He said several times that Iran, a predominately Shiite country, was supplying the mostly Sunni militant group, al-Qaeda. In fact, officials have said they believe Iran is helping Shiite extremists in Iraq.
Speaking to reporters in Amman, the Jordanian capital, McCain said he and two Senate colleagues traveling with him continue to be concerned about Iranian operatives "taking al-Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back."
Pressed to elaborate, McCain said it was "common knowledge and has been reported in the media that al-Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran, that's well known. And it's unfortunate."
It took Joe Lieberman stepping forward and whispering in his ear to prompt McCain to say, "I'm sorry, the Iranians are training extremists, not al-Qaeda."
Is McCain that out of touch? Al-Qaeda and Iran are not allies, they are enemies. We are not dealing with two sides in Iraq. There are numerous competing forces. Yes, al-Qaeda members are extremists, but so are the members of the Ku Klux Klan. Just imagine if McCain said Iran is funding the Klan only to gloss over it by saying that they're all extremists.
His comments make it appear that McCain is operating with a only a hazy sense of what is going on in the war. Failing to appreciate that Iran and al-Qaeda are outside forces that oppose one another means that McCain fails to grasp the complexity of the problems we face in Iraq and the Middle East more broadly. And, much of the right sees his leadership on the war as his greatest strength. Just imagine if Obama said what McCain has been quoted as saying. It would be running in a tape loop 24/7 on Fox News and Hannity would be questioning Obama's fitness to serve as commander-in-chief.
Although I have disagreed with McCain's staunch support for the war, I still had, up until now, respect for McCain as a worthy candidate. I believed that, given the facts, he was a man who would exercise good judgment in his approach to governing, even if I disagreed with him. Maybe I presumed too much by presuming that McCain is interested in the facts. Is it too much to expect that a man who plans to settle us into a 100-year occupation of Iraq would have, by now, acquired a basic mastery of the known facts about the warring parties in Iraq?