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McCain Falsely Claims Jones Report Doesn’t Say Political Reconciliation Is ‘Key’ To Progress In Iraq

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"McCain Falsely Claims Jones Report Doesn’t Say Political Reconciliation Is ‘Key’ To Progress In Iraq"

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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.

Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/09/mccainjonesnbc.320.240.flv]

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.”

Transcript:

MR. RUSSERT: General Jones did say that, but he said something else, and let me start with that…

SEN. McCAIN: Sure.

MR. RUSSERT: …Senator McCain. “Although the administration has said repeatedly that security improvements will create `breathing space’ for Iraqi sectarian and political forces to move” towards “national reconciliation, the Jones commission turns that equation on its head, saying that long-term security advances are impossible without political progress. Despite all that remains to be done on the military front,” the Jones commission “says, `the single most important event that could immediately and favorably affect Iraq’s direction and security is political reconciliation. Sustained progress within the Iraqi Security Forces depends on such’” an “`agreement.’” So the president’s strategy has been…

SEN. McCAIN: Now, now wait a minute. First of all, that’s a Washington Post story interpretation of General Jones’ report.

MR. RUSSERT: He was on this program last week and acknowledged that’s exactly…

SEN. McCAIN: Yes. And he acknowledged exactly that. And he also acknowledged that without the, the military security situation, it was also impossible for…

MR. RUSSERT: But…

SEN. McCAIN: …the political situation…

MR. RUSSERT: But what he said was…

SEN. McCAIN: …to move forward.

MR. RUSSERT: …the current administration…

SEN. McCAIN: And he also said that…

MR. RUSSERT: Let me just finish, because he 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…

SEN. McCAIN: He doesn’t say it’s the opposite.

MR. RUSSERT: …unless you have political reconciliation.

SEN. 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. And we have every right to expect it and, unless there is political progress, that we are not going to succeed in Iraq.

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