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McCain’s Afghanistan Truther Attack

This won’t take long. Today Sen. John McCain is criticizing the one-year anniversary of Sen. Barack Obama’s (true) observation that civilian casualties in Afghanistan are bad, and Washington must deploy "enough troops" to avoid such casualties when possible. Republicans tried to morph that logical statement into a gaffe — which largely failed. So now they’re re-upping the ploy with this anniversary angle. It’s a sad statement about our political discourse that these gambits garner attention, but they do — the anniversary led the day for "MSNBC First Read" and by Monday afternoon, the Obama campaign issued an official response. Of course, the facts resolved this one already, so before turning to Obama, here’s what The Associated Press reported last year, during round one of this attack:

Fact Check: Obama on Afghanistan

AP, Tuesday, August 14, 2007

WASHINGTON — Democrat Barack Obama said it, the Republican Party pointed out in a screaming headline Tuesday that highlighted the presidential candidate’s comments on Afghanistan and the killing of civilians… "We’ve got to get the job done there and that requires us to have enough troops so that we’re not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous problems there," Obama said…

THE FACT CHECK:

A check of the facts shows that Western forces have been killing civilians at a faster rate than the insurgents have been killing civilians. The U.S. and NATO say they don’t have civilian casualty figures, but The Associated Press has been keeping count based on figures from Afghan and international officials… As of Aug. 1, the AP count shows that while militants killed 231 civilians in attacks in 2007, Western forces killed 286… Afghan President Hamid Karzai expressed his concern about the civilian deaths during a meeting last week with President Bush. Bush said he understands the agony that Afghans feel over the loss of innocent lives and that he is doing everything he can to protect them. He said the Taliban are using civilians as human shields and have no regard for their lives. "The president rightly expressed his concerns about civilian casualty," Bush said of Karzai. "And I assured him that we share those concerns."

So civilian casualties were not only a documented problem in Afghanistan, they required presidential-level assurances. Now to today’s Obama campaign response:

Instead of a real debate about how to move forward in Afghanistan, it’s clear that the Republicans would rather launch tired and old attacks to distract people from their record of completely failing to finish the fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Saving the most misleading for last, here is McCain’s truther anniversary spiel:

One year ago today, Barack Obama accused our men and women in Afghanistan of ‘just air-raiding villages and killing civilians’ in this country’s fight against radical Islamic extremism. Whether those words were a product of inexperience or just bad judgment, they were not the kind of words we expect from any candidate for our nation’s highest office.

McCain campaigns by claiming he puts "country first." By misrepresenting the challenge in Afghanistan and pulling "our men and women in Afghanistan" into his petty attacks, however, McCain risks revealing a tendency to put his political ambition before the country and our troops.

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