John McCain

McCain’s troubles may be an early sign of what’s to come in the 2008 presidential campaign

When John McCain was in Baghdad a week ago, he said the country is getting safer – evidenced by his ability to walk around a Baghdad market. In McCain’s 60 Minutes interview which we published on Sunday, he retracts some of what he said and tries to clarify other parts of his statement.

McCain’s troubles may be an early sign of what’s to come in the 2008 presidential campaign. Candidates are going to have to wrestle with their conscience, and decide how much they want to speak to an angry and tired populace that wants to end America’s presence in Iraq now. . . and how much subtlety there can be in their message when there is the chance that failure to create a stable democratic government in Iraq could have implications for generations of Americans.

Not to mention the fact that most Iraqis in that country are completely helpless against the violence around them and traumatized by years of war – and our exit from the country may either be good for them or horrible for them. Iraqis had hoped that when the Americans came, it would finally put an end to their 30 years of nightmare. Many are disillusioned by the new darkness that overcame them. And I think there is now a prevaling sense of fatalism among Iraqis – that they could die at any moment for any and no reason (as very well, they might). I have heard this fatalism directly from Iraqis’ mouths – Iraqis living amidst the horror in Baghdad.

Perhaps knowing what to do about the violent mess in Iraq would be easier if there was a clearer answer to some of the troubling questions. Could Iraq survive on its own? Would America really suffer longterm consequences if troops left before Iraq was more peaceful and stable? Does America have a moral obligation to give the Iraqi people a better future than the one we took away? In all the conversation, there seems to be no clear answer, no definitive idea. And what’s most troubling is the complete Russian-Roulette uncertainty of how it will all turn out.

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