On April 1, 2007, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) strolled through the open-air Shorja market in Baghdad in an effort to prove that Americans are “not getting the full picture” of what’s going on in Iraq. In a press conference after his Baghdad tour, McCain told a reporter that his visit to the market was proof that people could “walk freely” in parts of Baghdad.
What McCain failed to mention was that he was accompanied by “100 American soldiers, with three Blackhawk helicopters, and two Apache gunships overhead.” He also appeared to be wearing a bulletproof vest during his visit.
Since that trip, McCain has claimed that the situation in Iraq has improved even more. A few months ago, McCain claimed that “we’ve succeeded militarily” in Iraq. Things, of course, are going so well, that he wants to keep U.S. troops there for at least 100 years.
McCain is now back in Iraq for a “surprise visit with Iraqi and American diplomatic and military leaders.” He is joined by fellow Iraq war defenders Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). But it’s unlikely they will be visiting the Shorja market again. Today, CNN reported that they tried to visit the Shorja market, but it was too unsafe and they were unable to go:
We got close to that marketplace today, Jim, but our own security advisers here in Iraq did not want us to go there. They didn’t believe it was safe for an American to be in that area. We were in a thriving marketplace nearby.
But when you show up, the local Iraqis, while it is clear security is better on the street — it is clear there are more markets open, just the traffic jams alone tell you that things are better on the streets of Baghdad — it’s also a very sensitive potential neighborhoods.
That one marketplace, as a matter of fact, you do see Iraqi police, you do see the Iraqi army, but in truth, that area is controlled by the radical cleric Moqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi army.
Civilian deaths per day in Iraq are up to 39 from a low of 20 last January, while at the same time, there has been “a sharp increase in attacks resulting in the deaths of U.S. soldiers.” Twelve Americans were killed last week over a period of four days, “bringing the overall U.S. military death toll since the start of the war near 4,000.”
The Associated Press recently interviewed Iraqis who “said they were not necessarily changing their daily routines,” but “the growing bloodshed was present in their minds, clouding what had until recently been a more hopeful time.”