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MediaWatch:Print
Daily Column
US Papers Mon: McCain "Stubborn Man Out"
'Times' editorial on McCain and Iraq: Responses to veterans' brain trauma story
By DANIEL W. SMITH 09/01/2008 01:55 AM ET
Everyone but the New York Times and the Washington Post are off at Labor Day barbecues. The Washington Post published a paper today, but the reporters on the Iraq beat seem to have joined the festivities. This leaves only the Times, with an editorial on McCain’s stance on Iraq, and letters in response to last week’s story about traumatic brain injuries of U.S. veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Opinion
The New York Times’ editorial page runs a piece called “Mr. McCain and Iraq”, in which it makes a point fairly common in election reporting of late. With even the Bush administration having changed their tune on accepting a fairly speedy timetable for U.S. combat troop withdrawal from Iraq, McCain seems to be the only one still saying that we must stay the course, as long as it takes, leaving him the “stubborn man out” on Iraq.
Mr. McCain told veterans on Aug. 11 that he would end the war, but intended to “win it first” and assured them that “victory in Iraq is finally in sight.” He needs to explain what he means by victory. A free and democratic Iraq, as Mr. Bush originally promised? That would take generations. Even after spending nearly $700 billion, the United States will be lucky to leave behind a marginally functioning central government in a very fragile country. Iraq’s leaders have at least agreed on one thing: they want the Americans gone, sooner rather than later. But they are still squabbling over the political reforms that might bolster stability — squabbling that Mr. Bush enabled by insisting that America’s patience was unlimited. Mr. McCain seems eager to repeat that mistake.
One thing that the article doesn’t address is something that lies beneath the much publicized acceptance of timetables, or “time horizons”. Judging from administration officials’ quotes on the topic, there will almost assuredly be plenty of wiggle-room for future change, likely leaves U.S. troops in Iraq for years to come. If this is the case, McCain is perhaps alone in the sense that he is one of the few politicians advocating a more extended withdrawal out loud. The article ends with...
Mr. Obama has offered a sensible blueprint for dealing with Iraq and Afghanistan. Even so, as with Mr. McCain, we need to hear more details. We also need to hear a lot more about how both candidates intend to rebuild an American military whose men and materiel have been depleted by repeated wartime deployments. For decades Republicans fed off of Vietnam and more often than not successfully painted Democrats as soft on defense. In this election, it is the Republicans who have to defend an abysmal eight-year legacy. We are waiting to hear Mr. McCain’s answers.

Letters
On the front page of last Tuesday’s Times was a compelling story by Lizette Alvarez, entitled “Home From War, Veterans Say Head Injuries Go Unrecognized". In it, she reported on the lack of effective assessment and treatment provided to a multitude of soldiers who sustained traumatic brain injuries in Iraq or Afghanistan. Since the symptoms are often not immediate, and for myriad other reasons, soldiers returning home with sometimes very debilitating brain injuries are either not properly diagnosed, or not diagnosed at all. The collection of four impassioned letters in today’s “to the editor” section, make for a short, but worthwhile addition to the story. Letter writers include the president of the Brain Trauma Foundation, and a major in the Army National Guard Medical Corps. See the original article by Alvarez here.

Washington Post no Iraq coverage.
Christian Science Monitor,USA Today, Wall Street Journal no Labor Day Editions.

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