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Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign runs on a single theme: the US surge in Iraq has succeeded. Part 2 of this report examines how the alleged success of the surge energized not only McCain but all proponents of the Iraq war, and asks whether McCain really understands the complex situation in Iraq.

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SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, US PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (R): People like you who believe like you do said the surge would never succeed. It is succeeding, and I’ve been there, and I’ve seen it with my very own eyes.

MCCAIN: The strategy in Iraq, called the surge, has succeeded.

MCCAIN: The surge has succeeded.

PEPE ESCOBAR, SENIOR ANALYST: “The surge has succeeded” is John McCain’s whole presidential campaign strategy. David Frum, a former Bush speechwriter, is convinced that if the 2008 presidential elections were about Iraq, John McCain would win. McCain has always been an Iraq War hawk. So why has the surge so emboldened Iraq War hawks? The surge’s working narrative, hammered by the McCain campaign, is very persuasive. He convinced quite a few Americans that staying in Iraq would prevent a new terrorist front. It forced Iraq out of gloomy headlines in US corporate media. Iraq practically disappeared from the front pages of US newspapers. And in reverse, all those pro-war predictions—the US greeted as liberators—McCain himself, he said that. So they have got some credibility back, sort of. But did they? The architect of McCain’s foreign policy, the surge’s working narrative, is Randy Scheunemann. Scheunemann was part of Bill Kristol’s Project for the New American Century, PNAC, which preached global military US hegemony. He was a consultant to Donald Rumsfeld, the same Rumsfeld whose strategy McCain later denounced as a failure. In late 2002, he founded the hyper-pro-war neocon front group Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. Scheunemann was very, very tight in Washington, connected to the now-disgraced Ahmed Chalabi, the man who fed the CIA false intelligence on Saddam’s alleged weapons of mass destruction, and he doubled up as a go-between between Chalabi and John McCain. He was against the UN stabilizing Iraq, and he lobbied for the disastrous de-Baathification policy in Iraq. Anyone who believed that McCain understands Iraq is buying Scheunemann’s cluelessness on Iraq. The McCain campaign conveniently ignores that an overwhelming majority of Iraqis, according to polls for the past two years, want the US out. Moreover, if the surge succeeded and the violence is down, as the campaign argues, McCain campaign argues, what’s the point of US troops staying? McCain’s scaring even conservative realists.

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: He’s very bellicose. He’s got that [same] in-your-face attitude Bush does. I think we could very well be at war with Iran. That’s one of the reasons why I’ve always been skeptical of McCain. I think he’s Bush on steroids.


AUDIENCE MEMBER: President Bush has talked about our staying in Iraq for 50 years.

MCCAIN: Maybe 100. 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.


ESCOBAR: Barack Obama campaigned on ending the war in Iraq, but then Obama moved to a gradual 16-months, conditions-based withdrawal. That was just the opening the McCain campaign needed to attack Obama.

MCCAIN: We rejected the audacity of hopelessness, and we were right. Violence in Iraq fell to such low levels for such a long time that Senator Obama, detecting a success he never believed possible, falsely claimed that he’d always predicted it. Given the opportunity to choose between failure and success, he chose failure. I cannot conceive a commander-in-chief making that choice.

ESCOBAR: What McCain really wants may have been spelled out here:

MCCAIN: After this war is won, then we may or may not. I hope that maybe the security arrangement is such as we have with Kuwait or other countries.

ESCOBAR: So McCain, just like Bush, wants a new Iraq as a central ally in the war on terror, part of a complex infrastructure projecting American power in the Middle East, just like the US military does in Germany, Japan, and South Korea. But does the unblemished maverick war hero, according to his campaign narrative, even know what he’s talking about?

MCCAIN: Colonel MacFarland was contacted by one of the major Sunni sheiks. Because of the surge, we were able to go out and protect that sheik and others, and it began the Anbar Awakening. I mean, that’s just a matter of history.

ESCOBAR: What history says is that the surge did not protect the sheik, and the Anbar Awakening began way before the surge. For all presidential campaign purposes, it’s settled: John McCain saw the light, in fact, the surge, and that’s why the surge succeeded. And this is just the beginning.

MCCAIN: I’ve got to give you some straight talk, my friends. This is a tough war we’re in. It’s not going to be over right away. There’s going to be other wars. I’m sorry to tell you there’s going to be other wars. We will never surrender, but there will be other wars.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Pepe Escobar, born in Brazil is the roving correspondent for Asia Times and an analyst for The Real News Network. He's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, based in London, Milan, Los Angeles, Paris, Singapore, and Bangkok. Since the late 1990s, he has specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central Asia, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has made frequent visits to Iran and is the author of Globalistan and also Red Zone Blues: A Snapshot of Baghdad During the Surge both published by Nimble Books in 2007.