McCain says mistakes made in Iraq war
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- U.S. Sen. John McCain says he's frustrated at mistakes made in the war in Iraq, but setting a deadline for troop withdrawal would bring chaos to the region.
McCain made his comments Tuesday at a Columbia campaign event for state House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Harrison. They come as some Republicans nationally have stepped back from blanket support for the Bush administration's war efforts.
In South Carolina, where McCain will be a likely contender in the first-in-the-South presidential primary in 2008, the Arizona senator found an audience applauding tough talk on the war and lining up to shake his hand and snap pictures afterward.
"Yes, we made mistakes. We didn't have enough troops there. We didn't handle the army right" as well as the religious factions and the search for weapons of mass destruction, McCain told the crowd at the South Carolina State Museum.
But "we've made mistakes in other wars. There's been no war that we haven't made serious mistakes," McCain said.
McCain isn't the only Republican talking about mistakes in Iraq as the November elections approach. U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, has said if she knew Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, she would not have supported Bush invasion plans.
Even U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who was at the event with McCain has said "we're on the verge of chaos and the current plan is not working."
Even if weapons of mass destruction weren't found, McCain said the U.S. had to act in Iraq.
"Saddam Hussein had used weapons of mass destruction and I was convinced he was going to try to acquire them" as international sanctions broke down, McCain said.
McCain said he hasn't thought a lot about Bush's recent comments that the nation no longer needs to "stay the course" in Iraq.
But whatever happens, a withdrawal date for American troops cannot be set, McCain said.
"We cannot desert this cause. If we do, there will be chaos in the region. ... believe me, believe me, chaos will spread will through the region and we will fight them somewhere else," McCain said.
And unlike losing the war in Vietnam, losing this "titanic struggle" in Iraq will bring threats directly to the U.S. "We will never surrender and we will win," McCain said to standing ovation.
This is the only time McCain has campaigned for a single state House candidate, said McCain adviser Trey Walker, who called Harrison a longtime McCain friend.
But McCain has helped plenty of candidates with money through his Straight Talk America PAC, which has sent more than 0,000 into South Carolina with donations to every incumbent legislator and GOP candidate all the way down to college and teen Republican groups, Walker said.
In South Carolina "no potential 2008 candidate has done more for Republican candidates and the Republican Party than John McCain," Walker said.