April 8, 2008

The B.S. Express

Poor old John McCain, out there trying to convince people that this Iraq thing is really working out pretty well, that there's light at the end of the tunnel, and please, please, PLEASE give me a chance to run a war before I die! I've dreamed about it since I was little. I'll win (whatever that means), I promise!

Yesterday McCain continued his "Let's Pretend" tour by addressing a pro-military crowd at a WWI museum, perfect imagery for McCain. A guy mired in the past speaking at a museum for a war that ended 90 years ago. McCain, it's 1918 in America.

Just as he was extolling the wonderful "progress" in Iraq, he was interrupted on live TV by a news flash that four more rockets had exploded within the "Green Zone", the ultra-fortified hide-out in Bagdhad where all American bureaucrats, high level military, and the troops who protect them live. Ooops.

No one was injured in those attacks, thankfully. But a rocket attack on the Green Zone the day before McCain's "Everything's going well" speech left two American servicemen dead and another 17 wounded.

7 Americans lost their lives in Iraq the day of McCain's speech.

Keith Olbermann fact-checked McCain's remarks last night. It's worth taking a look at just how much "straight talk" you're getting from McCain. These are direct quotes from McCain's speech.

B.S.: "From June 2007 through my last recent trip last month, sectarian and ethnic violence in Iraq has been reduced by 90%. Civilian deaths by coalition forces fell by 70%."

Reality: Those numbers only reflect numbers through last February. McCain visited Iraq in March, a month in which civilian casualties increased by 30%, and even though violence in Iraq did decline precipitously in the first half of 2007, it's stopped declining and has remained steady around 2004 levels.

B.S.: "The dramatic reduction in violence has opened the way for something approaching normal political and economic life for the average Iraqi."

Reality: In February alone, 700 Iraqi citizens died violently. 30,000 more were newly displaced. There were 65 daily attacks by insurgents and militias and 21 multiple fatality bombings. Homes only got 2/3rds of the fuel they needed, and millions of Iraqis did not have access to clean water, sanitation, or health care.

B.S.: "The once silent and deserted markets have come back to life in many areas."

Reality: Except the market that McCain famously visited last year covered in body armor, accompanied by hundreds of armed troops, and with Apache gunships hovering overhead. The market is now under the control of a militia and considered too dangerous for him to re-visit this year, even with such massive military protection.

B.S.: "Critical reconciliation is occurring across Iraq at the local provincial grass-roots level. Sunni and Shi'a, chased from their homes by terrorists and sectarian violence are returning. (in a reverent tone) The sons of Iraq, and awakening movements where Sunni insurgents now join in the fight against al Queda continue to grow."

Reality: Sen. McCain is grossly out of date in his information. The Sunni organizations are continuing to grow because the American government (you and I) are continuing to pay them millions and millions of dollars to grow. Yet, despite the money, thousands of them stopped working last month in Diala to protest against the sectarian local police force. Thousands more are being excluded by the Shiite government supported Iraqi security forces.

B.S.: "Four out of the six laws cited by as benchmarks by the United States have been passed by the Iraqi legislature."

Reality: Four in six laws may have been passed, but the other 14 benchmarks have not. And the laws on de-Bathification and insurgent amnesty are so carefully worded that their actual impact will depend on how they're implemented.

B.S.: "Iraqi forces recently battled in Basra against radical Shi'a militias supported by Iran, a fight that showed both the progress made by the Iraqi Security Forces, a year ago today they could not have carried out such operations on their own, and the continuing need for coalition support."

Reality: It emphasizes the need for coalition support because the Iraqi Security Forces DIDN'T, as McCain suggests, carry out those Basra operations on their own. They had to call in U.S. air power for help, and even then, over 1,000 Iraqi soldiers and policemen refused to fight. They abandoned their posts during the battle, including two senior commanders.

B.S.: "There are those who today argue for a hasty withdrawal from Iraq. Our allies, Arab countries, and the U.N. and the Iraqis themselves will NOT step up to their responsibilities (lowers voice for dramatic effect) if we recklessly retreat."

Reality: Yet no one, no Democrat, no Republican, has called for a hasty withdrawal nor a reckless retreat from Iraq. But 61% of Iraqis polled by the BBC in February thought the U.S. presence was making the security situation worse. 46% thought it would get better if we left.

As to the American troops fighting their FIFTH year of war in Iraq...

B.S.: "We own them compassion, knowledge, and hands-on care in their transition to civilian life. We own them training, rehabilitation and education..."

Reality: "We owe them education.", yet Sen. McCain, aligning himself again with this White House, is refusing to support a new G.I. Bill that would give veterans full college funding. And he has voted FOUR times in the last four years AGAINST increasing funding for the Veteran's Administration.

So much for "straight talk".

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