McCain slams Obama again for defeatism over Iraq

LAS VEGAS Mon Aug 11, 2008 12:49am EDT

1 of 5. A resident walks past a U.S. soldier standing guard on a road in Baghdad's Sadr City August 8, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Mohammed Ameen

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LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - U.S. presidential candidate John McCain on Saturday again accused his opponent Barack Obama of defeatism and said the Democratic senator from Illinois did not have what it took to be the country's commander in chief.

"Both candidates in this election pledge to end this war and bring our troops home. The great difference is that I intend to win it first," the Republican senator from Arizona told the national convention of Disabled American Veterans.

McCain, whose own war wounds and years of captivity by the North Vietnamese were acknowledged as he was introduced to the crowd, said Obama had been wrong about U.S. military strategy in Iraq, and taunted him for refusing to admit the error.

"The surge has succeeded. Yet Senator Obama ... commits a grave error by insisting that, even in hindsight, he would oppose the surge. Even in retrospect, he would chose the path of retreat and failure for America over the path of success and victory," McCain said.

"What is missing is the judgment of a commander in chief," he added, drawing a roar of approval from the audience.

"First he opposed the surge, and then he confidently predicted it would fail, and then he tried to prevent funding for the troops that carried out the surge," said McCain, who has used the same line attack for several weeks now.

McCain was an ardent supporter of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein. Obama was stoutly against the war, and opposed a major U.S. troop build-up last year to prevent the country tipping into all-out civil war.

Many Democrats argued at the time that the country was throwing the lives of more American troops away by committing them to a deeply unpopular war.

Violence in Iraq has since declined and there has been a sharp drop in the number of American military casualties. McCain warned these achievements were at risk if the country failed to elect him president in November.

"The hard-won gains of our troops hang in the balance... (but) could still be squandered by hasty withdrawals or arbitrary timelines," he said.

(Reporting by Alister Bull, editing by Chris Wilson)

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