McCain Falsely Claims The Surge ‘Began The Anbar Awakening,’ But CBS Edits It Out

During an interview with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), CBS Evening News host Katie Couric noted that Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) said recently that “there might have been improved security [in Iraq] even without the surge” and asked McCain, “What’s your response to that?”

After first calling Obama’s claim “a false depiction of what actually happened,” McCain proceeded to falsely claim that the surge “began the Anbar awakening”:

McCAIN: I don’t know how you respond to something that is such a false depiction of what actually happened. Colonel McFarland was contacted by one of the major Sunni sheiks. Because of the surge we were able to go out and protect that sheik and others. And it began the Anbar awakening. I mean, that’s just a matter of history.

But in a puzzling move, the CBS Evening News did not actually televise McCain’s false claim tonight. As MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann reported, “CBS curiously, to say the least, left it on the edit room floor. It aired Katie Couric’s question, but in response, it inserted part of McCain’s answer to another question instead.”


CBS’s full interview with McCain (with video) appears online. CNN aired the portion that CBS edited out. Watch it:

In fact, the Sunni revolt against Al-Qaida in Iraq’s Anbar province — commonly referred to as “The Awakening” — “began” long before Bush even announced his “surge” policy in January 2007. As the New York Times noted in April 2007:

The turnabout began last September [2006], when a federation of tribes in the Ramadi area came together as the Anbar Salvation Council to oppose the fundamentalist militants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.

But also, President Bush himself noted this fact in a speech to the Naval War College in June, 2007:

Last September [2006], Anbar was all over the news. It was held up as an example of America’s failure in Iraq. The papers cited a leaked intelligence report that was pessimistic about our prospects there. […]

About the same time some folks were writing off Anbar, our troops were methodically clearing Anbar’s capital city of Ramadi of terrorists, and winning the trust of the local population. In parallel with these efforts, a group of tribal sheiks launched a movement called “The Awakening” — and began cooperating with American and Iraqi forces.

Spencer Ackerman notes that the colonel McCain cited is “now a one-star general” and had explained the “Awakening” to a reporter in September 2006 “before it even had a name.” “For McCain to say that the Anbar Awakening is the product of the surge is either a lie or professional malpractice,” added Ackerman.


The Jed Report does a side-by-side video showing the original CBS interview and the parts that CBS left out.