Page 2 of 2   <      

McCain Calls War 'Necessary and Just'

The latter phrase could be read as a slap at McCain's reputation for delivering "straight talk" to voters, and the Arizonan conceded that a "failed strategy" has led the United States to the current situation in Iraq. But he insisted that the battles being waged in that country are a part of a broader fight against terrorism that cannot be abandoned without jeopardizing the stability of the entire region.

Premature departure, he predicted, would pose a direct threat to the United States as the Iraqi government collapses and countries in the Middle East "explode" into regional war.

"We could face a terrible choice: watch the region burn, the price of oil escalate dramatically and our economy decline, watch the terrorists establish new base camps or send American troops back to Iraq, with the odds against our success much worse than they are today," he said.

McCain spoke in the military college's chapel before several hundred VMI cadets, including some whose service in the reserves has already taken them to Iraq.

McCain's pro-war rhetoric is largely matched by his chief rivals for the GOP nomination, Giuliani and Romney.

In a similar speech Tuesday night, Romney pledged his support for the effort in Iraq and blasted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for her recent unsanctioned trip to Syria, calling it "one of the most partisan, divisive and ill-considered" decisions by a public official in the past 10 years.

"The troop surge has a real chance of working, and early signs are encouraging," Romney said, echoing McCain's theme. "It is time for Congress to follow the lead of the commanders in the field and the commander in chief."

In town hall meetings and speeches, Giuliani has also blasted the Democratic Congress and cast the battle in Iraq as a must-win part of the fight against terrorism that began in earnest when hijackers crashed airplanes into his city on Sept. 11, 2001.

"America needs to be on offense," Giuliani told members of the Portsmouth Regional Chamber of Commerce in New Hampshire earlier this month.

<       2

© 2007 The Washington Post Company