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Baghdad Hilton

Flack-Jacket Stroll
Merchants of Baghdad Don't Vote McCain

Difficult to say whose intelligence John McCain insulted more with his Sunday "stroll" through a Baghdad market, that of his intended American audience of admittedly naive voters, or that of his unintended audience of Baghdadis, those people he used as props to his delusions, as Bush has. He's using them again now as proof, to him, that not only Americans don't know what they're saying about the state of things in Iraq, but Iraqis themselves don;t know what they're saying. To McCain, they're happy, secure and making progress. The reality is different. From the Times:

A day after members of an American Congressional delegation led by Senator John McCain pointed to their brief visit to Baghdad’s central market as evidence that the new security plan for the city was working, the merchants there were incredulous about the Americans’ conclusions.“What are they talking about?” Ali Jassim Faiyad, the owner of an electrical appliances shop in the market, said Monday. “The security procedures were abnormal!” The 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. “They paralyzed the market when they came,” Mr. Faiyad said during an interview in his shop on Monday. “This was only for the media.” He added, “This will not change anything.” At a news conference shortly after their outing, Mr. McCain, an Arizona Republican, and his three Congressional colleagues described Shorja as a safe, bustling place full of hopeful and warmly welcoming Iraqis — “like a normal outdoor market in Indiana in the summertime,” offered Representative Mike Pence, an Indiana Republican who was a member of the delegation. But the market that the congressmen said they saw is fundamentally different from the market Iraqis know.

Merchants and customers say that a campaign by insurgents to attack Baghdad’s markets has put many shop owners out of business and forced radical changes in the way people shop. Shorja, the city’s oldest and largest market, set in a sprawling labyrinth of narrow streets and alleyways, has been bombed at least a half-dozen times since last summer. At least 61 people were killed and many more wounded in a three-pronged attack there on Feb. 12 involving two vehicle bombs and a roadside bomb. American and Iraqi security forces have tried to protect Shorja and other markets against car bombs by restricting vehicular traffic in some shopping areas and erecting blast walls around the markets’ perimeters. But those measures, while making the markets safer, have not made them safe. [...] 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. [...] Ali Youssef, 39, who sells glassware from a sidewalk stand down the block from Mr. Kadhoury, recalled: “Everybody complained to them. We told them we were harmed.” He and other merchants used to keep their shops open until dusk, but with the dropoff in customers as a result of the attacks, and a nightly curfew, most shop owners close their businesses in the early afternoon. “This area here is very dangerous,” continued Mr. Youssef, who lost his shop in the February attack. “They cannot secure it.” Mr. McCain was asked about a comment he made on a radio program in which he said that he could walk freely through certain areas of Baghdad. “I just came from one,” he replied sharply. “Things are better and there are encouraging signs.” He added, “Never have I been able to go out into the city as I was today.” A Senate spokeswoman for Mr. McCain said he left Iraq on Monday and was unavailable for comment because he was traveling.

And how long will it be before insurgents target Shorja market? Place your bets, if you're in a frame of mind as morbidly detached from reality as John McCain. In any case the old Senator from Arizona is virtually as out of the presidential race as he's been out of his mind. Here's the latest from the money markets:

Senator John McCain, the Arizona lawmaker once considered the front-runner, brought in $12.5 million, his campaign said. It was an unexpected shortfall that could hamper his momentum, and his campaign acknowledged disappointment. Former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani’s campaign said it had raised about $15 million. Both of those figures would have set records in previous years, but on Monday, they were dwarfed by the money raised by Mr. Romney and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, who brought in $26 million.

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