Those who deserve ‘scorn and disdain’

With the U.S. war in Iraq coming to its overdue end, it’s worth noting those who got the policy wrong — and continue to ignore the error of their ways.

This week, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), arguably Congress’ biggest cheerleader of this tragedy, delivered a lengthy tirade condemning President Obama for ending the conflict and bringing U.S. troops home, arguing, among other things, “All I will say is that, for three years, the president has been harvesting the successes of the very strategy that he consistently dismissed as a failure.”

That’s actually backwards. Obama didn’t dismiss the Status of Forces Agreement reached between the Bush administration and Iraqi officials in 2008; the Status of Forces Agreement reflected exactly what Obama was proposing at the time. Officials in both countries completely rejected the course McCain recommended at the time, and as we now know, that was the right move. It’s curious that McCain would forget this relevant detail.*

In any case, the bitter Republican senator added, “I believe history will judge this president’s leadership with the scorn and disdain it deserves.”

It’s not exactly surprising that good news and the end of a war would leave McCain in such a sour mood. In August, when Obama helped topple the Gadhafi regime in Libya, McCain thanked the British and French, but ignored the role of U.S. troops, and whined about Obama’s “failure” to run the mission the way McCain wanted.

But when it comes to Iraq in particular, it’s rather amazing McCain feels comfortable addressing the subject at all. I’m reminded of a Frank Rich column from a while back, noting McCain’s record of being consistently wrong about what’s alleged to be his signature issue.

To appreciate this crowd’s spotless record of failure, consider its noisiest standard-bearer, John McCain. He made every wrong judgment call that could be made after 9/11. It’s not just that he echoed the Bush administration’s constant innuendos that Iraq collaborated with Al Qaeda’s attack on America. Or that he hyped the faulty W.M.D. evidence to the hysterical extreme of fingering Iraq for the anthrax attacks in Washington. Or that he promised we would win the Iraq war “easily.” Or that he predicted that the Sunnis and the Shiites would “probably get along” in post-Saddam Iraq because there was “not a history of clashes” between them.

What’s more mortifying still is that McCain was just as wrong about Afghanistan and Pakistan. He routinely minimized or dismissed the growing threats in both countries over the past six years, lest they draw American resources away from his pet crusade in Iraq.

The smart move for McCain would be to quietly slink away, hoping desperately that Americans forget how spectacularly wrong he was about a bloody, brutal war. The fact that this guy instead has the temerity to pop off publicly about how outraged he is that U.S. troops are coming home is nothing short of pathetic.

Someone in this debate deserves scorn and disdain, but it’s not the president.

* edited for clarity