Photo apparently from US military, included in this NBC report, via Think Progress.
In case you missed it, Siun did a fine post last night on the McCain strolling-in-Iraq story, but I thought the Senator deserved a little more exposure to help his lagging poll numbers, so . . . [Update: But before we follow McCain, read this story.]
McCain was in Iraq over the weekend to prove that Americans can stroll the streets of Baghdad. And he was right. He and Lindsey Graham spent a whole hour walking around, touring a neighborhood market (where Graham bought some rugs). McCain then noted again that this was evidence the surge was having some success, and he repeated the mantra that the US media were just not reporting the real progress. That should keep the 30 percenters content for another week.
In the interest of presenting the full picture then, I think it should be pointed out that McCain and his fellow senators were accompanied to the market by a small army, upwards of 50 soldiers according to a source who accompanied the group on the stroll. Just another day at the market. And even though McCain cited a drop in violence, Agence France Presse on Sunday quoted an Iraqi official who reported a 15 percent increase in violence across Iraq in March. According to their tally, 2,078 civilians, cops and soldiers were killed last month, 272 more fatalities than in February.
In any case, it didn’t take the insurgents long to send their reply. Less then 30 minutes after McCain wrapped up, a barrage of half a dozen mortars peppered the boundaries of the Green Zone, where the senators held their press conference. Though he was argumentative, McCain wasn’t completely out of touch on Sunday. Admitting “we have a long way to go,” the 2008 presidential candidate acknowledged that previous rosy assessments have been inaccurate. “I’m not saying ‘mission accomplished,’ ‘last throes’ or ‘dead enders.’”
That was the American Senator’s point of view. Siun tracked down several Iraqi perspectives, including this from the second page of today’s WaPo article.
Amir Raheem, 32 , a floor carpeting merchant at the Shorja market, disagreed with the upbeat assessment of the congressional visitors. “Just yesterday, an Iraqi soldier was shot in his shoulder by a sniper, and the day before, two civilians were shot by a sniper as well,” he said.
He said Sunni insurgents routinely clashed with Shiite militiamen or with Iraqi soldiers and policemen in the area. “Everybody closes their shops by 2:30 p.m.,” Raheem said.
While the congressional delegation reported seeing crowds of Iraqis shopping in the market, Raheem said the number represented a sliver of the customers he used to see. “It is not even 10 percent of our work before the bombings, because people are afraid to come and it is harder to move,” he said.
Worse, he said, the closure of the main street by barriers has affected his business. If it was so safe, he said, “let them open the street, for the market has died since they put them there.”
On Sunday, he said, U.S. soldiers were present in large numbers during the congressional visit and would not let customers “even cross the street to the other side.”
And of course, as soon as McCain ended his Green Zone press conference, it was back to reality:
BAGHDAD, April 1 — Mortar attacks, suicide car bombs, roadside bombs, ambushes and gun battles killed at least two dozen people on Sunday, including four American soldiers, the authorities said.
The American military command said the soldiers were killed southwest of Baghdad just after midnight as they responded to an earlier bombing that had killed two other American soldiers. The insurgents have frequently tried to reap greater death tolls by carrying out attacks against rescue crews rushing to bomb sites.
I suppose we should be grateful that McCain is not repeating the same idiotic phrases we’ve heard from Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld. Now he’s making up his own nonsense, while using 100 armed troops and helicopter gunships as cover. I’ll bet within 24 hours, the White House will be repeating it and handing it out to Fox News as the talking points of the day. But don’t expect the talking points to include the background reports.
In another story that we’ll probably be talking about the various presidential candiidates reported obscene amounts of contributions for the first quarter — $26 million for Hillary, $21-22 million for Obama, $14 million for Edwards — breaking records for the period. Andy Rooney on CBS’ 60 Minutes was lamenting this, noting that the next President will reportedly spend upwards of $400 millions to win the presidency. I suspect there is an inverse relationship between the amount of money a candidate has to spend to win and that candidate’s innate qualities of leadership and record of accomplishments. But that’s another story. In the meantime, read Glenn’s piece on Presidential “substance.”