John McCain has mischaracterized the subtleties in Iraq over and over again, and the press has given him a free ride. Fine, he's a war hero and these issues are confusing. But this is just getting ridiculous. Think Progress catches another example of McCain's fuzzy understanding of Iraq. In an interview with CNN earlier today, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) claimed that he has long understood the influence of Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr: I said he was still major player and his influence is going to have to be reduced and gradually eliminated. But in a report on The Situation Room today, the network noted that just two weeks ago McCain — trying to paint a rosy picture of Iraq — described Sadr very differently while speaking to CNN’s John King in Baghdad: His [Sadr’s] influence has been on the wane for a long time. This piggiebacks off a comment he made in Mississippi two days ago, when the presumptive Republican nominee had this to say about the week's events in Basra: “Apparently it was Sadr who asked for the ceasefire, declared a ceasefire. It wasn’t Maliki. Very rarely do I see the winning side declare a ceasefire. So we’ll see.’’ This is utter crap. At The Nation, Robert Dreyfuss provides a good rundown of the real winner in the six-day showdown. As the smoke clears over new rubble in Iraq's second city, at the heart of Iraq's oil region, it's apparent that the big winner of the Six-Day War in Basra are the forces of rebel cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose Mahdi Army faced down the Iraqi armed forces not only in Basra, but in Baghdad, as well as in Kut, Amarah, Nasiriyah, and Diwaniya, capitals of four key southern provinces. That leaves Sadr, an anti-American rabble rouser and nationalist who demands an end to the US occupation of Iraq, and who has grown increasingly close to Iran of late, in a far stronger position that he was a week ago. In Basra, he's the boss. An Iraqi reporter for the New York Times, who managed to get into Basra during the fighting, concluded that the thousands of Mahdi Army militiamen that control most of the city remained in charge. "There was nowhere the Mahdi either did not control or could not strike at will." That's not all. By brokering a new ceasefire between the ruling Shiite alliance (their longtime allies) and the Mahadi Army (their new friends in the South), the Iranians gained even more influence in the country. Not to mention that the "ill-timed offensive, poorly prepared and poorly executed" was an embarrassing defeat for American ally Nouri al-Maliki, signaling the possibility that his U.S.-propped government could collapse. A rousing success indeed! Sooner or later, the media needs to call out the national security candidate on his willful ignorance about the problems facing the troubled region and his cheerleading of a failed war policy. But given his track record with the media, don't hold your breath.
Adam Doster, a contributing editor at In These Times, is a Chicago-based freelance writer and former reporter-blogger for Progress Illinois.