On Monday, Republican lawmakers visiting Iraq tried to argue that President Bush’s escalation in Iraq has made Baghdad — especially the Shorja market — safer. Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) told reporters that Shorja — where a suicide bomber killed 88 people in January — is now “like a normal outdoor market in Indiana in the summertime.” On his blog, he wrote:
And so it went, up and down the street, in between tents and tables, squeezing past pedestrians to inspect the offerings in one booth after another, we milled around this marketplace in downtown Baghdad for more than an hour. I told reporters afterward that it was just like any open-air market in Indiana in the summertime. I didn’t mean that Baghdad was as safe as the Bargersville Flea Market; I just meant that that was what it looked and felt like…lots of people, lots of booths and a friendly relaxed atmosphere.
But Indianans find any similarities between Bargersville and Baghdad ludicrous:
“There’ve been no shootings or car bombings” at that market since it opened a few years ago, said Robin Gibson, assistant metro editor of the Star Press in Muncie. … “Maybe some overeager dogs jumping at people,” she ventured.
Avon Waters, a former features editor and writer for the Herald Bulletin in Anderson, the other relatively big town in Pence’s largely rural congressional district, said he never wore a flak jacket and “never felt afraid” when he spent a couple of recent years covering farmers markets in Madison County.
A side-by-side comparison of the Shorja and Bargersville markets:
Iraqis also disagreed with Pence’s assessment of the Shorja market’s “friendly relaxed atmosphere.” Karim Abdullah, a textile merchant at Shorja, said that the lawmakers “were laughing and talking to people as if there was nothing going on in this country or at least they were pretending that they were tourists. … To achieve this, they sealed off the area, put themselves in flak jackets and walked in the middle of tens of armed American soldiers.”
A day after the congressional delegation’s visit, the “crack of shots fired by unseen snipers echoed” throughout the Shorja market.
UPDATE: “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.”