From CBS News' John Bentley:
Retired Navy officer and former POW John McCain acknowledged on Memorial Day that "the American people have grown sick and tired of the war in Iraq," but maintained that pulling the U.S. military out of the country now would be "a mistake of colossal historical proportions."
"Our defeat in Iraq would be catastrophic, not just for Iraq, but for us. I cannot be complicit in it. I will do whatever I can, whether I am effective or not, to help avert it," McCain told a group of veterans and their families in Albuquerque, New Mexico. "It is not much compared to the sacrifices made by Americans who have volunteered to fight this war for us. I know that and am humbled by it. But though my duty is neither dangerous nor onerous, it compels me nonetheless to say to my fellow Americans, as long as we have the opportunity to succeed we must try to succeed. And I firmly believe that, with the continued right course of action, we will succeed."
While McCain did not mention either of his Democratic rivals by name, he and Barack Obama have had an ongoing dispute about the new GI Bill introduced by Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va. Obama supports the bill, saying it is important because it gives veterans help in paying for a college education. McCain maintains the bill would hurt re-enlistment rates. "The most important difference between our two approaches is that Sen. Webb offers veterans who served one enlistment the same benefits as those offered veterans who have re-enlisted several times," McCain said. "At a time when the United States military is fighting in two wars, and as we finally are beginning the long overdue and very urgent necessity of increasing the size of the Army and Marine Corps, one study estimates that Senator Webb's bill will reduce retention rates by 16 percent."
McCain has a fundraiser tonight in New Mexico, then heads to Colorado for a speech in Denver tomorrow morning.