This weekend, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said he wanted U.S. troops out of Iraq as soon as possible, supporting the plan set forth by Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL). “Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes,” he said.
But Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) couldn’t care less what the Iraqis want. When Maliki signaled support for a timetable earlier this month, McCain rejected it. This weekend, a senior McCain aide told Marc Ambinder, “voters care about [the] military, not about Iraqi leaders.” On NBC’s Today Show today, McCain was again dismissive of Maliki, suggesting that only he knows what the Iraqis really “want”:
Q: If the Iraqi government were to say, if you were president, ‘we want a timetable for troops being removed,’ would you agree to that?
McCAIN: I’ve been there too many times. I’ve met too many times with him. And I know what they want. They want it based on conditions. And of course they’d like to have us out. That’s what happens when you win wars.
McCain has a history of thinking he knows better than Iraqis. After Maliki initially requested a timetable for a U.S. withdrawal this month, McCain stated, “Actually, the Iraqis are not” asking for withdrawal. On a conference call this morning, top McCain adviser Randy Scheunemann also brushed off Maliki’s withdrawal call:
One inartful statement from Prime Minister Maliki certainly does not change Iraqi government policies.
McCain is picking up a tactic from President Bush: claiming that he can now speak for Iraqis and know what’s best for them. In October 2006, Bush claimed that Iraqis are willing to “tolerate” high levels of violence because they “so [want] to be free” (despite polls showing that 71 percent wanted U.S. troops to leave). Last November, Bush implied that Iraqis should be thankful for the U.S. invasion, stating, “If you lived in Iraq and had lived under a tyranny, you’d be saying: God, I love freedom, because that’s what’s happened.”
As McCain said in 2004 when asked if the U.S. should withdraw if asked by the Iraqi government, “I think it’s obvious that we would have to leave.”
The Jed Report finds video of McCain in 2007 declaring his opposition to an Iraqi referendum on American troop presence.