Belaboring the Obvious

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

McCain's Magic Carpet Ride

To prove his point (that Baghdad was safe), Joltin' John made an unannounced trip to that beleaguered city to do a little shopping (along with Lindsay Graham, who scored a great deal on some carpets).

Declaring later in the Green Zone that he could indeed walk around the market safely for an hour, just as he had asserted earlier, the Sinister Senator failed, somehow, to note that he was accompanied by about 100 soldiers, with three Blackhawk helicopters and two Apache gunships circling overhead.

Nor did the Contradictory Candidate mention that he was wearing a bulletproof vest while bargain-hunting (they're the height of fashion while strolling the streets these days)....

Nor was there mention of another market nearby getting the shit bombed out of it a half-hour later, or that there were mortar attacks on the perimeter of the Green Zone while the reality-challenged inside were telling the press how safe things were, McCain proclaiming “that his visit to the market today was proof that you could indeed ‘walk freely’ in some areas of Baghdad.”

Nor was there much said about the barriers to traffic installed after a bombing in the market two months ago:

…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.”

Did McCain consider the six U.S. soldiers killed by a roadside bomb southwest of Baghdad while making his rosy assessment of the situation?

Did McCain consider that his visit has probably made the market a target for reprisals in the near future? (On Tuesday, Juan Cole passes on the story from The London Times indicating that "21 Shia market workers were ambushed, bound and shot dead north of the capital. The victims came from the Baghdad market [Shurja] 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.")

Is this the level to which politics in this country has sunk? It's not just McCain--it's everyone in Washington, DC, that stumbles along like a drunk on the dark street hoping to find a lamppost to hang onto. It's not just a stretching of the truth--it's a tearing and rending of the entire concept of objectivity. It's "who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes."

That politicians actually believe they can get away with such mendacity says a great deal about how the press has treated the public in the last few years. Call it cynical, call it delusional, it doesn't matter--it boils down to an expectation that the public treat their fictions, if not as the truth, then as honest appraisals of a situation capable of being parsed in more than one way. This, in itself, is a prevarication.

We've seen this syndrome before--in the Stalin years of the Soviet Union, in every banana republic south of the border, in the incomprehensibly obtuse denials of P.W. Botha in apartheid South Africa, where even outright press censorship could not conceal the truth of apartheid's disastrous consequences.

The press did nail McCain's little sideshow for what it was--this time. But, was it because it was deserved, or was it because the major news organizations have already determined that McCain has lost favor in Republican circles and is currently deemed unelectable, is nosediving in the polls, and the press decided to give him another sucker-punch on the way down, much as it had done with Gore in 2000?


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