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Backing U.S. Troops in Nigeria, McCain Opposed U.S. Raid to Get Bin Laden in Pakistan

May 15, 2014

John McCain on Tuesday declared he would send U.S. special forces into Nigeria "in a New York minute" to free hundreds of school girls held hostage by Boko Haram. McCain's enthusiasm in unsurprising, given his past support for deploying American forces almost anywhere for almost any reason. Except, it turns out, to the place that mattered most to get the person that mattered most. Because when then-Senator Barack Obama repeatedly promised to unilaterally strike Al Qaeda targets inside Pakistan, GOP presidential candidate John McCain mocked him for it.
As the Daily Beast reported:

"If they knew where they were, I certainly would send in U.S. troops to rescue them, in a New York minute I would, without permission of the host country," McCain told The Daily Beast on Tuesday. "I wouldn't be waiting for some kind of permission from some guy named Goodluck Jonathan," he added, referring to the president of Nigeria.

If that kind of tough talk towards a foreign leader with an unusual name sounds familiar, it should. But in 2007, the man who spoke them was Barack Obama.
"If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act," Obama declared on August 1, 2007 of Bin Laden's fighters safely ensconced in Pakistan, "we will." He repeated that promise in July 2008:

"The greatest threat to that security lies in the tribal regions of Pakistan, where terrorists train and insurgents strike into Afghanistan. We cannot tolerate a terrorist sanctuary, and as President, I won't. We need a stronger and sustained partnership between Afghanistan, Pakistan and NATO to secure the border, to take out terrorist camps, and to crack down on cross-border insurgents...We must make it clear that if Pakistan cannot or will not act, we will take out high-level terrorist targets like bin Laden if we have them in our sights."

But that was precisely what Obama's Republican rival John McCain said he would not do.
In response, John McCain (the same John McCain who throughout 2003 and 2004 proclaimed "Nobody in Afghanistan threatens the United States of America" and "Afghanistan, we don't read about anymore, because it's succeeded") mocked Obama. For the rest of the campaign, Senator McCain insisted that unlike Senator Obama, he would not "take out high-level terrorist targets like bin Laden if we have them in our sights," as this exchange with CNN's Larry King revealed:

KING: If you were president and knew that bin Laden was in Pakistan, you know where, would you have U.S. forces go in after him?
MCCAIN: Larry, I'm not going to go there and here's why, because Pakistan is a sovereign nation. I think the Pakistanis would want bin Laden out of their hair and out of their country and it's causing great difficulties in Pakistan itself.

In February 2008, on the same day the Washington Post reported on the Bush administration's accelerated use of drones to target terrorist targets within Pakistan, John McCain blasted Obama's hard line on Al Qaeda's safe havens:

"Will we risk the confused leadership of an inexperienced candidate who once suggested invading our ally, Pakistan?"

Americans took that "risk." And thank God they did. Because while we're not all Georgians now, Osama Bin Laden is still dead.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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