Yesterday on NBC’s Meet the Press, host Tim Russert asked Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) about Maj. Gen. James Jones’s report to Congress, which concluded that the U.S. presence in Iraq currently is conveying the impression of being an “occupying force.” It also questioned the administration’s approach of trying to achieve security before political progress:
RUSSERT: [Gen. Jones] said the current administration’s thinking is that you cannot have political reconciliation without first having security. He says it’s the opposite, that you cannot have security…
McCAIN: He doesn’t say it’s the opposite.
RUSSERT: …unless you have political reconciliation.
McCAIN: Tim, I’ve known Jim Jones for 30 years. It’s not what he’s saying. What he’s saying is we have to have now political progress; and he, like all of us, are very frustrated by the lack of political progress, that the Maliki government has not done the things we want them to do.
McCain may have a long relationship with Jones, but apparently he didn’t bother to read Jones’s report, which found:
Political reconciliation is the key to ending sectarian violence in Iraq. … [T]he single most important event that could immediately and favorably affect Iraq’s direction and security is political reconciliation focused on ending sectarian violence and hatred. Sustained progress within the Iraqi Security Forces depends on such a political agreement.
Additionally, on last week’s edition of Meet the Press, Jones stated that while “both” security and political gains are important, “reconciliation” is “more critical” and “absolutely the key to measurable and rapid progress.”
The White House and its right-wing allies have recently attempted to dismiss attempts to evaluate progress based on political benchmarks. Last week, outgoing White House Press Secretary Tony Snow claimed that they were “something that Congress wanted to use as a metric.” Actually, as The New York Times noted, it was “the White House and the Iraqi government, not Congress, that first proposed the benchmarks for Iraq that are now producing failing grades.”
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