John McCain says testimony shows he was right about the Iraq war strategy all along

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Republican presidential hopeful U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., speaks during a rally on the first day of his "No Surrender Tour", Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2007, in Sioux City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
John McCain (R)
Senator, AZ
Born: 08/29/1936
Birthplace: Panama Canal Zone
Home: Phoenix, AZ
Religion: Episcopalian
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SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Republican presidential hopeful John McCain said Tuesday that he was right from the start about the war strategy in Iraq.

“For almost four years we pursued a failed policy in Iraq. ... I condemned it, I was criticized by Republicans and others for doing so, and I saw it was doomed to failure and I argued for the strategy that is now succeeding,” McCain said.

The current strategy under Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, including the infusion of thousands of additional troops, is right on track, McCain said.

“This strategy is working. It is succeeding, and it must be given a chance to succeed,” he said.

McCain spoke at an airport hangar in western Iowa, where he made a grand entrance from his campaign bus for two days of appearances, part of a tour he has dubbed “No Surrender.”

McCain is trying to breathe new life into his campaign, which has floundered partly because of his unwavering support for the war and for the addition of thousands more troops to Iraq.

He flew in from Washington, where as the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee he questioned Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker about the military and political situation in Iraq.

Both officials acknowledged that Iraq remains largely dysfunctional but said violence had decreased since the addition of U.S. troops.

McCain said he understands “the bitterness” of the debate over the war. But he said Americans can either choose to support U.S. troops and the strategy or “we can choose to lose.”

“I choose to win, I choose to stay and I choose to support these young men and women and let them win,” McCain said.

McCain spoke hours after Petraeus recommended to Congress that the U.S. withdraw, by July 2008, the 30,000 extra troops sent over earlier this year.

Flanked by war veterans and huge American flags that hung from the ceiling, McCain addressed about 200 people on the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Asked by reporters whether it was appropriate to campaign on the anniversary, McCain said it was a fitting tribute.

“The important thing about September 11 is that it not be repeated. If we leave Iraq, then it will be repeated,” he said. “I can’t think of a better way to remember and revere their memories and prevent further tragedies and attacks on the United States than to rally support” to stay and win the war in Iraq.

McCain, a Navy pilot who spent 6½ years in a North Vietnamese prison during the Vietnam War, was introduced by Col. Bud Day, of Sioux City, one of McCain’s fellow prisoners of war in Hanoi.

Day said he is endorsing McCain because he was right about the strategy that should be taken in Iraq.