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On the Surge and the Awakening, McCain Doesn’t Know What He’s Talking About

Marc Ambinder brings us John McCain’s interview with Katie Couric, in which he re-writes history about Iraq and claims Obama is the revisionist.

Kate Couric: Senator McCain, Senator Obama says, while the increased number of US troops contributed to increased security in Iraq, he also credits the Sunni awakening and the Shiite government going after militias. And says that there might have been improved security even without the surge. What’s your response to that?

McCain: I don’t know how you respond to something that is as– such a false depiction of what actually happened. Colonel McFarlane [phonetic] 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. Thanks to General Petraeus, our leadership, and the sacrifice of brave young Americans. I mean, to deny that their sacrifice didn’t make possible the success of the surge in Iraq, I think, does a great disservice to young men and women who are serving and have sacrificed.

The colonel in question is now a one-star general, and his name is Sean MacFarland. He was commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, based in Ramadi in 2006 and early 2007 and is a key figure in embracing the Anbar Awakening before it even had that name. Here he is explaining what was going on to Pam Hess, then of UPI, on September 29, 2006, at least two months before Bush decided upon the surge, and about three before he announced it to the public:

With respect to the violence between the Sunnis and the al Qaeda — actually, I would disagree with the assessment that the al Qaeda have the upper hand. That was true earlier this year when some of the sheikhs began to step forward and some of the insurgent groups began to fight against al Qaeda. The insurgent groups, the nationalist groups, were pretty well beaten by al Qaeda.

This is a different phenomena that’s going on right now. I think that it’s not so much the insurgent groups that are fighting al Qaeda, it’s the — well, it used to be the fence-sitters, the tribal leaders, are stepping forward and cooperating with the Iraqi security forces against al Qaeda, and it’s had a very different result. I think al Qaeda has been pushed up against the ropes by this, and now they’re finding themselves trapped between the coalition and ISF on the one side, and the people on the other.

For McCain to say that the Anbar Awakening is the product of the surge is either a lie or professional malpractice for a presidential candidate who is staking his election on his allegedly superior Iraq judgment.

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