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Iraq war back in presidential spotlight -

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Iraq war back in presidential spotlight

The World Today - Thursday, 12 June , 2008 12:28:35

Reporter: Kim Landers

EMMA ALBERICI: The Iraq War has been thrust back to the centre of the US presidential campaign with
Republican John McCain under fire for a remark he has made about troop withdrawals.

Democrats are branding Senator McCain as "unsympathetic" for saying "it's not too important" when
US troops leave Iraq.

But the McCain camp says his comment has been distorted.

Washington correspondent Kim Landers reports.

KIM LANDERS: John McCain has built much of his presidential campaign around his strength as a
potential commander in chief, his resolve to win the Iraq War and his military and foreign policy
experience.

But now the Republican nominee is being accused of being out of touch for saying, quote "it's not
too important" when US troops leave Iraq.

Senator McCain made the remark during an interview with the host of a morning television show.

MATT LAUER (NBC TODAY SHOW HOST): Do you now have a better estimate of when American forces can
come home from Iraq?

JOHN MCCAIN: No, but that's not too important. What's important is the casualties in Iraq.
Americans are in South Korea, Americans are in Japan, American troops are in Germany - that's all
fine. American casualties and the ability to withdraw - we will be able to withdraw, General
Petraeus is going to tell us in July when he thinks we are, but the key to it is we don't want any
more Americans in harm's way.

KIM LANDERS: Democrats have pounced, including former presidential nominee John Kerry.

JOHN KERRY: In other words he was making the excuse for keeping the troops there for as long as it
takes. That's George Bush's policy. John McCain today gave an answer that shows he doesn't have a
strategy for victory, he doesn't have a strategy for how you end the war, he has a strategy for
just staying in the war.

KIM LANDERS: Other Democrats say Senator McCain's comment shows he's "out of touch" with the needs
of US troops and the grave consequences for America of staying in Iraq.

Democratic nominee Barack Obama's campaign says the remark shows John McCain is confused, also
pointing out he's made misstatements before about the number of troops in Iraq and which Islamic
extremist group Iran is accused of backing.

In return, the McCain camp says the Republican's comment has been distorted and that there's no-one
better placed than the former prisoner of war to understand the sacrifices made by American troops
and their families.

It also says Democrats want to divert attention from the progress in Iraq because they're so wedded
to their strategy of defeat.

In a speech last month John McCain said he could imagine that by January 2013 America would have
welcomed home most of the US troops.

Meanwhile the President George W. Bush has voiced regret at divisions in the international
community that have been created by the war in Iraq. He's again admitted that his use of phrases
like "bring them on" and "dead or alive" gave the world the impression that he was, quote, "a guy
really anxious for war", and he now says he wish he'd used a different tone on the global stage.

GEORGE W. BUSH: You don't get to do things over in my line of work, but I could have used better
rhetoric.

KIM LANDERS: But George W. Bush says he has no regrets about removing Saddam Hussein.

This is Kim Landers in Washington for The World Today.