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McCain Jumps on the Denial Bandwagon

April 2nd, 2007

This morning, my parents Skyped me and we had an hourlong chat. During our talk, I mentioned to my father that John McCain, after previously stating that things were so safe in Baghdad because of The McCain Surge™ that one could walk unarmed through the streets, had gone to Baghdad and taken a “stroll” while wearing a bulletproof vest and surrounded by squads of armed soldiers. My father, who had not heard of McCain’s visit, expressed incredulity, which prompted me to wonder if I had fallen afoul of an April Fool’s fake-news gag. I had had a similar experience many years ago (December 1987) when I told my brother that Gary Hart had re-entered the race for president after he had dropped out due to the Donna Rice scandal. In both cases, then and now, the story in retrospect sounded so bizarre that I had to re-check to see if I hadn’t been somehow mistaken about them.

But in both cases, the stories were indeed true. In an interview with ultra-conservative gambling moralist Bill Bennett, John McCain had stated that “there are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk through those neighborhoods today. The U.S. is beginning to succeed in Iraq.” He later defended and compounded his statement, adding that “General Petraeus goes out there almost every day in an unarmed humvee.”

Later, however, journalists scoffed at McCain, noting that his rosy statements about Iraq were ludicrous. CBS news correspondent Allen Pizzey noted that things were far from safe in Baghdad, despite relative quiet compared to the past–the operational word being “relative,” not “quiet.” Pizzey wrote,

A young sergeant was assigned to accompany myself and cameraman Mark LaGanga wherever we went. When I suggested that it was fine and the sergeant could take a break, he replied quietly; “No sir. I need to be with you. Wouldn’t want to take the risk of you being kidnapped.”

“In a police station?” I asked. “You’re kidding.”

“No sir,” he replied, “I am not.”

Any time Senator McCain wants to walk the streets of Baghdad, unarmed and without a serious security detail, we’d be glad to lend him a camera so he can record his experience.

As for General Petraeus and the “unarmed” (or “unarmored,” whichever McCain actually meant) Humvee, that was shot down quickly as well. CNN’s Michael Ware reported that such a suggestion was greeted with “laughter down the line” with all of the military sources he spoke with. In addition to Petraeus using a heavily armored Humvee, “There’s multiple humvees around it, heavily armed. There’s attack helicopters, predator drones, sniper teams, all sorts of layers of protection.” Ware also said,

Well, I’d certainly like to bring Sen. McCain up to speed if he ever gives me the opportunity. And if I have any difficulty hearing you right now Wolf, that’s because of the helicopters circling overhead and the gun battle that is blazing away just a few blocks down the road. Is Baghdad any safer? Sectarian violence, one particular type of violence, is down. But none of the American generals here on the ground have anything like Sen. McCain’s confidence. I mean, Sen. McCain’s credibility now on Iraq, which has been so solid to this point, is now being left out hanging to dry. To suggest that there’s any neighborhood in this city where an American can walk freely is beyond ludicrous. I’d love Sen. McCain to tell me where that neighborhood is and he and I can go for a stroll.

Mccainvest1So, after all that, you’d think that McCain would have to be daft to go to Baghdad and demonstrate how “safe” it was by walking in the heavily fortified Green Zone, surrounded by heavily armed troops and wearing a bulletproof vest. But nope, there he was, in full glory–surrounded by “100 American soldiers, with three Blackhawk helicopters, and two Apache gunships overhead.” That’s how safe it is in Baghdad now! In the Green Zone, the most heavily fortified part of the city!

The fact is, Baghdad is marginally safer only because of what observers have called the “Whack-a-Mole” effect, where if you pour huge numbers of troops into a specific, controlled area, the insurgents will leave–but will only pop up somewhere else to cause havoc. Then, when your troops move out of the “secured” area, the insurgents just pour back in and things reset to the way they were.

Case in point: Tal Afar. A city Bush himself heralded as a model example of success in Iraq:

Tal Afar was an insurgent stronghold until U.S. and Iraqi troops drove them out in a September 2006 operation and constructed huge sand barriers around the city to limit access.

On March 20, 2006, U.S. President George W. Bush cited that operation, in which insurgents melted away into the countryside rather than fight, as an example that gave him ”confidence in our strategy.”

But Baghdad was erupting in violence then, so the U.S. troops left, and now concentrate on Baghdad–and as a result, the insurgents are back in strength in Tal Afar, killing civilians like they did in Baghdad. And when The Surge™ cools down or focuses on some other location, the insurgents will return in strength to Baghdad as well.

But don’t tell that to McCain: he’s prattling on about how safe things are in Baghdad. Well, John, not every citizen in Baghdad has a 100-troop escort while being covered by three helicopters and two gunships in the most heavily fortified marketplace in the country.

One thing is clear: McCain has no integrity left on Iraq. He’s nothing more than a laughable mouthpiece for the administration, tied to the hip with Bush in owning the Iraq “Surge” and just as desperately trying to justify it.

Really. To back up a claim that Baghdad was safe by doing what he did? It’s a media farce that every single reporter is not pointing out how incredibly stupid McCain looks.

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