From NBC's Lauren Appelbaum and Mark Murray
You be the judge: Did McCain once again confuse Shiites and Sunnis when talking about Al Qaeda in Iraq (a Sunni group) at today's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing?
Here's the transcript...
McCain: There are numerous threats to security in Iraq and the future of Iraq. Do you still view Al Qaeda in Iraq as a major threat?
Petraeus: It is still a major threat, though it is certainly not as major a threat as it was say 15 months ago.
McCain: Certainly not an obscure sect of the Shiites overall?
Petraeus: No, no sir.
McCain: Or Sunnis or anybody else then? Al Qaeda continues to try to assert themselves in Mosul, is that correct?
Petraeus: It is senator, as you saw on the chart. The area of operation of Al Qaeda has been greatly reduced in terms of controlling areas they controlled as little as a year and a half ago.
*** UPDATE *** McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds responds: "In the course of having a serious dialogue with our military leadership in Iraq about how Americans can formulate success going forward, John McCain stumbled on his words and corrected them immediately. Leave it to Barack Obama, who voted against funding our troops in combat after saying it would be irresponsible to make that vote, to try and find some wiggle room on an issue he has very little credibility with."
*** UPDATE II *** DNC chairman Howard Dean weighs in with this statement: "As John McCain continues to get the basic facts on the ground in Iraq wrong, he makes it clear to the American people that he will continue the open-ended commitment to fighting President Bush's war in Iraq. One hundred years in Iraq is not a plan. We all honor the service and sacrifices of our brave troops and their families, who have done everything that has been asked of them every step of the way. Honoring their service means bringing this war to a responsible end, and the only way to do that is to elect a Democratic president in November."