Sen. John McCain said it’s President Obama’s fault that ISIS has taken control of Iraqi cities where American troops being mourned on Memorial Day had previously died defending.
McCain insisted that the war for Iraq was won after the 2007 troop surge.
“And yet the president, in one of the worst decisions of history, pulled all of the troops out,”‘ McCain said.
In a sometimes testy exchange with reporters following Memorial Day ceremonies at the National Cemetery here, McCain brushed aside questions of whether it is possible to win a war in Iraq with a government there that has sometimes proven dysfunctional.
“I think you may have some trouble understanding me,” the senator said.
“I’ll repeat to you one more time: In 2011 Iraq was stable,” he continued. “It was over. Al Qaeda was defeated.”
And absent that decision to pull out U.S. troops, he insisted, the war would have stayed won and the sacrifices would not have been in vain.
“On this Memorial Day, there are families here that lost their family members in Ramadi and Fallujah where the black flag of ISIS flies today,” he said. “That’s a shameful chapter in American history.”
The correct course, said McCain, would have been to leave troops behind.
“And now, because the president insisted on removing all the troops and saying we are leaving behind a stable, democratic Iraq, a lot of other really dumb statements, we’re now in the situation we’re in today,” he said.
The senator also sniffed at a question about whether the United States should be willing to send soldiers back into Iraq after that nation’s own troops fled Ramadi earlier this month, leaving their weapons behind.
“I guess some people are hard of hearing here today,” he said.
“I will tell you one more time because I haven’t got the time to keep repeating the same thing over and over again,” McCain continued. “We had the conflict won.”
He even said the hasty Iraqi withdrawal can be linked directly to Obama’s decision to pull out U.S. troops.
“Once we removed everybody from Iraq, the (Prime Minister Nouri) al-Maliki hollowed out the Army and destroyed the fighting capability of the Army,” McCain said.
“It didn’t have to happen because I’ll repeat to you one more time: We had it won, thanks to the surge,” the senator continued. “And because the president pulled out all the troops, that’s why we’re in the position we’re in today.”
And what of American will to send troops back into harm’s way?
“They do not have the appetite to send many, like the 82nd Airborne (Division),” McCain conceded. But he said a recent poll found 73 percent willing to send U.S. soldiers to Iraq in support roles including intelligence and forward air control to help target where missiles should be launched.
The senator also said that what happens with ISIS in the Middle East directly affects American security.
“Thousands of young men and a few young women are coming in to Iraq and Syria from all over Europe, some from the United States of America,” he said.
“And they want to destroy America,” McCain said. “According to the FBI, they pose a direct threat to the United States of America.”