Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) constantly touts his support of the “surge” of U.S. troops in Iraq, how it has “succeeded” and that “we are winning in Iraq.” Last night on CNN, Baghdad correspondent Michael Ware took issue with McCain’s concept of “winning” and said if McCain’s believes that increasing troops was the only factor in reducing violence in Iraq, “then he has no idea what is going on” there. Watch it:
BROWN: OK. So, reality check on McCain. Are we really winning in Iraq, and is the surge the reason?
WARE: Well, first, let me say, the troops will come home with honor regardless. I mean, the way they have comported themselves in this war, they have earned that honor.
Winning, however, is a matter of definition. Now, if by winning, you mean strengthening a member of what President Bush called the axis of evil, Iran, the very thing Senator Obama — Senator McCain says that they prevented, Iran is stronger because of this war.
If you mean by dividing a community with blast barriers, if you mean by having to build an American militia, if you mean by destabilizing the entire region, then, sure, that’s winning, that’s victory. But I’m not sure that’s why people went in there.
BROWN: It doesn’t sound like you think that’s winning.
WARE: Well, at this point, a win may just be getting out while minimizing the damage.
Now, to what degree has the surge played into this? Again, that’s a matter of definition. What exactly is the surge? I would love to hear Senator McCain explain that — 30,000 troops…
BROWN: The increase in troops, the 30,000 troops. That’s what he means, though, when he says it, right?
WARE: Yes. Well, if that’s what he means, then he has no idea what is going on in Iraq, because what has delivered the successes we’re seeing now, as drops of 80 to 90 percent in violence, and who doesn’t welcome that, began two years ago or more, when the U.S. began engaging with its enemy, the Sunni insurgency when it started bringing in al Qaeda, and putting them on the U.S. government payroll, setting them loose on hard-core al Qaeda elements, and setting them loose on Shia militias.
BROWN: So, strategy, rather than the 30,000 troops?
WARE: Yes, the 30,000 troops was sort of like the icing on the cake.
WARE: But the success that you’re seeing right now has been building for two years. And it also includes accommodating someone who was one of your number-one enemies, which was Muqtada al-Sadr, and turning him into a legitimate political figure.