Timing of Iraq Troop Withdrawal 'Not Too Important,' Says McCain
By Jonathan Weisman
Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, said this morning that when U.S. forces come home from Iraq is "not too important," so long as U.S. casualties in the Middle East fall to levels comparable to those in Germany, Japan and South Korea, where U.S. forces have been stationed for decades.
"That's not too important," McCain said on NBC's "Today Show," when host Matt Lauer asked if he could estimate when U.S. forces would come home. "What's important is the casualties in Iraq, Americans are in South Korea, Americans are in Japan, American troops are in Germany. That's all fine."
That stance represented no real change from McCain's previously-stated Iraq policy prescriptions, but Democrats pounced on the language, accusing McCain of wanting to keep U.S. forces in Iraq indefinitely.
"It is unbelievably out of touch and inconsistent with the needs and concerns of Americans, particularly the families of the troops out there," said Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), in a conference call hastily convened by Democratic rival Barack Obama's campaign. "It is the most important thing in the world to them that they come home."
Susan Rice, a senior foreign policy adviser to Obama, accused McCain of "a real disturbing pattern of confusing the basic facts of Iraq."
The Democratic reaction poured in not just from Obama's campaign but from Capitol Hill, where members of both parties are pressuring the administration to consult more closely with Congress over the future of U.S. forces in Iraq.
The McCain campaign fired back, accusing Democrats of willfully distorting McCain's meaning to hide their unwillingness to embrace the security gains that U.S. and Iraqi forces have made in Iraq.
"The Obama campaign is embarking on a false attack on John McCain to hide their own candidate's willingness to disregard facts on the ground in pursuit of withdrawal no matter what the costs," said McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds. "John McCain was asked if he had a 'better estimate' for a timeline for withdrawal. As John McCain has always said, that is not as important as conditions on the ground and the recommendations of commanders in the field. Any reasonable person who reads the full transcript would see this and reject the Obama campaign's attempt to manipulate, twist and distort the truth."
Posted at 12:01 PM ET on Jun 11, 2008
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