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Sorting out the truth on Iraq

Hussein did say he hoped to get WMD

The statement

When the United States invaded Iraq, Saddam Hussein wanted to acquire weapons of mass destruction, and "he said so himself after his capture."

John McCain, June 4 in St. Petersburg The ruling

Among the most definitive records yet produced on Iraq and weapons of mass destruction is a report from the Iraq Survey Group, a group affiliated with the CIA. It released its initial report in 2004 and a concluding addenda in 2005. The report stated that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction during the run-up to the U.S. invasion in 2003. The 1,000-page report concluded that Hussein did away with his weapons program in the years after the Persian Gulf War, but deliberately encouraged ambiguity about whether his regime possessed the weapons. But, what about Hussein's remarks after he was captured? Here's what we know: The Iraq Survey Group interviewed scores of people, gaining access to information gleaned from Hussein during detention. In 2008, Hussein's interrogator for the group, George Piro of the FBI, told 60 Minutes what Hussein said while in custody. Piro, a native Arabic speaker, said Hussein told him he wanted to pursue weapons of mass destruction again. "He wanted to pursue all of WMD," Piro said. "So he wanted to reconstitute his entire WMD program." 60 Minutes asked: Chemical, biological, even nuclear? "Yes," Piro said. The best record publicly available supports McCain's statement, so we rule it True. More like one year ago

The statement

The Bush administration's latest plans for troop withdrawal from Iraq by 2011 are "more or less the same time frame I announced two years ago."

Barack Obama, Aug. 21 in Chester, Va. The ruling

Two years ago, Obama advocated a withdrawal plan that would have begun while President Bush was still in office. Legislation he proposed in 2007 would have had all combat troops out by March 31, 2008, with provisions to halt withdrawal in case of national interest or if the Iraqi government met certain targets. Those plans probably never had much of a chance given Bush's opposition to withdrawal. So on the campaign trail in 2007, Obama began discussing timetables for withdrawal that would start with a new administration taking office in 2009. Those plans included removing troops at a pace of about one brigade a month, a process that would take "about 16 months," ending somewhere around the middle of 2010. Obama included caveats to allow for changing circumstances on the ground and the advice of military advisers. We don't see much similarity between a 2011 withdrawal date and what Obama advocated two years ago, which would have brought troops home much sooner. But it is "more or less" the plan he began advocating a year ago. Also, during the past two years, Obama was consistently calling for withdrawal, and McCain was not. We rate Obama's statement Mostly True.

Tried to defund troops? Not exactly

The issue

"First, he (Obama) opposed the surge. Then he confidently predicted that it would fail. Then he tried to prevent funding for the troops who carried out the surge."

John McCain, Aug. 11 in a speech in Las Vegas The ruling

The first two prongs of this attack are clearly true. On Jan. 10, 2007, Obama spoke out against President Bush's plan and predicted it would fail. "I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there," he told MSNBC's Keith Olbermann. "In fact, I think it will do the reverse." Did Obama try to prevent funding for the troops? The McCain campaign cites Obama's vote of May 24, 2007, against an appropriations bill that included funding for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. But it's misleading to say Obama didn't want to fund "the troops." He said he would support a bill that included a "clear, prudent" plan for bringing troops home. And if that one vote of Obama's constituted an attempt "to prevent funding for the troops," then almost every Republican in the Senate did the same when they voted against a $124-billion appropriations bill on April 26, 2007, that would have funded operations in Iraq and Afghanistan but also required Bush to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq. In both cases, it wasn't the idea of funding the troops that was opposed, it was the strategy the bills would have enabled. We're calling this Half True.

Straight talk, twisted

The statement

"We are bogged down in a war that John McCain now suggests might go on for another 100 years."

Barack Obama, Feb. 26 in a debate in Cleveland The ruling

At a town hall in Derry, N.H., on Jan. 3, McCain was glib about the need for a long-term U.S. commitment: Question: "President Bush has talked about our staying in Iraq for 50 years —" McCain: "Make it a hundred." Q: "Is that —" McCain: "We've been in South Korea ... we've been in Japan for 60 years. We've been in South Korea 50 years or so. That would be fine with me. As long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed, that's fine with me. I hope that would be fine with you, if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where al-Qaida is training and equipping and recruiting and motivating people every single day." Interviews show McCain is not advocating that the war in Iraq continue for 1,000 years (or 1-million). But once combat ends and U.S. casualties dwindle, he expects the United States could have troops in Iraq similar to the presence in South Korea and Germany. So Obama twists McCain's words by saying McCain suggests the war might go on 100 years. In fact, McCain is clearly suggesting that a peacetime presence might go on 100 years. We find Obama's statement to be False.

Their past positions and their plans

John McCain

2002: Votes in favor of authorizing force in Iraq and is an important advocate for the Bush administration.

March 2003: Begins calling for more troops and resources. Criticizes Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in 2004 for failing to plan appropriately for what might happen after the invasion.

January 2007: Is a strong supporter of the Bush administration's troop surge.

Plans going forward: Rejects measures designed to pressure the Bush administration to remove troops, saying all decisions should be dictated by conditions on the ground. Under his administration, most troops would be home by January 2013.

Barack Obama

2002: Was not yet a U.S. senator and did not vote on the Iraq war resolution. He did oppose it in a speech as unnecessary and rash.

2004: Says he and other Democrats support troop levels necessary to bring the war to an orderly conclusion.

2006: Calls for the Bush administration to begin withdrawing troops. Opposes the troop surge in January 2007, on the grounds that a political solution is needed in Iraq.

Plans going forward: Proposes a withdrawal of about one brigade a month after he takes office, removing all combat troops by about mid 2010. Plan includes cav­eats for ground conditions and advice of military advisers.

Sorting out the truth on Iraq 09/27/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 30, 2008 3:01pm]
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