A Stroll In Baghdad

Last week John McCain launched a press offensive to declare that things were improving in Iraq. He told Bill Bennet on his radio show, that…

McCain In Iraq“there are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk through those neighborhoods today.”

Despite the charm of a romantic outing with John and Bill, hand in hand, strolling the palm-lined avenues of Sadr City, I don’t think that even a high-stakes gambler like Bennet would take that risk. McCain himself was unprepared to do so when, a few days after his rosy remarks, he showed up in Baghdad wearing a Kevlar vest, with an entourage of 100 soldiers, three Blackhawk helicopters, and two Apache gunships. That would make me feel a little safer as well.

McCain repeated his assertions of tranquility on CNN admonishing Wolf Blitzer to “catch up,” and added that even General Petraeus tooled around the city in an unarmored Humvee (which Petraeus’ staff denied when they finished laughing).

CNN’s correspondent in Iraq, Michael Ware, was struck by the absurdity of McCain’s comments. Drawing on his experience of four years in Iraq, Ware pointed out the obvious: that the streets of Baghdad are still dangerous for anyone, especially an American. He added:

“I don’t know what part of Neverland Senator McCain is talking about when he says we can go strolling in Baghdad.”

Well, now he’s done it. Ware’s insistence on reporting accurately has now set off a torrent of hostility from the right wing echo chamber. Their leader, Matt Drudge, led things off by reporting that Ware had “heckled” Sens. McCain and Lindsay Graham in a press conference. Drudge’s unnamed “official” called Ware’s conduct “outrageous,” saying…

“here you have two United States Senators in Bagdad [sic] giving first-hand reports while Ware is laughing and mocking their comments. I’ve never witnessed such disrespect. This guy is an activist not a reporter.”

The only problem with that report is that Ware denies that he heckled anyone and, in fact, didn’t even ask a question at the event. Video obtained by Raw Story confirms that there was no heckling by Ware or anybody else. So if Ware was telling the truth, who is the lying “official” that was cited by Drudge? Or is Drudge the liar? That scenario wouldn’t require much imagination.

It is disturbing enough that McCain is trying to mislead the American people with fantasies of an Iraqi vacation paradise. But he is doing so at a time when, contrary to his assertions of progress, things are actually getting worse. There were more killings in Iraq in March than in February, when the escalation began. And the number of American soldiers killed was the tenth highest since the war started in 2003. But this doesn’t stop McCain and his media enablers from lying and slandering honest reporters.

I’m actually a little surprised at the impatience of the attack dogs on the right. Had they listened a little longer to Ware’s conversation with Blitzer, they would have heard him say this about the relationship between violence in Iraq and politics in Washington:

“Do you think anyone enduring that is paying attention to artificial deadlines that are going to get vetoed by the president? And even if they were to pass through the legislative process, would only serve al Qaeda and Iran, America’s enemies? No. People are focusing on the near game.”

Ware is characterizing the legislative timetables advocated by Democrats as artificial and advantageous to Al Qaeda. That’s a perspective that’s shared by the pro-war right and you would think they would appreciate it. But they’ve developed a strain of ideological blindness so severe that it causes them to beat up on anyone who points out the cracks in their false accounts of a successful “surge” – even their allies.