FOX: But in a news conference with local reporters, McCain misspoke in the way he accused Iran of fomenting violence in Iraq.
MCCAIN: It’s common knowledge, and it’s been reported in the media, that Al Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran.
FOX: Except that Al Qaeda in Iraq is largely Sunni, and Iran’s government is largely Shia. After a whispered reminder from Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberamn, McCain immediately corrected himself.
MCCAIN: I’m sorry. The Iranians are training extremists. Not Al Qaeda.
But he made the same claim, virtually verbatim, on three separate occasions just this week alone. Whatever explains these falsehoods, “misspeaking” or a “brain fart” is plainly not it. Only some serious neurological affliction would produce the same exact “brain fart” on three separate occasions. The alleged Iran-Al Qaeda link was a deliberative and premeditated assertion from McCain.
There are only two plausible possibilities which could account for McCain’s false statements: (1) he was engaged in the standard tactic of war advocates — perpetrated ever since 9/11 — of just asserting that disparate (and even warring) Muslim factions are allies with one another in the Endless War without there being any evidence that this is so (Saddam loves Al Qaeda which loves Hezbollah which loves the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood which loves Iran which loves the Taliban which loves Hamas which loves Osama bin Laden, etc. etc.), or (2) McCain is just completely ignorant of the most elementary facts about the region and the war in which the media has decreed him to be a Great Expert.
The media consensus that national security is some sort of great asset for McCain is completely baseless. Just go read McCain’s pre-invasion speeches and they are filled to the brim with the most extreme, gullible and false assertions about Iraq. This whole McCain Myth is predicated on the Beltway principle that anyone who supports war and cheers on war and wants to prolong the occupation of Iraq is inherently Serious when it comes to National Security, no matter how little they know and how unbroken a record of Wrongness they’ve compiled. And in McCain’s case, the fact that he was in Vietnam 40 years ago immunizes him from having his National Security expertise questioned (though it didn’t for John Kerry).
On the fifth anniversary of the invasion, one was inundated with commentary from the “experts” — almost uniformly from those who supported this most disastrous invasion — because the pro-war position is the intrinsically Serious one. John McCain supported the war, still supports the war, believes in more war, and thus is an expert in national security.
Thus, when completely false and ignorant statements come out of his mouth, it can’t be that he is confused and misinformed, or that he was deliberately misleading. This is a Serious, honorable hawk. It must be that he just had an understandable “brain fart” — an innocuous case of “misspeaking” — even though it happened three times in a row in a matter of a couple of days.
As Atrios put it: “He’s honest, so he cannot lie, he’s supporter of reform, so he cannot be corrupt, and he has “foreign policy experience,” so he cannot be wrong.” The only qualification for being granted irrevocable status as a Serious Foreign Policy Expert is enthusiasm over the use of military force to invade, bomb and occupy other countries. That is deeply, deeply Serious. John McCain exudes that enthusiasm more than anyone this side of Bill Kristol, and National Security is thus a real strength of his.
UPDATE: Juan Cole notes that McCain’s attempt to link Al Qaeda and Iran is consistent with a long-standing Pentagon myth which even they were forced slowly and quietly to abandon. McCain wasn’t “misspeaking,” but rather, deliberately repeating — whether from ignorance or an intent to mislead — a long-standing, now-discredited claim that neocons have been making for years.
Additionally, Cole — citing this post — observes:
Glenn Greenwald demonstrates that McCain has repeatedly made this looney assertion and that it wasn’t just a momentary slip. You wonder whether, if he had been corrected by anyone but Lieberman, he would even have backed off momentarily.
That’s exactly right. What happened here is actually quite obvious. McCain was emphatically repeating this falsehood with great confidence (as he told Hewitt: “As you know, there are al Qaeda operatives that are taken back into Iran, given training as leaders, and they’re moving back into Iraq”).
He only “corrected” himself because he reflexively repeated what Lieberman whispered in his year (Iran’s not training Al Qaeda; they’re training Shiite extremists). Then, once McCain retracted it, his campaign had no choice but to claim it was just a “misstatement.” But the fact that he repeated it twice before that (at least) leaves no doubt that he meant to say it. The only real question is whether he meant to say it due to profound ignorance or the will to deceive.