Sometimes John McCain and Barack Obama don’t seem to be talking about the same war when they talk about Iraq. The key difference lies in where they start their dialogue.
McCain starts with the surge, a buildup of troops in 2007, which was recommended by the Pentagon as a way to stabilize Iraq and improve chances for a political solution. McCain supported the surge when many in Congress did not, and the polls showed the American public wanted an end to the war. There was an initial jump in U.S. casualties, but it was followed by a drop that continues.
A political solution may have been reached Friday, when Iraq’s presidential council ratified a law that paves the way for provincial elections by Jan. 31.
Obama starts with the 2003 invasion, which he opposed as a state senator in Illinois. Invading Iraq took attention and resources away from Afghanistan, which was the real source of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, he said. Administration claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, that Iraqi oil revenues would help pay for the war and that U.S. troops would be greeted as liberators all proved false, he said.
Obama wants a timetable of about 16 months to withdraw combat troops from Iraq. McCain opposes a timetable, saying that setting one would play into the insurgents’ hands and that troops should come home when the job is done.
The Iraqi government has called for a timetable to remove U.S. troops by 2010, which would coincide roughly with Obama’s proposal.
Both want to increase troop levels in Afghanistan.