Shop til you drop
Boys look at a pool of bloodied water at the scene of Thursday's bomb attack, in Baghdad, March 30, 2007. (Kareem Raheem/Reuters)
Good ole John McCain went shopping today with his buddy Lindsay Graham… and while we know that Lindsay scored 5 … count 'em 5 … rugs in the …. marketplace for only $5, John it seems just felt like selling us more of his happy talk. In his "testy" press conference following their shopping trip, McCain told us all about how much better Iraq is doing under the surge.
Raed Jarrar has a few things to say about McCain's expedition:
I read about your latest trip to Baghdad in articles like "McCain, in Baghdad, says city is safer than before," " McCain lauds security during Baghdad visit," and "McCain Sees Improvement in Iraq." I'm sure you wanted to stage a "Shopping in Baghdad" spree to show us how great and safe baghdad is, and to encourage more Americans to go do their Shopping in downtown Baghdad, but I'm not sure your plan has worked.
It doesn't seem like good security to me when one shop-owner in Shorja, which was closed to traffic after the February bombings, said there had been a heavy security presence, with many U.S. soldiers on the ground and U.S. helicopters overhead. I don't think many Iraqis can afford to hire some hundreds of bodyguards and a few helicopters to protect them while they are shopping. Do you realize how would it be for a regular Iraqi to go shopping without the US army's protection, do you realize how your shopping spree would have looked like if you went to a real market with cars driving around?
As Raed goes on to note, it's a little hard to buy the fun shopping tale when faced with reality. IN fact, McCain's spree was followed within hours with the news of the Six U.S. soldiers killed by roadside bombs in Iraq. And we read, from Al Aswat, that at Touz Khormato two people were killed and four others were wounded in an explosive device blast that ripped through a market in this district northeast of Baghdad at about the same time.
Other local sources are reporting that Falluja may slip out of U.S. control:, Violence overwhelms Mosul: and that the City of Hilla is under curfew as violence spreads beyond Baghdad.
And as a Newsweek blog reported in A Sunday Stroll in Iraq's Capital:
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.
Add in the fact that McCain has the gall to make his claims of progress in the same week in which we learned that violence in Iraq is up by 15%, that Iraqi casualities topped 2,000 for the month of March and US casualities were 80 (double that of Iraqi forces) and I think Raed puts it best:
How does it feel when you can't stop lying? … Does this look like an improvement to you? I don't know whether you don't know the facts, or whether you know and just prefer to continue telling lies to the public.
Dear John, leave us alone. Go shop elsewhere and let Iraqis and Americans find a better option than continuing this expensive and pointless war.
ps – just to make sure this is on your radar, Iranian forces reported that US fighter planes violated Iran's airspace on Sunday.
late addition – I have found a pic of McCain's shopping spree: Ah, McCain!
and there's more in Monday's WaPO :
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."