“This Was Only For The Media” – Iraqis on McCain’s “Stroll” Through a Baghdad Marketplace

April 3, 2007 at 6:16 am | Posted in American politics, Iraq, McCain, Military | Leave a comment

(UPDATED)
Boy, what was John McCain thinking? That no one would ask the Iraqis just what they saw? That the Iraqis who frequent the marketplace he visited would not tell it like it was? They’re not a part of his propaganda; he hasn’t paid them to keep quiet. So they told. and it ain’t pretty for Senator McCain. The Iraqi marketplace frequenters all say McCain was wrong about his “stroll.”

“What are they talking about?” Ali Jassim Faiyad, the owner of an electrical appliances shop in the market, said Monday. “The security procedures were abnormal!”

The delegation arrived at the market, which is called Shorja, on Sunday with more than 100 soldiers in armored Humvees — the equivalent of an entire company — and attack helicopters circled overhead, a senior American military official in Baghdad said. The soldiers redirected traffic from the area and restricted access to the Americans, witnesses said, and sharpshooters were posted on the roofs. The congressmen wore bulletproof vests throughout their hourlong visit.

“They paralyzed the market when they came,” Mr. Faiyad said during an interview in his shop on Monday. “This was only for the media.”

He added, “This will not change anything.”

At a news conference shortly after their outing, Mr. McCain, an Arizona Republican, and his three Congressional colleagues described Shorja as a safe, bustling place full of hopeful and warmly welcoming Iraqis — “like a normal outdoor market in Indiana in the summertime,” offered Representative Mike Pence, an Indiana Republican who was a member of the delegation.

But the market that the congressmen said they saw is fundamentally different from the market Iraqis know.

The article continues with the following:

Ali Youssef, 39, who sells glassware from a sidewalk stand down the block from Mr. Kadhoury, recalled: “Everybody complained to them. We told them we were harmed.”

He and other merchants used to keep their shops open until dusk, but with the dropoff in customers as a result of the attacks, and a nightly curfew, most shop owners close their businesses in the early afternoon.

This area here is very dangerous,” continued Mr. Youssef, who lost his shop in the February attack. “They cannot secure it.”

But those conversations were not reflected in the congressmen’s comments at the news conference on Sunday.

Instead, the politicians spoke of strolling through the marketplace, haggling with merchants and drinking tea. “The most deeply moving thing for me was to mix and mingle unfettered,” Mr. Pence said.

Mr. McCain was asked about a comment he made on a radio program in which he said that he could walk freely through certain areas of Baghdad.

“I just came from one,” he replied sharply. “Things are better and there are encouraging signs.”

He added, “Never have I been able to go out into the city as I was today.”

Told about Mr. McCain’s assessment of the market, Abu Samer, a kitchenware and clothing wholesaler, scoffed: “He is just using this visit for publicity. He is just using it for himself. They’ll just take a photo of him at our market and they will just show it in the United States. He will win in America and we will have nothing.”

A Senate spokeswoman for Mr. McCain said he left Iraq on Monday and was unavailable for comment because he was traveling.

Several merchants said Monday that the Americans’ visit might have only made the market a more inviting target for insurgents.

“Every time the government announces anything — that the electricity is good or the water supply is good — the insurgents come to attack it immediately,” said Abu Samer, 49, who would give only his nickname out of concern for his safety.

The Straight Talk Express he certainly ain’t no more. I really do wonder why he hitched his campaign to this sinking ship…

(UPDATE)

Wow, I wonder what McCain thinks about this:

The latest massacre of Iraqi children came as 21 Shia market workers were ambushed, bound and shot dead north of the capital.

The victims came from the Baghdad market visited the previous day by John McCain, the US presidential candidate, who said that an American security plan in the capital was starting to show signs of progress.

The article continues:

As well as the killings of the children and the Shia market vendors, four people were blown up by another suicide bomber at a police checkpoint in Baghdad, while a roadside bomb killed four civilians in a Shia town just north of Baghdad. Yet another roadside bomb killed an Iraqi soldier and wounded seven others near the Iranian border. The US announced the deaths of six of its soldiers at the weekend.

More than 600 Iraqis have been killed in the past week despite a US-Iraqi security plan to quell violence in the capital. Most of the killings have been the result of truck bombs outside Baghdad.

Mr McCain said that the situation was showing signs of improvement and blamed waning support in the United States for the war on the media, which were portraying an overly negative image of the crisis.

Kirkuk is seen as a potentially explosive fault line between various ethnic and religious groups because it sits on a vast reserve of crude oil and is claimed by the Kurds as part of their autonomous northern region. Their claims have elicited fears from Sunni Arabs that the Kurds and the Shia, who control the oil-rich south, are trying to cut the once-powerful Sunni minority out of the country’s mineral wealth.

Or this, I wonder what McCain thinks about this. Snipers are back at the Baghdad marketplace:

The crack of shots fired by unseen snipers echoed on Monday through Baghdad’s wholesale Shorja market, a day after U.S. Senator John McCain held up his visit there as one sign of improving security in Baghdad.

The Republican presidential hopeful said his hour-long tour of the sprawling market, where 71 people were killed by a huge car bomb in February, would have been unthinkable before the seven-week-old U.S.-Iraqi crackdown in the capital.

Shoppers and merchants agreed on Monday that security had improved since the start of the operation, when the market was blocked off to prevent further such bombings, but took issue with what they considered an overly upbeat assessment by McCain.

Many still do not dare venture into the northern half of the long street, beyond a overhead pedestrian bridge, and enter what is dubbed “The sniper zone,” where people are picked off by gunmen on nearby rooftops.

Merchants said the snipers, whom they claim came from the neighboring Sunni Fadhl neighborhood, killed at least one person a day on average.

As Joshua Marshall so eloquently puts it:

In any case, as I say, we all know the disconnect. But seldom has it been perfectly captured in image. And not just an image, because we’ve got plenty with the dingbat fibs and rah-rah nonsense. But you also want a bit of pathos and desperation, a measure of ridiculousness not just comic but somehow cosmic.

And here I think we have it. The aging war hawk, proving that security is returning to Baghdad by walking into a market encased in body armor, surrounded by rooftop sharpshooters and enveloped in a shield of a hundred soldiers, helicopters (Blackhawks), helicopter gunships (Apaches) and all after another group of soldiers went in for a pre-jaunt security sweep which, in the words of Larry Johnson, “searched for explosives, sent informants into the crowd, set up a perimeter, and secured the area before the Senators showed up with their 100 armed guards.”

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