I wrote earlier about how folks were piling on Sen. John McCain for his ridiculous photo op/stunt that was intended to deliver the message: "Look! I'm walking through a market in Baghdad with 100 armed guards and multiple helicopters! This place is safe and my credibility is intact!" No, senator, it isn't, and this might be the moment when everyone realizes that your support for the war isn't grounded in reality and your deep personal convictions, but instead in denial, desperation, and a near-complete disconnect from the truth on the ground. (That's not the sort of statement you want bloggers making just as it's revealed that your presidential campaign is struggling to raise cash. Bad week for Senator Straight Talk.) (Second parenthetical: For an example of how rough McCain's treatment in the media has been recently, see this post.)
Well, things are getting worse for McCain. The New York Times went to the merchants who keep shop in the market McCain visited and told them about what the senator was telling the world about his visit. They were, to put it mildly, a bit taken aback.
"What are they talking about?" Ali Jassim Faiyad, the owner of an electrical appliances shop in the market... "This was only for the media... This will not change anything."
During their visit on Sunday, the Americans were buttonholed by merchants and customers who wanted to talk about how unsafe they felt and the urgent need for more security in the markets and throughout the city, witnesses said.
"They asked about our conditions, and we told them the situation was bad," said Aboud Sharif Kadhoury, 63, who peddles prayer rugs at a sidewalk stand.... Mr. Kadhoury said he lost more than $2,000 worth of merchandise in the triple bombing in February. "I was hit in the head and back with shrapnel," he recalled.
The Times also added some details about the security entourage McCain had with him during his visit (damned liberal media!):
[McCain's] delegation arrived at the market, which is called Shorja, on Sunday with more than 100 soldiers in armored Humvees the equivalent of an entire company and attack helicopters circled overhead, a senior American military official in Baghdad said. The soldiers redirected traffic from the area and restricted access to the Americans, witnesses said, and sharpshooters were posted on the roofs. The congressmen wore bulletproof vests throughout their hourlong visit.
In recent weeks, the market has seen suicide bombings, car bombings, and sniper attacks. Most of the victims have been women and children. A merchant who goes by Abu Samer said of McCain, "He is just using this visit for publicity. He is just using it for himself. They'll just take a photo of him at our market and they will just show it in the United States. He will win in America and we will have nothing." Don't worry, Abu. That's looking less and less likely these days.
Read the whole article, and more quotes from flabbergasted Iraqis, here.