McCain Right About Anbar Awakening

We stayed late at Gramma's last night so as to see the McCain interview on Hannity & Colmes. Good interview --McCain is getting better and better-- but then in the equal time segments that followed I was so frustrated. First, some Congressman from Washington was on as an Obama spokesman and he denounced McCain for being negative about Obama. McCain had at least three times declined to be negative about Obama, even though Hannity was prodding him to with different bait: Michelle, Rev. Wright, etc. McCain was an absolute gentleman and stuck to issues. It was outrageous to assert otherwise. The same fellow then said McCain didn't know what he was talking about in Iraq because he attributed the Anbar Awakening to the surge when the Awakening happened first. Even Karl Rove, who was on later, did a poor job defending this. His tack was to acknowledge it was a goof, but to make it a minor one, on the level of Obama's saying "Israel has always been Israel's best friend."

First of all, even on its face, the Anbar Awakening came only after the Iraqis were assured we were not going to precipitously pull out, which was all the talk in Washington and there was precedent from the first Gulf War of Americans talking big liberation talk and then leaving Iraqis to be slaughtered. So it was a completely defensible statement in the sense that the Awakening wouldn't have happened without a change of tactics being discussed and voted on and Bush's dogged public determination to stay the course.

More to the point, here's McCain's own explanation: "the surge" means more than just increased troops; it also means using counterinsurgency tactices, and that was well underway on McCain's timetable, not Obama's.

Finally, if you haven't read this on the topic, you should.

The Iraqis have done what they have done for themselves in spite of the likes of Obama, Schumer, Pelosi and all the rest. What’s more, now that The Surge has accomplished much of what it set out to do to help the Iraqis - again in spite of Obama, Schumer, Pelosi and the rest - a presidential candidate who opposed the surge, would still oppose The Surge and had absolutely no clue about the Anbar Salvation Council when it was pleading and begging for US support (since at least September of 2006) wants to champion their success as somehow his brainchild and a sign of the political development he envisioned?

One is left to suppose that he overlooks the fact that so many in Anbar and throughout Iraq are alive in spite of attempts to push such a sacrificial ‘Plan.’ There’s no other way to describe it. Dead people - crucified, baked and beheaded - do not live to contribute to ‘political progress.’ Sheikh Abdul Sattar - and today, his brother Sheikh Ahmed al-Rishawi - understood this. Too many Americans seem flip to dismiss this comfortably from afar.

The Anbar Salvation Council didn’t have a damn thing to do with political resolution. It needed to simply survive first; family by family, town by town, tribe by tribe. The movement that eventually saved Iraq laid ignored and unsupported until General David Petraeus changed that when he arrived to command The Surge that Obama said he would still oppose.

In other words, a third point is that "the Anbar Awakening" began as a tiny movement before we put in additional troops (but after we'd changed tactics and "the surge" had begun), but has come to be a general term for the phenomenon of the Iraqis turning on al-Qaeda. And that, especially in Baghdad, was definitely a result of the surge in troops. It was in no way a gaffe. Somebody tell Karl Rove.