In a second omission of a falsehood by Sen. John McCain during his interview with Katie Couric, the CBS Evening News did not air a statement in which McCain characterized the war in Iraq as "the first major conflict since 9/11," apparently disregarding the war in Afghanistan, which began in October 2001.
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On the July 22 broadcast of the CBS Evening News, while airing portions of an interview anchor Katie Couric conducted that day with Sen. John McCain, CBS News did not air McCain's response to a question in which he characterized the Iraq war as "the first major conflict since 9/11," apparently disregarding the war in Afghanistan, which Couric addressed in her question and which began in October 2001. As Media Matters for America and others documented, CBS News also did not air McCain's false assertion that the 2007 U.S. troop surge "began the Anbar Awakening" and instead aired spliced video of McCain's interview with Couric, expunging the false statement and tacking on a response he gave to a different question.
Couric asked: "Sen. [Barack] Obama also told me, Sen. McCain, that the money spent on those additional troops, on the surge, might have been more effective had it gone to Afghanistan or even to a better energy policy in the United States. What's your response?" McCain replied: "The fact is we had four years of failed policy. We were losing. We were losing the war in Iraq. The consequences of failure and defeat of the United States of America in the first major conflict since 9/11 would have had devastating impacts throughout the region and the world." In fact, nearly a year and a half before the Iraq war, the United States initiated Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in order to "counter terrorism and bring security to Afghanistan." According to the Department of Defense, 554 Americans had lost their lives as a result of OEF and 2,257 had been wounded as of July 19.
In an entry on the Huffington Post website headlined "Another John McCain Gaffe -- Iraq Was the First Major Conflict After 9/11," Cenk Uygur wrote:
There is one more John McCain gaffe that the media missed from the now famous CBS interview with Katie Couric.
This is the same interview in which McCain claimed the surge led to the Anbar Awakening, which is demonstrably false.
Was Afghanistan not major enough for him?
From the transcript of Couric's interview with McCain posted on CBSNews.com:
Couric: Sen. Obama also told me, Sen. McCain, that the money spent on those additional troops, on the surge, might have been more effective had it gone to Afghanistan or even to a better energy policy in the United States. What's your response?
McCain: The fact is we had four years of failed policy. We were losing. We were losing the war in Iraq. The consequences of failure and defeat of the United States of America in the first major conflict since 9/11 would have had devastating impacts throughout the region and the world.
Thanks to a great general, thanks to a lot of courage and bravery on the part of American men and women in the military, we succeeded. And we are on the path to an honorable withdrawal and ... victory. Not having to return, as Sen. Obama said we might have to, if his strategy of straight dates for withdrawal didn't succeed.
So, of course it's been enormous sacrifice. And Americans are all saddened by it. But the consequences of failure would have been devastating. And that would have been the result if we had done what Sen. Obama wanted to do. Which would have meant our troops were out by last March, much less anytime soon, according to an arbitrary date.
And, again, the future is bright for the people of Iraq. The future is bright for stability in the region, for strengthening our alliances and succeeding in Afghanistan. And it's gonna be long and hard and tough struggle. If we had done what Sen. Obama had wanted, we would have been defeated. Now, we have the chance and opportunity for a very bright future.
From the July 22 broadcast of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, showing the full extent of Couric's interview with McCain that was actually aired:
COURIC: Senator McCain, Senator Obama says while the increased number of U.S. troops contributed to increased security in Iraq, he also credits the Sunni Awakening and the Shiite government going after militias and says that there might have been improved security even without the surge. What's your response to that?
McCAIN: Senator Obama has indicated by his failure to acknowledge the success of the surge that he would rather lose a war than lose a campaign. Thanks to General [David] Petraeus, our leadership and the sacrifice of brave young Americans. I mean, to deny that their sacrifice didn't make possible the success of the surge in Iraq, I think does a great disservice to young men and women who are serving and have sacrificed. There will still be attacks. Al Qaeda's not defeated. But the progress has been immense, and to not recognize that and why it happened and how it happened, I think is really quite a commentary.
COURIC: A commentary on what?
McCAIN: That Senator Obama does not understand the challenges we face, and he did not understand the need for the surge. And the fact that he did not understand that and still denies that it has succeeded, I think the American people will make a judgment.
COURIC: Senator Obama describes Afghanistan as the central front in the war on terror. That is where, after all, Senator, 9-11 was plotted. Why do you believe Iraq is the central front in the war on terror?
McCAIN: Well, one reason is, is because that's what Osama bin Laden said that it was. He said, "Go to the country of the two rivers." That's what General Petraeus says, who I think is extremely knowledgeable, that it is the central battleground. And Afghanistan is very tough. And there's a number of great challenges there. And we have to employ the same strategy there that succeeded in Iraq. And we can succeed there. Now that we've succeeded in Iraq, obviously we will be freeing up troops to go to Afghanistan, and we will urge our NATO allies to send more troops and be more involved as well. We can succeed.
But, you see, Senator Obama doesn't understand -- it's not just troops; it's an overall strategy. It's not just two or three brigades. It's also increased engagement on the part of our NATO allies. But I guarantee you, if we had failed in Iraq and been defeated in Iraq, our challenges in Afghanistan would have been dramatically complicated and worsened.
COURIC: Senator McCain, you sound very frustrated with Senator Obama's perspective.
McCAIN: No, I'm not at all. I respect Senator Obama. I admire his success. He's just has been wrong and is wrong, and therefore, I strongly disagree, and I think the American people will make a judgment about who was right.
[end video clip]
COURIC: The numbers do indicate that Iraq became much safer during the surge. Civilian deaths are down from 2,000 last August to 490 this past June. Attacks against coalition forces, down from 1,500 a week in June of 2007 to about 200 a week now. That's an 80 percent drop. And fewer U.S. troops were killed in May and June in Iraq than in Afghanistan.
I'll be back in a little while with more from the Middle East, but first, here's Harry Smith back in New York. Harry.
SMITH: Thanks, Katie.