Iraq war a winning issue for McCain

In his St. Paul victory speech, Barack Obama pledged to pull out of Iraq. Rather than “continue a policy in Iraq that asks everything of our brave men and women in uniform and nothing of Iraqi politicians. … It's time for Iraqis to take responsibility for their future.”

Does he not read the papers? Here is what Iraqis have been doing in the last few months:

1. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki sent the Iraqi army into Basra. It achieved in a few weeks what the British had failed to do in four years: take the city, drive out the Mahdi Army and seize the ports from Iranian-backed militias.

2. When Mahdi fighters rose up, the Iraqi army at Maliki's direction confronted them and prevailed in every town from Basra to Baghdad.

3. Without U.S. ground forces, the Iraqi army entered and occupied Sadr City, the Mahdi Army stronghold.

4. Maliki flew to Mosul, directing a joint Iraqi-U.S. offensive against the last redoubt of al-Qaida.

5. The Iraqi parliament enacted a de-Baathification law, a major benchmark for political reconciliation.

6. Parliament also passed the other reconciliation benchmarks – a pension law, an amnesty law and a provincial elections and powers law. Oil revenues are being distributed to the provinces through the annual budget.

7. The Sunni parliamentary bloc has begun negotiations to join the Shiite-led government.

Dems stuck in past

The disconnect between what Democrats are saying about Iraq and what is actually happening there has reached grotesque proportions. Democrats won in 2006 pledging withdrawal at a time when conditions in Iraq were dire and we were losing the war. Two years later, when everything is changed, they continue to reflexively repeat their “narrative of defeat and retreat” (as Joe Lieberman called it) as if nothing has changed.

It is a position so utterly untenable that John McCain must seize the opportunity and, contrary to conventional wisdom, make the Iraq war the central winning plank of his campaign. Yes, Americans are war-weary. Yes, most think we should not have engaged in the first place.

But McCain's case is simple. Is not Obama's central mantra that this election is about the future, not the past? Obama promises that upon his inauguration, he will order the Joint Chiefs to bring him a plan for withdrawal from Iraq within 16 months. McCain says that upon his inauguration, he'll ask the Joint Chiefs for a plan for continued and ultimate success.

The choice could not be more clearly drawn. The Democrats' one objective in Iraq is withdrawal. McCain's one objective is victory.

Winning on all fronts

Iraq is a three-front war – against Sunni al-Qaida, against Shiite militias and against Iranian hegemony – and we are winning on every front.

We did not go into Iraq to fight al-Qaida, but al-Qaida chose to turn it into the central front in its war against America. That choice turned into an al-Qaida fiasco: al-Qaida in Iraq is now on the run and in the midst of stunning and humiliating defeat.

As for the Shiite extremists, the Mahdi Army is isolated and at its weakest point in years. Its sponsor, Iran, has suffered major setbacks, not only in Basra but also in Iraqi public opinion.

Even the most expansive American objective – establishing a representative government that is an ally against jihadists – is within sight.

Obama would forfeit every one of these successes to a policy of unconditional withdrawal. If McCain cannot take to the American people the case for the folly of that policy, he will not be president. Nor should he be.

Give the speech, senator.