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Originally published May 30, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified June 2, 2008 at 10:01 AM

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Go to Iraq, Barack, (but not with him)

Shortly after Sen. Barack Obama wraps up the Democratic presidential-primary contest, he can plan a fact-finding trip to Iraq. No, not to be...

Shortly after Sen. Barack Obama wraps up the Democratic presidential-primary contest, he can plan a fact-finding trip to Iraq.

No, not to be led around by Sen. John McCain, the Republican all-but-certain nominee. Despite McCain's condescending offer to show Obama around Iraq, the Arizona senator should not be Obama's travel companion. That is a political stunt, exactly as Obama says.

Obama should travel on his own terms and with his own contingent. The individuals he selects to travel with him could be very important.

McCain is having a jolly time pretending he is the only candidate with enough cachet and experience to lead the U.S. on military matters, even offering to squire Obama around Iraq.

McCain's posturing would be silly one-upmanship if the costs of the war in Iraq and at home were not so enormous and never-ending. McCain has the wrong position. He supports continued military involvement in Iraq. Obama, more credibly, vows to end the war and bring troops home.

McCain has been proclaiming Obama's inexperience and unwillingness to look at Iraq anew. The last time Obama traveled to Iraq was 2006. That is not five or 10 years ago. Still, both presidential candidates need to have eyes wide open.

Obama should make the trip not because McCain dares him or because this has become the TV issue du jour. He should go because he will learn things that he has not read anywhere.

He should take a small delegation of his own choosing. One solid companion would be Virginia Sen. James Webb, a former Navy secretary, former assistant defense secretary, former Marine Corps officer and former Republican. Webb's son has served in Iraq.

Another admittedly parochial suggestion would be to include U.S. Rep. Brian Baird, D-Vancouver, who traveled to Iraq about a year ago and changed his position from anti-war to favorable toward the troop surge. Encourage all viewpoints for the most open-minded look.

Obama has been a little busy of late. McCain enjoys a clearer path to nomination and has more time to focus on the general election.

Once Obama becomes the likely Democratic nominee, he can turn to Iraq. A trip would give him a greater grasp of the facts on the ground.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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