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Obama, McCain clash on war

Vying to be the next US commander in chief, Obama adopted a tough line vowing to strike at militants hiding in Afghanistan and Pakistan as John McCain said the US was winning in Iraq. Obama, McCain clash on war

world Updated: Sep 28, 2008 00:38 IST

Vying to be the next US commander in chief, Democrat Barack Obama adopted a tough line on Friday vowing to strike at militants hiding in Afghanistan and Pakistan as John McCain said the US was winning in Iraq.

Striking a sombre air, Obama sought to steal McCain’s thunder by vowing he would launch military strikes on extremist targets inside Pakistan if the Islamabad government is unwilling or unable to act.

“If the United States has Al Qaeda, (Osama) bin Laden, top-level lieutenants in our sights, and Pakistan is unwilling or unable to act, then we should take them out,” he told the first presidential clash of the 2008 White House race.

And Obama (47), earned a rebuke from the 72-year-old McCain, a veteran of the Vietnam war, who said such threats were unhelpful in a wider strategy, adding: “You don’t say that out loud.”

In the first of three presidential debates ahead of the November 4 elections, the two men laid out radically opposed visions of how to protect America from another

terror attack such as the September 11, 2001 strikes. Obama insisted the US administration “took our eye off the ball” by diverting military resources away from Afghanistan to Iraq.

Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama also focused on the economy in the shadow of the US financial crisis.

Obama branded McCain as an inheritor of President George W. Bush’s unpopular legacy of “failed” economic and foreign policies. McCain, presented himself as a reformer and posed as a superior potential commander-in-chief, repeatedly saying Obama did not “understand” foreign policy threats or was “naive” in his outlook to the world. “I don't think I need any on-the-job training. I’m ready to go at it right now,” McCain said.

Both candidates avoided major gaffes in a spirited debate, taking place at a time of deep national peril with the Wall Street crisis threatening to ruin the US economy and millions of working class jobs.