September 26th, 2008
09:52 PM ET
14 years ago

McCain, Obama trade attacks over Iraq

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/26/art.debate.ms.gi.jpg caption="McCain and Obama trade attacks over Iraq."]

OXFORD, Mississippi (CNN) - Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama disagreed sharply over Iraq at their first presidential debate on Friday, drawing starkly different lessons from the controversial war.

"We should never hesitate to use military force ... to keep the American people safe," McCain, an Arizona Republican, argued. "But we have to use our military wisely and we did not use our military wisely in Iraq."

The next president will have to decide when and how to leave Iraq and what the United States will leave behind, McCain said.

But he said the United States was now winning thanks to a great general and a new strategy.

"Senator Obama refuses to acknowledge that we are winning in Iraq,"McCain said of his Democratic opponent, Sen. Barack Obama.Obama responded: "That's not true, that's not true."

He blasted McCain as having been wrong about the initial phase of the war, saying McCain had failed to anticipate the uprising against U.S. forces and violence between rival religious groups in the country.

"At the time when the war started, you said it was quick and easy. You said we knew where the weapons of mass destruction were," Obama said, citing the key White House policy justifying the 2003 invasion.

"You were wrong. You said that we were going to be greeted as liberators. You were wrong," he said.

soundoff (71 Responses)
  1. Hillary Supporter for McCain/Palin

    I was against the war before I was elected to U.S. Senate now I voted for the war, before I run for President where I am against the war in Iraq – sounds familar!

    September 26, 2008 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  2. Palin is not a champion for women's issues

    yawn!!!! boring!!!!! I miss Hillary and the slum lord!!!!!

    September 26, 2008 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  3. Rick

    Go Obama!!

    September 26, 2008 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  4. ted

    I don't see a victory in a war if we are still there fighting and dying there.

    September 26, 2008 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  5. Dr. J

    Obama is hitting it right on the head. John McCain is not taking responsibility for going into Iraq.

    September 26, 2008 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  6. John K

    I loved McCain's comment that thge future president has to deal with what do we do now, not what has already happened.

    September 26, 2008 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  7. voter

    good response by Obama. Iraq had nothing to do with 911. also we haven't gotten bin laden and al queda the one's responsible for 911. We need to go after them which McCain wants to stay in Iraq and ignore Aghan.

    September 26, 2008 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  8. Mike

    McCain doesn't make sense on the stategy in Afghanistan.

    September 26, 2008 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  9. Bonnie

    McCain is lying. And he is saying nothing else. Cut Spending. I have a record. That's it. He's not smart. He can't think about these issues. He just reads words and memorizes them. But he's mostly lying about Obama's positions. Like usual.

    September 26, 2008 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  10. Jesse, Denver

    Anyone notice Obama will look at McCain when he is talking, but McCain will only face the moderator. Their body language is saying alot!!

    September 26, 2008 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  11. NOT VOTING FOR MCCAIN

    America knows McCain will say the surge worked and the "world" is better off without Saddam, but should we have went to war in the 1st place should our efforts have been place somewhere else?

    September 26, 2008 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  12. Diana NJ

    What are we winning????? we have lost respect for ourselves along with the world's respect???? We are not winning oil..... our tanks are empty

    September 26, 2008 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  13. chris mctaggart

    what has McCain got right?wasn't the success of the surge due mostly due to us paying Iraqis to fight on our side?

    September 26, 2008 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  14. Jason

    the comment about McCain singing songs about bombing Iran was nice.

    September 26, 2008 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  15. Robert in Hartford, CT

    McCain WAS wrong. Maybe 3 years later he supported a good idea, but the trillion dollar blunder and lost US credibility seems like the bigger deal.

    September 26, 2008 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  16. Janice Il

    The job of the next president will be to get them home, Did I just hear

    McCain say that?

    September 26, 2008 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  17. IND voter

    should we have went to war in the 1st place?

    September 26, 2008 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  18. Heidi

    ANYOHE WHO HAS BEEN FOLLOWING THE ELECTION CYCLE KNOWS THAT MCCAIN IS LYING ON WHAT OBAMA HAS SAID IN REGARDS TO THE WAR IN IRAQ. AND NOW OBAMA IS RETELLING WHAT HE IS STATING AND I FEEL THAT OBAMA HAS THE PLAN IN REGARDS TO IRAQ.

    September 26, 2008 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  19. Michael

    If Al Quida is more powerfull now then before 9/11 how come they are now doing so many attacks outside of Afganistan?

    September 26, 2008 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  20. Mike, Land O Lakes, FL

    This is suppose to be McCain's turf, but they are doing about even.

    McCain better pick it up with the remaining half hour because he is not going to do well on the next two domestic debates.

    September 26, 2008 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  21. Michelle

    Obama is sooo right! Give Iraqis back their country, and lets go after Bin Laden, in Afghan.

    September 26, 2008 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  22. Jason, Indianapolis

    Is it me or is McCain an absolute idiot? I don't think we were looking for a history lesson tonight, we are looking for the future. He and Palin are through! They have no idea what they are doing. When McCain votes with Bush 90% of the time......IT'S TIME FOR A CHANGE! I'm voting Obama/Biden even in this red state of mine!

    September 26, 2008 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  23. HoustonIndie

    Are we really winning in Iraq?

    – First of all, it is not OUR war to win. We have no business there to start with.
    – If you look at all the reports about Iraq, the situation there is still very volatile.
    – If you listen to serious analysis in Iraq, the sectarian reconciliation worked in Anbar before the surge. During the surge, the Sunnis and Shiites got to work together and that contributed to the longer prospect of peace. The surge of course quells violence, but it does not address the long-term peace in Iraq.

    September 26, 2008 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  24. inuk of the north

    Obama the Great General???

    I guess he can phone in the strategy for Afghanistan.

    It is ridiculously presumptuous of him to determine war strategies.

    Leave that to the real generals, not the politcos from Chicago.

    September 26, 2008 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  25. ted

    The best part is Obama says, "When I am President of the United States." He shows initiative and acts and talks like a President, all McCain does is tell old stories of, "back in my day" see a difference?

    September 26, 2008 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
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