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Feet on the Ground

May 29th, 2008

McCain is now bashing Obama for another stupid reason:

“Sen. Obama has been to Iraq once — a little over two years ago he went and he has never seized the opportunity except in a hearing to meet with Gen. [David] Petraeus,” McCain said at a campaign event in Reno, Nevada. “My friends, this is about leadership and learning.”

Oy. Look, how many times had McCain been to Iraq when he repeatedly confused Sunni and Shiite? How many trips had he already gone on when he claimed you could walk through Baghdad without a security detail or even a flak jacket, or that Petraeus’ vehicle is not armored? Clearly, these trips don’t do McCain much good, unless they serve to correct him from making the most fundamental stupid mistakes. Obama seems to know Sunni from Shiite, and that Iraq is too dangerous to walk through unarmed, and that we need to withdraw, so he doesn’t need to go.

But more to the point: such trips are for show only. They give you the political cache of saying “I’ve been there” and maybe “I’ve got guts,” while not giving you the actual right to claim either bravery or expertise. As one soldier put it last year, these visits only serve to harass the soldiers and distract them from their mission:

Biggest Hassle — High-ranking visitors. More disruptive to work than a rocket attack. VIPs demand briefs and “battlefield” tours (we take them to quiet sections of Fallujah, which is plenty scary for them). Our briefs and commentary seem to have no effect on their preconceived notions of what’s going on in Iraq. Their trips allow them to say that they’ve been to Fallujah, which gives them an unfortunate degree of credibility in perpetuating their fantasies about the insurgency here.

He’s talking about you, McCain!

Obama should either ignore McCain or call him out on this–but unfortunately, it looks like Obama’s going to make a visit there himself, making the less-than-impressive claim that he intended to all along, which at the least is better than accepting McCain’s let-me-show-Iraq-to-you-dummy invitation. But no trip he makes will tell him anything he needs to know. It would be far more instructive for him to quietly meet with groups of veterans and retired generals who served on the ground, know the story, and no longer have to toe the party line that Bush lays down. That would be worth a hundred Iraq trips.

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