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John McCain's Al Qaeda confusion

John McCain got unwanted attention recently when, during a visit to the Middle East, he said that Iran, a nation of Shiite Muslims, was providing aid and comfort to Al Qaeda in Iraq, a Sunni group.

His friend, Joe Lieberman, who was also on the trip, had to famously whisper in his ear to correct him. This allowed McCain's two Democratic rivals for the presidency, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to criticize McCain for his mistake, which came in the area that's supposed to be in his wheelhouse: national security and foreign policy.

At today's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, McCain once again seemed to make a muddle of the whole Shiite-Al Qaeda thing. It came in this exchange with Gen. David Petraeus:

MCCAIN: "There are numerous threats to security in Iraq and the future of Iraq. Do you still view Al Qaeda in Iraq as a major threat?"

PETRAEUS: "It is still a major threat, though it is certainly not as major a threat as it was, say, 15 months ago."

MCCAIN: "Certainly not an obscure sect of the Shi'ites, all overall, or Sunnis or anybody else."

Good thing he quickly threw Sunnis in there. At least he didn't need Lieberman to bail him out this time.

McCain may want to work on this obvious weakness in his Iraq fund of knowledge. Maybe flash cards would help.

-- Frank James

Frank James writes for the Swamp of the Chicago Tribune's Washington bureau.

Comments () | Archives (4)

The comments to this entry are closed.

He doesn't really know or care who they are; he just wants to be president.

Attention! Attention! Republicans, do not nominate this madman!

I'm from AZ and McCain is no moderate, so I for one am tired of him getting that label in the press. As for this, I can't believe the GOP has nominated another D student who thinks that posturing and a tough act can substitute for a real foreign policy. We went through this SAME THING with Bush and STILL the hawks can't be bothered to learn who is who in our FIVE YEARS in Iraq? Come ON!!

He wants to invade Iran, so he wants all bad people to be Shiite. I would take the consistency with which he makes this mistake as an indication of exactly how badly he wants to invade Iran.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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