

The 2004 presidential candidate went on to say that American troops have fulfilled their responsibilities.

"There is no military solution," said Kerry of the troops. "They've done all that they can do.  They've given the Iraqi government [time] to make those choices, and as we've seen, the Iraqi government is failing utterly to make any of the critical compromises."

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