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

McCain, Obama trade attacks over Iraq

[cnn-photo-caption image= 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. sneaky pete

    McCain please define "WINNING"?

    September 26, 2008 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    Stop living in the past. what's done is done. What now???
    Sounds like only one person has a plan for the FUTURE.
    We are already involved in Iraq. Quit pointing fingers Barack! If you somehow make it into office, you're gonna have to DEAL with the fact that we are in Iraq, take responsibility for your country and move forward!!!

    September 26, 2008 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  3. Joseph Adewole

    McCain was interested in going to war, so he voted for the war not caring or thinking what such war would bring to the people of US; America is over 75% less safe because of the war...but an intelligent and educated politician will not just think about voting against the war but also about what could be the outcome of such war.....insecurity for Americans.
    The economic problem in US today would not be bitting as hard as it is now ,had the money being spent in Iraq is spent at home on job security.

    September 26, 2008 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  4. Arjan de Boer

    As a foreigner (from The Netherlands) i am suprised in how both candidates (but mostly McCain) are trying to distort their opponents' words and views. And even more suprised that the journalist who is moderating the debate, does not confront the candidates with their lies when they are so obvious.

    September 26, 2008 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  5. Tiff of lithia springs

    His war stories. McCain. They just seem out of place. He should know as a vet and POW that war should be a last resort. Defense is always the best offense and they don't always have to be with military might.

    September 26, 2008 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  6. Mack

    It no longer matters why we are in Iraq...we are there and we must come out with a victory.perception is everything. Obama had nothing to base his initial judgement on, so to say he has better judgement is a crock...its also never mentioned but Obama has in the past said he supported the war in Iraq...he changes his stories for political benefit.

    September 26, 2008 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  7. LA33ROSS

    Hillary supporter. Obama voted to give funding to our troops. Not the same as supporting the war. He always said the war should be in Afganistan.

    September 26, 2008 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  8. MH

    John K: Admitting mistake is a good start for a promising future.

    September 26, 2008 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  9. Versace

    This is a below average debate. I'm falling asleep!!!

    September 26, 2008 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  10. Hispanic Woman for McCain

    What do any of you know about the military and serving your country? What does Obama know about leading people? We are in Iraq, you all are the same people who cheered the President on when the military went into Iraq and defeated the all are the same people who pressured our President into going into Somalia, then tied our hands. What have any of you done for our country? Have any of you truly served your country or just youselves to the freedoms given to you?

    September 26, 2008 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  11. Dee

    John K, if you don't know how you got there you will make the same dumb mistake again. We need to be constantly reminded that we should not be in Iraq in the first place, maybe we can avoid bombing Iran

    September 26, 2008 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  12. Enough is Enough

    He is a safe pick, and it is about time America opens her eyes and realizes it.

    September 26, 2008 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |

    And Obama won!

    Yawn, Geezer is yammering on about "legitamizing" countries again.

    Does he not have any new material?

    September 26, 2008 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  14. Darrell

    The more Obama talks the more Presidential he looks.He is trustworty looking and sounding and MCCain is scrambling and just pretending he is the only one that knows how to keep America safe.McCain just looks horrible and is loosing groun.

    September 26, 2008 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |

    McCain is trying to play politics as usual. He is so transparent. He keeps trying to twist facts. He is nothing more than a liar.

    September 26, 2008 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  16. Diane Dagenais Turbide

    From the beginning Obama understood the war was in Afghanistan! Other countries knew that too!

    September 26, 2008 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  17. dloer

    McCain does not want to admit that he is looking out for the riches armericans. He wants to give them all the tax breaks, while the average americans bare all the burden. He has never and doesn't ever pan to look out for the average american. His ecomonic policy and , helath care plan dose not even consider those who work hardest for thieir money. My father is a veteran and he sacrificed for our country and McCain doesn't deserve anymore than my father for his serve, and no more than any other Veteran. Does being a Veteran and make him deserving of being president? No. Come on America! I respect Veterans, but does that qualify him to be president, Idon't think so, you need so much more!

    September 26, 2008 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  18. wanda mccloud

    we need to get the rep. out of there

    September 26, 2008 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  19. Bonetha Nelson

    McCain says we're winning the war ,but it's been seven years later millions dollars later

    September 26, 2008 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  20. Renay

    Since when have we been winning in Iraq? That is the most incompetent statement I have heard in the last 30 years. Someone..anyone please hep me understand.

    September 26, 2008 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  21. judith

    ruh roh! mccain seems to be losing his temper. this week should be a wake up call to see how mccain can multi-task/

    September 26, 2008 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
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