So I can tell you that it is succeeding. I can look you in the eye and tell you it’s succeeding. We have drawn down to pre-surge levels. Basra, Mosul and now Sadr city are quiet and it’s long and it’s hard and it’s tough and there will be setbacks.
McCain and his advisers quickly dismissed any criticisms of the statement, calling it a case of “nitpicking” a “verb tense.” They claimed that McCain meant to say that troops will eventually be drawn down to pre-surge levels. Last week, a reporter gave McCain a chance to correct his statement, asking, “Did you misspeak yesterday?” McCain replied, “Of course not.”
Apparently, however, McCain is now acknowledging that he did misspeak. At a campaign event today, McCain “nitpicked” his “verb tense” and said that U.S. forces are currently in the process of drawing down to pre-surge levels:
[Petraeus] is gonna come back in July, when our drawdown from the surge. Three of the five brigades are already back. There’s two more brigades that will coming back at the end of July. … But we are drawing back down from the surge. And then in July, he said that he wants to pause.
This assertion is still inaccurate. In February, Joint Staff director for operations Lt. Gen. Carter Ham testified that even after the Bush administration’s draw down, troops will still be higher than pre-surge levels:
Q: General, coming back to Iraq and the troop numbers, so what you’re saying is by the time we get to the end of July, we’re going to be at 140,000, which looks to me like we’re still talking about significantly higher than pre-surge levels in Iraq. Am I reading that correctly?
GEN. HAM: Yes.
McCain is wrong, no matter which verb tense he’s in.