Sunday, April 01, 2007

Just Another Day At The Market

Brave, brave, Sir John:

Baghdad, April 1, 2007. It wasn't your typical Sunday stroll. A Republican congressional delegation led by Sen. John McCain popped by the Shorja market in Baghdad this afternoon, a stop on an unannounced Iraq trip. They spent over an hour browsing market stalls, chatting with locals and drinking chai. "I bought five carpets for five bucks," Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina gushed at a presser shortly after the visit. (A helluva bargain by any measure).

Ahh springtime in Baghdad - or is it campaign season in the United States? As political theater goes, McCain couldn't have asked for much more. On a radio talk show last week, the Arizona senator said, "There are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk through - today." Later in the week, CNN reporter Michael Ware blasted the claim, "I don't know what part of Neverland Senator McCain is talking about when he says we can go strolling in Baghdad." He later added, "I'd love Senator McCain to tell me where that neighborhood is, and he and I can go for a stroll." (Videos of both McCain's and Ware's comments have been big hits on YouTube).

Well, here was McCain strolling, strutting in fact, in Baghdad. And he wasn't done yet. At the presser, McCain, who was testy throughout, pointed out that the delegation had driven into town from the airport, rather than fly in Blackhawk helicopters like most VIPs. He also cited a drop in the murder rate as a sign of progress and got in one final dig: "American people are not getting the full picture of what's happening here." No guesses who McCain blames for that. "The media has a responsibility to report all aspects of what's taking place," he said.

Yes, the media again. 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.