September 11, 2008 – On the morning of the 9/11, just moments after the World Trade Center collapsed from the terrorist strikes, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) went on television and immediately began focusing the nation’s attention on Iraq. In an interview with CBS’ Dan Rather on 9/11, McCain said:
To be honest with you, Dan, I never thought that an operation of this sophistication and size would take place. I just never did. But I don’t think there’s any doubt that there are countries – Iraq, Iran, Libya, North Korea and others – who we know engage in proliferation of – of capabilities and, from time to time, involve themselves in state-sponsored terrorism. But never did we imagine on a scale such as this.
The next day, on 9/12, McCain reiterated the point in an interview with Chris Matthews. “It isn’t just Afghanistan,” he said, “we’re talking about Syria, Iraq, Iran, perhaps North Korea, Libya and others.”
Just a few weeks later – on Oct. 9, 2001 – McCain narrowed his focus, arguing that Iraq was “obviously” next:
PAULA ZAHN: And as you know, Senator, the U.S. and Great Britain notified the U.N. Security Council yesterday that they reserve the right to strike against other countries in this campaign. What countries are we looking at?
MCCAIN: Well, I think very obviously Iraq is the first country, but there are others – Syria, Iran, the Sudan, who have continued to harbor terrorist organizations and actually assist them.
On Oct. 18, 2001, McCain told David Letterman, “the second phase is Iraq” while linking Iraq to the anthrax attacks.
In Jan. 2002, McCain visited a crowd of soldiers aboard the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt and yelled: “Next up, Baghdad!”
The New York Times’ David Kirkpatrick recently noted that McCain “began making his case for invading Iraq to the public more than six months before the White House began to do the same.” The Times reported:
While pushing to take on Saddam Hussein, Mr. McCain also made arguments and statements that he may no longer wish to recall. He lauded the war planners he would later criticize, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney. (Mr. McCain even volunteered that he would have given the same job to Mr. Cheney.) He urged support for the later-discredited Iraqi exile Ahmad Chalabi’s opposition group, the Iraqi National Congress, and echoed some of its suspect accusations in the national media. And he advanced misleading assertions not only about Mr. Hussein’s supposed weapons programs but also about his possible ties to international terrorists, Al Qaeda and the Sept. 11 attacks.