Obama, McCain sharply dispute war in Iraq

September 27th, 2008 - 10:25 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Sep 27 (DPA) Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain disagreed sharply over the Iraq war during their first presidential debate Friday night as Obama sought to tie McCain to President George W. Bush’s policies.”You were wrong,” Obama told McCain on the stage at the Univeristy of Mississippi.

“I’m afraid Senator Obama doesn’t understand the difference between a tactic and a strategy,” McCain shot back.

Both candidates blamed Bush for mismanaging the war following the ouster of Saddam Hussein’s regime in April 2003, but McCain touted the success of Bush’s troop surge last year in bringing down violence in Iraq.

McCain noted that he had called for a troop buildup for years before Bush ordered it the so-called surge January 2007.

“This strategy has succeeded, and we are winning in Iraq,” McCain said.

“John, you like to pretend that the war started in 2007,” Obama said, noting that more than 4,000 US soldiers have died in the conflict on which the United States has spent nearly $1 trillion.

Obama and McCain held the first of three debates leading up to the Nov 4 general elections.

The discussion was intended to focus on foreign policy, considered a policy strength for McCain, a retired naval officer with more than 25 years in the Senate compared to less than four years for Obama.

But the two men also stated that they support Bush’s $700-billion package to rescue the panicked financial sector, amid destabilized global stock markets and faltering credit conditions.

Obama accused McCain of backing Bush’s “failed” economic policies during the last eight years, while McCain said that Obama’s support for wasteful spending in the Senate had helped drive up the federal deficit.

The debate had been scheduled for weeks, but it remained uncertain until midday Friday that it would take place. McCain, 72, had suggested Wednesday that he would not attend, so that he could stay in Washington to work on legislation to address the financial crisis.

Obama, 47, rejected McCain’s request to postpone the debate.

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