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McCain Suggests Surge to Bring Safe Streets of Iraq to U.S. Cities

August 2, 2008

Hoping to bolster support for the surge in Iraq, John McCain over the past year has frequently touted the safe streets of Baghdad. In April 2007, McCain boasted of neighborhoods "you and I could walk through." By March 2008, he reminded us that "there's problems in America with safe neighborhoods as we well know." And the solution to urban crime in the U.S., John McCain now tells us, is to bring the surge to the streets of America.
That, at least, is the implication of McCain's suggestion Friday to the National Urban League. As ABC and ThinkProgress detailed, McCain addressed a question about how to battle crime in American cities by praising Rudy Giuliani's tactics in New York and the U.S. military surge in Iraq:

"And some of those tactics - you mention the war in Iraq - are like that we use in the military. You go into neighborhoods, you clamp down, you provide a secure environment for the people that live there, and you make sure that the known criminals are kept under control. And you provide them with a stable environment and then they cooperate with law enforcement, etc, etc."

But long before the American military's community policing in Baghdad became a model for Baltimore, John McCain (along with many other Republicans) seemed to suggest that Sadr City was as safe as San Diego.
Dating back to 2002, McCain repeatedly downplayed the dangers U.S. troops would face in Iraq, all in the name of helping to sell the coming war against Saddam. But in extolling the progress of the surge over the past 18 months, McCain's cheerleading has at times taken on almost comic extremes.
One of his more surreal moments came on April 1, 2007 (literally April Fool's Day - you can't make this stuff up). Wearing a bulletproof vest and guarded by "100 American soldiers, with three Blackhawk helicopters, and two Apache gunships overhead," McCain briefly toured a Baghdad market to demonstrate that the American people were "not getting the full picture." As ThinkProgress recounted:

McCain recently claimed that there "are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk through those neighborhoods, today." In a press conference after his Baghdad tour, McCain told a reporter that his visit to the market today was proof that you could indeed "walk freely" in some areas of Baghdad.

And just this past March, Senator McCain returned to the tried and untrue Republican talking point: Iraq was no more dangerous than most major American cities. McCain announced, "There's problems in America with safe neighborhoods as we well know." In this case, at least, even McCain realized his statement was non-sensical on its face and sounded the retreat. "I'm not making that comparison, because it's much more deadly in Iraq obviously," he said, adding, "But it's kind of the same theory."
As it turns out, McCain is far from alone in the Republican amen corner in claiming that Iraqi cities are as safe, if not safer, than their American counterparts. In August 2003, Fox News' Brit Hume announced that California was more dangerous for Americans than Iraq. That June, Donald Rumsfeld said "there's going to be violence in a big city" like Baghdad - or Washington, D.C. By February 2006, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) was comparing the busy streets of Baghdad to Manhattan. And on that same April 2007 trip in which McCain said Americans could "walk freely" in areas of Baghdad, Indiana Republican Mike Pence concluded that the Iraqi capital was "just like anyopen-air market in Indiana in the summertime."
But none of those men are running for President of the United States. John McCain's sales job to Americans of the safe, serene cities of Iraq was grotesque. Now, his suggestion of an Iraq-style surge on the American homefront is simply beyond the pale.

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

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