During a town hall meeting in Derry, New Hampshire last night, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told a crowd of roughly two hundred people that it “would be fine with” him if the U.S. military stayed in Iraq for “a hundred years”:
Q: President Bush has talked about our staying in Iraq for 50 years — (cut off by McCain)
McCAIN: Make it a hundred.
Q: Is that … (cut off)
McCAIN: We’ve been in South Korea … we’ve been in Japan for 60 years. We’ve been in South Korea 50 years or so. That would be fine with me. As long as Americans …
Q: [tries to say something]
McCAIN: As long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed. That’s fine with me, I hope that would be fine with you, if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where Al Queada is training and equipping and recruiting and motivating people every single day.
Asked about the remark later by Mother Jones’ David Corn, McCain reaffirmed it, “excitedly declaring that U.S. troops could be in Iraq for ‘a thousand years’ or ‘a million years,’ as far as he was concerned.”
McCain’s latest comments complete a full flip-flop-flip. He previously said that the Korea model was “exactly” the right idea for Iraq. But in late November, he abandoned it on PBS’ Charlie Rose Show:
ROSE: Do you think that this — Korea, South Korea is an analogy of where Iraq might be, not in terms of their economic success but in terms of an American presence over the next, say, 20, 25 years, that we will have a significant amount of troops there?
MCCAIN: I don’t think so.
ROSE: Even if there are no casualties?
MCCAIN: No. But I can see an American presence for a while. But eventually I think because of the nature of the society in Iraq and the religious aspects of it that America eventually withdraws.
UPDATE: The AP picks up McCain’s comments.