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11-16-05, 10:31 AM
The Fighting 13
New York Sun Staff Editorial
November 16, 2005

Senator McCain was already a war hero for his strength while under communist captivity in Vietnam, but he emerged yesterday as a hero again in the new war on Islamic extremism. Mr. McCain had been taking some criticism for pressing the White House to avoid torture. But yesterday he stuck out as a leader in the hawkish camp, one of the 13 senators, all Republicans, who opposed the Senate efforts to rein in the president's war powers. They voted not only against an attempt by Senator Levin of Michigan to hamstring the American war effort in Iraq, but also against the effort by Senator Warner of Virginia to second-guess President Bush and his generals. The fighting 13 are listed by name alongside this editorial, and they deserve the thanks of Americans and of Iraqis who want to win the struggle for freedom and against terrorism in that country.

Mr. McCain's remarks are worth quoting at some length. The senator from Arizona, a possible 2008 presidential candidate, warned that the votes on both amendments were likely to be watched more closely in Iraq than in America. "Reading through each version, one gets the sense that the Senate's foremost objective is the drawdown of American troops. But America's first goal in Iraq is not to withdraw troops, it is to win the war," Mr. McCain said. He warned that a focus on an exit timeline "only encourages our enemies, by indicating that the end to American intervention is near, and alienates our friends, who fear an insurgent victory."

Mr. McCain said, "Imagine Iraqis, working for the new government, considering whether to join the police forces, or debating whether or not to take up arms. What will they think ... when they learn that the Democrats are calling for a withdrawal plan?" He said the Republican alternative was slightly better but would still raise doubts for Iraqis. "Do we wish to respond to the millions who braved bombs and threats to vote, who have put their faith and trust in America and the Iraqi government, that our number one priority is now bringing our people home? Do we want to tell insurgents that their violence has successfully ground us down, that their horrific acts will, with enough time, be successful?"

There will be much de bate in the wake of the Senate vote over what it meant. The vote had been barely recorded when the hard left was touting the oversight the Senate has called for of the war. But Mr. McCain clearly has his eye on the larger point.

"This is a war we must win. The benefits of success and the consequences of failure are too profound for us to do otherwise. The road ahead is likely to be long and hard, but America must follow it through to success," Mr. McCain said. "By suggesting that withdrawal, rather than victory, is on the minds of America's legislators, we do this great cause a grave disservice."