McCain Focuses On Progress in Iraq

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Republican presidential candidate John McCain talked to veterans on Monday about the turnaround in violence since the troop surge began.

Watch our report on McCain and an interview with Pete Hegseth of Hegseth talks about Gen. Petraeus' testimony on Capitol Hill Tuesday. 

"We are no longer starring into the abyss of defeat," McCain said in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. "And we can now look ahead to the genuine prospect of success."

The Arizona senator also criticized Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton for wanting to bring U.S. troops home before the job is completed.

"I do not believe that anyone should make promises as a candidate for president that they cannot keep if elected," McCain told the crowd.

"To promise a withdrawal of our forces from Iraq, regardless of the calamitous consequences to the Iraqi people, our most vital interests, and the future of the Middle East, is the height of irresponsibility," he said. "It is a failure of leadership."

Ambition or Honesty?

He suggested the Democrats' promise to withdraw troops was motivated by ambition rather than honesty.

"People deserve a candid assessment of progress in Iraq as well as of the serious difficulties that remain and of the consequences of hasty withdrawal," McCain said.

 McCain also warned against the swift withdrawal of troops advocated by Obama and Clinton, saying Iraq could quickly become a terrorist haven.

 "These likely consequences of America's failure in Iraq would, almost certainly, require us to return to Iraq or draw us into a wider and far costlier war," the three-term U.S. senator said.

 From June 2007 until last month, violence fell by 90 percent, and deaths of civilians and coalition forces fell by 70 percent, he said.

 "The dramatic reduction in violence has opened the way for a return to something approaching normal political and economic life for the average Iraqi," McCain said.

 Despite the positive numbers, 2007 - the year of the troop buildup - was the deadliest yet.

 McCain insisted he could rally support of the war from the majority of Americans - even though, according to public opinion surveys, most believe the war is going badly and the troop buildup has not helped.

 "If we are honest about the opportunities and the risks, I believe they will have the patience to allow us the time necessary to obtain our objectives," McCain said.

Obama Responds

Responding to McCain's remarks, Obama said, "It's a failure of leadership to support an open-ended occupation of Iraq that has failed to press Iraq's leaders to reconcile, badly overstretched our military, put a strain on our military families, set back our ability to lead the world, and made the American people less safe."

Tuesday, the three presidential candidates and the rest of Congress will get a new report on the war from General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker. Many expect Petraeus will testify it is too early to begin the reduction of U.S. forces in the Iraqi republic.

But the cloud that hangs over their testimony is the recent fighting that flared up again late last month as U.S.-trained Iraqi forces attempted to oust Shiite militias from Basra in southern Iraq.

McCain also said Iraq will need more money and aid to finish the task of rebuilding their country.

Source: The Associated Press

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