McCain Bombshell: Doesn't Get Difference B'ween Sunni and Shi'a

This puts a major chink in the notion that John McCain is particularly well equipped to handle the dire situation in Iraq today:

Sen. John McCain, traveling in the Middle East to promote his foreign policy expertise, misidentified in remarks Tuesday which broad category of Iraqi extremists are allegedly receiving support from Iran.

He said several times that Iran, a predominately Shiite country, was supplying the mostly Sunni militant group, al-Qaeda. In fact, officials have said they believe Iran is helping Shiite extremists in Iraq.

Speaking to reporters in Amman, the Jordanian capital, McCain said he and two Senate colleagues traveling with him continue to be concerned about Iranian operatives "taking al-Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back."

Pressed to elaborate, McCain said it was "common knowledge and has been reported in the media that al-Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran, that's well known. And it's unfortunate." A few moments later, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, standing just behind McCain, stepped forward and whispered in the presidential candidate's ear. McCain then said: "I'm sorry, the Iranians are training extremists, not al-Qaeda."

The mistake threatened to undermine McCain's argument that his decades of foreign policy experience make him the natural choice to lead a country at war with terrorists. In recent days, McCain has repeatedly said his intimate knowledge of foreign policy make him the best equipped to answer a phone ringing in the White House late at night.

The Post calls it a gaffe, Mark Halperin calls this a flub, and Mark Murray over at First Read calls it a faux pas. Marc Ambinder questions whether this was a flub, but says nevertheless that "certain flubs can't be made... and this is probably one of them." Yet looking at the evidence, it seems much more likely that this was not a momentary mistake -- a flub, a gaffe, a faux pas -- but rather a profound misunderstanding of the situation in the Middle East on the part of John McCain, who claims to have the experience and expertise necessary to best handle the Iraq War. According to Think Progress, McCain made the exact same totally incorrect claim just last night on Hugh Hewitt's radio show (you can listen to it through that link). As TP explains:

The "common knowledge" McCain cites is simply false. Far from working together, Iran and al Qaeda represent opposing sides in the Iraq civil war. Al Qaeda is a Sunni Muslim extremist group, while Iran is ruled by Shiites, where they make up 90 percent of the population.

Given that John McCain apparently does not understand one of the most fundamental issues pertaining to the Iraq War and the broader situation in the Middle East today -- that Iran is a Shi'a power fighting for Shi'a interests and is in no way allied with the Sunni Al Qaeda, which is fighting for very different interests (particularly in Iraq, where the two groups tend to find themselves on opposite ends of the conflict) -- is he really prepared to be Commander-in-Chief?

Tags: 2008, John McCain, National Security (all tags)



Re: McCain Bombshell: Doesn't Get Difference B'wee

My diary on this

by Steve M 2008-03-18 11:42AM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Bombshell: Doesn't Get Difference B'wee

No way.  His military experience was not that of a flag officer, strictly tactical.

by Shaun Appleby 2008-03-18 11:47AM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Bombshell: Doesn't Get

John McCain: "they're all brown folk."

by rfahey22 2008-03-18 11:47AM | 0 recs

The American people seem to agree, which is why we're in Iraq instead of fixing what went wrong in Afghanistan right now.

by Brillobreaks 2008-03-18 12:03PM | 0 recs
Day One Judgement

I guess HRC's assertion that McCain had passed the "Commander in Chief Test" might have been a mistake. Yikes!

by bgbosox 2008-03-18 11:58AM | 0 recs
McVain=Bush (n/t)

by NM Ward Chair 2008-03-18 12:06PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Bombshell: Doesn't

No, he is not prepared.  His Iraq war support and refusal to withdraw shows that.

by TomP 2008-03-18 12:03PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Bombshell: Doesn't Get Difference B'wee

wtf? this is an absolutely ridiculous mistake to make.

thinking that iran would ever give arms to a sunni force is so fucking wrongheaded and ridiculous that it just flabbergast me.

by theninjagoddess 2008-03-18 12:11PM | 0 recs
Back to the Petty and Selfish argument.....

If this isn't scary as hell, then I don't know what is?  All these people saying "if so-and-so is the nominee, I'll vote for McCain," should think twice.

by venavena 2008-03-18 12:31PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Bombshell: Doesn't Get Difference B'wee

You know what would be awesome? If Hillary Clinton took to the media and said that she's now having serious doubts about McCain's readiness to be CiC. Seriously doubt it'll happen, but man that'd be nice.

by Mullibok 2008-03-18 12:38PM | 0 recs
Use this in an ad against McCain

If the Democrats do not use this as part of hard core ads against McCain, they need to fire all their consultants and I will volunteer to work. Make McCain look either
1) Ignorant
2) Forgetful because of his OOOOLDD age.

THey go with 2) if they notice other instances where he showed lack of knowledge on this distinction. They go with 1) otherwise.

by Pravin 2008-03-18 12:41PM | 0 recs
Is anyone even paying attention?

I just don't believe that Iraq is going to be a major issue in the campaign.  The public knows it's a quagmire, but they'd rather not think even think about it, especially since most of them initially supported the invasion.   As long it's a low-level civil war, they'll ignore it. Obama's 2002 prescience won't get him any extra votes.  Not when the economy is tanking.  McCain is going to keep saying "We're Winning! We're winning!"  That may be enough to neutralize the issue.  His real problem will be the economy.

by Upstate Dem 2008-03-18 12:54PM | 0 recs
Re: Is anyone even paying attention?

I keep hoping that the uber-theory "The economy sucks because we poured money, men, and material into Iraq" will be the attack of choice.  

by bosdcla14 2008-03-18 01:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Is anyone even paying attention?

It's the one Obama has made, so unless both suddenly fix themselves between now and the election, I think it's going to be a very good one.

by Brillobreaks 2008-03-18 02:28PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Idiocy

This is as stupid as saying the British were supporting and training the IRA.

by tomjuarez 2008-03-18 12:56PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Bombshell: Doesn't Get Difference B'wee

Unfortunately, its going to be tough to explain how bad this fundamental lack of understanding to the average American when the average American probably only had a vague idea that there is a difference.

by PantsB 2008-03-18 01:16PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Bombshell: Doesn't Get Difference B'wee

Exactly what I was thinking. This will not affect his narrative.

by bruh21 2008-03-18 01:36PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Bombshell:
McCain is going to keep saying "We're Winning! We're winning!"  That may be enough to neutralize the issue.  His real problem will be the economy.
I don't think there is anyway the war can not be an issue to voters especially with McCain running on his "experience" on foreign policy.
Simply tie the economy and the war together and show how the economic downturn has been fueled in part by Iraq. "the Iraq recession" has made the US less prepared to fight terrorism at home and cost us upwards of 3 trillion dollars.
by hnic357 2008-03-18 01:19PM | 0 recs
Let's give the ol' boy a break

The Sunni/Shia split was only 1400 years ago.  McCain was barely out of diapers then!  You can't expect him to remember it!

by Praxxus 2008-03-18 01:23PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Bombshell:

I've heard our military spokesmen say the largest most destructive attacks are being comitted by AlQaeda in Iraq --  AND -- The most destructive weapons are coming in from Iran.  They don't usually say both things in one sentence though or people would start scratching their heads and say "that doesn't make sense!  Why would the Iranian Shiites be sending weapons for the Iraqi Sunnis to kill Iraqi Shiites?"

Just more catapulting of the propaganda.  He just forgot the rule that you need to have a few more sentences between each of those assertions...

by wasabi 2008-03-18 01:36PM | 0 recs
Rovian Game

I don't believe it was a mistake in the sense people are taking it. McCain is getting notes from Rove these days; he's playing to a Republican base that has swallowed the lie that AQI is a central reason for us being in Iraq. So repeatedly bringing up al-Qaeda is just dog-whistle. Remember that in the Rove book a lie doesn't have to stick to be a success; just so long as it distracts the opposition and taints the discussion. That's why so many Bush lies are of the intelligence-insulting variety: they aren't KO punches, they're sand in the face.

I sincerely doubt he thought Shia Iran was helping Sunni AQI; he just was playing a domestic game in Jordan, which shows how much respect he has for the locals -scary enough.

More integrity from the Straight Talk Express. Just watch, McCain will do this again. After being corrected so publicly if he does it again it will be hard to hide the game he's playing. Unless the press lets him - oh, yeah, never mind.

by Josalo 2008-03-18 01:41PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Bombshell: Doesn't Get Difference B'wee

Actually, there are ties between Iran and Al Qaeda. It is a case of the enemy of my enemy is my friend.  Sure, the Sunnis and Shiites have a history of violence but that doesn't mean they don't hate America even more.  Iran has in the past given aid to Al Qaeda and allowed Al Qaeda operatives sanctuary in Iran.

It sounds like McCain was using Al Qaeda as a blanket term for any radical element in Iraq, which is of course a gaf.

by dMarx 2008-03-18 03:37PM | 0 recs
Iran has acknowledged helping Al Qaeda

This is from the findings of the 9/11 commission in 2004.

"Since 9/11 the U.S. has held direct talks with Iran--and through intermediaries including Britain, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia--concerning the fate of scores of al-Qaeda that Iran has acknowleded are in the country, including an unspecified number of senior leaders, whom one senior U.S. official called al-Qaeda's "management council". The U.S. as well as the Saudis have unsuccessfully sought the repatriation of this group, which is widely thought to include Saad bin Laden, the son of Osama bin Laden, as well of other key al-Qaeda figures." 0,8599,664967,00.html

by dMarx 2008-03-18 03:40PM | 0 recs
shows again McCain is forgetful

and this is not good for a President. Look what happened with George W. bush. This makes it so easy to hit McCain on his foreign policy lack of knowledge AND his age, which would wreck him in November

by DiamondJay 2008-03-18 03:42PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Bombshell: Doesn't Get Difference B'wee

the best part is when joe lieberman whispers to him that he's completely wrong

by theninjagoddess 2008-03-18 06:00PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain Bombshell: Doesn't Get Difference B'wee

Al Qaeda = any Muslim resisting the United States

It is possible that McCain has had to oversimplify his presentations so that they can appeal to the knothead Republican base, or it is possible he is just not very bright.

by Bob H 2008-03-19 03:27AM | 0 recs


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