Monday, January 29, 2007
McCain: Clinton, Obama Iraq plans lack logic

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican.

Excerpts from Anderson Cooper's interview with Sen. John McCain at the Brooke Army Medical Center today in San Antonio, Texas.

On the possibility of genocide in Iraq:

ANDERSON COOPER: Some argue ... If the United States is taken out of the equation, it's a Sunni-Shia war basically ... The war happens and it happens and at least the United States is not the central focus of it.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Well, maybe that's what we decided in Rwanda, but...

COOPER: You think full-on genocide is possible?

MCCAIN: Of course. Of course, I think there would be ethnic cleansing on a massive scale. But as importantly, when you see Iranians asserting their influence in the region, which is already significant. When you see Sunnis, particularly Saudi Arabia, feeling they have to do something to protect the Sunni, when you see uh, Turkey becoming more and more nervous about what happens with Kurds, you have a very volatile situation. And not to mention the Syrian involvement as well. So, the scenario is not good. There are no good options.

COOPER: Any scenario where withdrawing is acceptable to you? Or re-deploying?

MCCAIN: Not until we have a situation under control to the degree the Iraqi government can exert its influence through most of country that you start, you move forward with a political and economic process. That's what the goal is.

COOPER: Success is crucial before the United States can pull out?

MCCAIN: That's my view, and that view, by the way, is held by the majority of experts I know about the region. Now, if you want to pull out, set a date, one week, five months, six months, whatever it is. Then I think you have the obligation to say what happens when we leave. We hear all the talk about leaving. ...But I'd respect it more if they said, and then, what's going to happen. Everything will be quiet and peaceful? I don't think so. And I think that again, our national interest, our vital national security interest, resides in the Middle East certainly at this time.

COOPER: Sen. Clinton is proposing cap on troop levels at the January 1 level; Obama says January 10. Does that make any sense to you?

MCCAIN: First of all, I think I'm fairly well versed in military matters and tactics and strategy. I've been involved in it literally all my life in one way or another, but I can't tell you how many troops are needed. I think it's pretty clear the number of troops we have isn't getting the job done. I think there's almost universal acceptance of that. So you put a cap on it? So the status quo remains? Which is a steadily deteriorating situation? Again, intel sources tell me, by the way, public not classified, that if this present situation continues, within six months you'd see absolute chaos in Iraq. So cap on troops? There's a certain lack of logic associated with that position. But I respect it. And I think we need respectful dialogue and debate on this issue.

On government care for injured veterans:

COOPER: Do you think the full cost of this war is really known in terms of what it's don to young people -- lost limbs, PTSD?

MCCAIN: Probably not, because good news is that our ability to save lives is enormous, and yet it leaves us obviously with many, many people who are injured permanently. But again, when you look at some of the state-of-the-art artificial limbs, it's pretty remarkable. And they're able to do many things that even a few short years ago they weren't able to. And the indominable spirit is incredible.

COOPER: This center was built with private funds. This Fisher House we are in was built with private funds. Why isn't the government doing this?

MCCAIN: I think we probably should get into that. I do think that it's a partnership. Once these facilities are built, such as rehab center, then the military takes over. It is a partnership. It's federal law, etc. But probably we should do more and the Fisher family is probably an example to all of us.

But i also would point out, it's nice to see this symbol of generosity. Thousands and thousands of americans donated to this facility. That's a sign of support. No matter how people feel about the conflict, it's clear how they feel about the men and women who are serving.

COOPER: A lot of our leadership says our veterans are important -- they deserve the best treatment possible. Yet it took a private organization to build this. Why hasn't the government spent $50 million on a center like this?

MCCAIN: In reality, we are spending billions, and we should for the care of our injured and veterans. I'm proud of many of the veteran facilities that we have. Can we do more? Always do more. Because the reality is we can never do enough for people who have served and sacrificed in this fashion.
Posted By CNN: 4:40 PM ET
  18 Comments
You cannot force Democracy on people who don't want it.
Those people are fighting on the basis of deep-seated religious beliefs and pure hatred.

So why do you think we can just go into a country that has been fighting religious wars for thousands of years, and change it all in a matter of months? Any other military that has ever tried throughout history has failed.

We're supposed to learn from history, not beat our heads against the wall trying to repeat it.
Posted By Anonymous Bill W, Coatesville, PA : 5:30 PM ET
Anderson,

Can any single candidate running for office offer a clear understanding of what a real threat Iran represents? He(McCain) has the experience needed in obtaining much needed diplomacy that has been absent from any speech given by any other" throw in the ring" candidate, As for Obama" with all his hand maneuvers, how ever well intended he may be he falls dangerously low on accomplishment, agenda and who could ignore experience. He has my vote.

Maritza
Posted By Anonymous Maritza Munoz San Jose Ca : 5:42 PM ET
Based on McCain's comments, the real question then is how many of those veteran facilities (which according to McCain we are spending billions on) have been updated to be as state-of-the-art as the Brooke Army Medical Center? It makes you wonder what the "billions" are actually being spent on.
Posted By Anonymous Jolene, St. Joseph, MI : 5:58 PM ET
Like any politician, McCains words had zero information content once all the if's, but's, could', should's, maybe's, and other noises are dispensed with.

I haven't heard anything but crap from politicians in 50 years. And nothing but crap from the media in 49 years.
Posted By Anonymous Gene, Hamilton, MS : 6:09 PM ET
this is ridiculous, if this congress and administration believed in 2003 that the war would be any different, than it has turned out, they should be fired, they have failed the entire nation.

as for the "human spirit" there is not way to determine the effects of PTSD, my father, a Vietnam Vet, didn't realize the effects of the war until many years, many losses and pitfalls later, and all for a government who lied to him in the first place.

Just like Barbaro, this administration needs to be euthanized.
Posted By Anonymous Rosa, Spring TX : 6:09 PM ET
Good questions, poor answers. One more question: As member of the Armed Services committee, how do you plan to address the 'broken military' desperately in need of a 'surge' in both troops and equipment to achieve the state of readiness that the 'critical issues' we are facing demands?
Posted By Anonymous linda, bella vista,ar : 6:28 PM ET
I've heard a lot of Republicans criticize those in favor of withdrawal for not understanding the consequences of such action. For example, Senator McCain discusses the very real possibilities of genocide and the war spreading throughout the Middle East if we leave in this interview. However, speaking for myself, I support withdrawal while accepting that these are the consequences because I haven't heard anyone make the argument as to how, no matter what we do, these are not going to be the end results. With 150,000 troops in Iraq, Shia and Sunni militias are commiting genocide, Al-Qaeda operates without impediment in parts of Iraq, and the war has already drawn in Iran and Syria. What I want to hear from people that support a surge is how this surge works to stop these things from happening at a functional level. In other words, I want the proponents to tell me how this puts our troops in a position to stop what is already happening in Iraq now (and what will continue to happen once we leave), and to do this while being cognizant of the fact that the plan we gave our troops for the past four years failed to give them a chance for success (something that could be done with numerous, heartfelt apologies to our troops for our leaders' failure on this account). You hear assertions to the effect that this will happen, and vague references to how we're pulling out all of the stops, but nothing tangible that tells people like me how the surge/change in strategy stops what is already happening. Until I start to hear a more coherent argument as to why 170,000 troops in Iraq for a matter of months will work even though having 150,000 troops in Iraq for 4 years did not work, I cannot bring myself to support subjecting my fellow countrymen to the horrors that await them in Iraq because I can't see the overall benefits gained from it. I guess I'll end with a plea to proponents of the surge: quit underestimating my ability to know the consequences of withdrawal (I fully admit it's not a good outcome for the U.S., but right now it looks like the best choice out of a whole lot of bad alternatives) and start focusing on arguments to win skeptics like me over to the idea that this strategy will work when the past four years have failed.
Posted By Anonymous Del Dickson, Vernal, Utah : 6:59 PM ET
My friend Michael Bordelon died at that medical facility in San Antonio in 2005 of internal injuries and burns sustained from an IED attack in Iraq. I'm glad private donors thought the soldiers like him and their families were worth the investment. Our government apparently doesn't. Let's be honest. This looks really good for McCain and Clinton to be talking to Anderson Cooper while our soldiers are fighting in those facilities to gain their lives back. The babble is babble (although I do hold out that the delusion of politicians being completely truthful with the media will one day happen). I need to see the actions of these candidates when cameras aren't rolling and Anderson isn't in their faces. Men and women are coming back who will never be the same just by the fact that they served in Iraq. Families and friends have lost and will never be the same, either. The military, their loved ones, and America deserves more than rhetorical bull. We deserve honesty. And those soldiers deserve the best services our tax dollars can provide. It's pretty sad. A felon can still draw a Congressional pension. A wounded soldier's family only gets housing while that soldier is recovering from injuries sustained in battle because a private foundation thinks they're worth it and CNN auctions off a vehicle. How pitiful is that...
Posted By Anonymous TA Cheramie, Berwick, LA : 7:12 PM ET
I would probably have voted for Hilary if she stood for anything other than popularity. It would be nice to hear a politician say "Yes, I voted for the war with the info we had at the time, and if we had the same info now, my vote would still stand". However, we get her defending her vote when it was convenient and now saying it was a mistake because it is convenient for her campaign. She says Bush shouldn't leave Iraq to the next administration; why doesn't she talk about what Pres. Clinton left for Bush to deal with. And why don't you all talk about it, for that matter. I don't like Bush, but at least he sticks to his beliefs, even while admitting mistakes.
Posted By Anonymous Cecilia, Houston Texas : 7:18 PM ET
These are some very good questions, however I feel that Senator McCain answered them awfully. Firstly, I'm appalled that he compared the situation in Iraq to that in Rwanda. Completely different people, completely different motives, a completely different situation.

And again, I believe that the people in Iraq who desire democracy (which, as we have seen, they do) need to fight for it on their own. A revolution can only be achieved by the oppressed people, the United States should not be involved, it will only make matters worse.
Posted By Anonymous Kimber Streams, Louisville, KY : 7:30 PM ET
What is John McCain smoking? I don't want any.
Posted By Anonymous Betty Ann, Nacogdoches TX : 7:55 PM ET
Hey Anderson -after reading your interview with Sen McCain, I am surprised that he says he's proud of our veteren facilites. My uncle fought in WWII and often visits his war buddies who reside in these facilities. They say they feel abandoned and are just waiting to die. Everyone seems proud that lives are saved, but totally overlook the suffering these men go through after losing limbs. The men my uncle visits say they wish they had died; their wives left them years ago and their lives have been changed forever, if not ruined.

I think we owe these young men and women much more than a medal and a little pat on the back as they are pointed towards the door after some rehab.

A little off topic but somewhat related, what happened to Mr Daigado, the young veteran who was homeless and living in his car. Did he ever receive the money he was supposed to get? How is he doing now?

Looking forward to the show tonight.
Posted By Anonymous Christina, Windber, PA : 7:56 PM ET
"COOPER: Do you think the full cost of this war is really known in terms of what it's don to young people -- lost limbs, PTSD?

MCCAIN: Probably not, because good news is that our ability to save lives is enormous, and yet it leaves us obviously with many, many people who are injured permanently. But again, when you look at some of the state-of-the-art artificial limbs, it's pretty remarkable. And they're able to do many things that even a few short years ago they weren't able to. And the indominable spirit is incredible."

For someone who has been in the military I am extremely disappointed in McCain. He danced around Anderson's question like it was nothing. He makes it sound like it's NOT a BIG deal to lose a limb. I'm sure the soldier in the hospital right now with no leg said the day he was wounded, I think I want to lose my leg today and it won't be a big deal because I can always get a METAL ONE!
Posted By Anonymous Christa, Augusta, GA : 8:50 PM ET
Mr. McCain, your views on Iraq are wrong! There is a positive option in Iraq. For one, we should have overthrown Saddam Hussein, but we should have kept the Iraqi army and Sunni's in power. We must realize we put a Shiite government in power in Iraq backed by Iran that will never be a benefit to the security of the U.S. People say we need to get our allies to help us. Why would Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan back a Shiite government in Iraq backed by Iran that threatens their security? They never will. The current U.S. policy is only making Iran stronger. We need to insure the Sunni's gain back the governemnt in Iraq! We do this by pulling our troops back to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and empowering the Sunni's in their fight against the Shiite's. With a Sunni victory, our national security is stronger, Iran is weaker, our diplomatic strenth is better, our troops our safer, and Al-Quida is isolated. Iraq could be stablized, and Democracy could possibly spread through the region.
Posted By Anonymous Brian Columbus, Ohio : 9:39 PM ET
What's supposed to have changed with Sen. McCain? I still clearly heard the words 'Success' and 'winning militarily' from him tonight. He's just toned down his attitude a bit because he realized he wasn't going to win anything by siding with The President.
Posted By Anonymous Lisa Scarboro Ontario Canada : 12:40 AM ET
What a disappointing performance by McCain in this inteview. I understand the concept of not going too far out on a limb when elections are at stake. However this type of slow motion tap dancing is NOT going to get him elected.

How can anyone with any sense see that the government the US has put into power in Iraq is totally ineffective because they have no intention of keeping their agreements with the US? Or that putting in more soldiers is going to stabilize anything. Perhaps he should sit down and have a good long chat with Michael Ware.

Mrs. Clinton is on the right track at least proposing capping the number of troops. Let' force the Iraqi's hand by limiting the number of tropps there--not by sending and risking more.
Posted By Anonymous Vivian Farrell, Houston, Texas : 2:13 AM ET
I am so confused and depressed with the Iraq situation! The justification for sending more troops is that to stabililize Iraq and to reduce chaos. What if it fails to do so! What is plan B?
The root of the problem is we do not understand their religion, their culture, and their language. How can we solve other nation's problem by sending more forces, especially so many of them blame Americans for their loss of lives and creation of chaos. How do we know good guys from bad guys? How do we know whom to shoot? Since there are many sympathizers for insurgents in Irag military and law enforcement, how can we trust anyone of them? How do we minimize collateral damages? I do not see how we can succeed. Now we are sending more kids to be killed or injured; and dumping more money in the drain while we know we can use those resources at home to strengthen our national security and infrastructure.
Posted By Anonymous Cynara, West Grove, PA : 10:00 AM ET
McCain says that there could be chaos in Iraq if things continue as they are. Did he miss the last several years? It is chaos.

It's a bad situation when the freedom the States imposed on Iraq by deposing its government, destroying its infrastructure, and laying off its entire military, has created a more dangerous country.

Now it's dangerous for those who live there. And it's dangerous for the rest of the world because, just as Afghanistan-vs-the-Soviets did a few decades ago, Iraq-vs-the-Americans has become the rallying cry and training ground for the next wave of radicals.

Worse yet...Afghanistan isn't fixed either...and is getting worse as the US ally (Pakistan) continues to support (tacitly and directly) a steady buildup of Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Worse yet...Iraq is not just being meddled with by Iran, or the US, or Syra...but by Saudi Arabia. They're supporting financially and militarily the Sunni's.

Get local buy-in for a solution...any solution...or the neighbors...both those you like and dislike...will continue to work against your purposes.

The US may not like the democracy that is created...but that's democracy.
(Kinda funny how in the States we're hearing more and more government republicans complain that questioning authority is tantamount to siding with the enemy...guess that part of democracy and freedom isn't a republican strongpoint).
Posted By Anonymous Adrian, Calgary, Canada : 10:15 AM ET
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