So much of this country's experience of Iraq -- and I mean the experience of those of us who've watched the carnage at a great distance -- has been the widening, agonizing, often comical but always awful gap between what we are told about what's happening in Iraq and the overpowering reality of what we can see, read and hear about it. A few quotes capture the disjuncture -- Dick Cheney's line about the insurgency in its "last throes". Perhaps, in retrospect at least, the president's Mission Accomplished stunt. Actually, for the best evidence that none of this is real and that we're all just characters on the pages of a tragicomic novel, you need look no further than the fact that our new public culture of cartoonish flimflam was prefigured in the words of the neo-jingoistically named 'Baghdad Bob' at the start of the story.Update
And here I think we have it. The aging war hawk, proving that security is returning to Baghdad by walking into a market encased in body armor, surrounded by rooftop sharpshooters and enveloped in a shield of a hundred soldiers, helicopters (Blackhawks), helicopter gunships (Apaches) and all after another group of soldiers went in for a pre-jaunt security sweep which, in the words of Larry Johnson, "searched for explosives, sent informants into the crowd, set up a perimeter, and secured the area before the Senators showed up with their 100 armed guards."
It's an iconic moment, like but much more than the Dukakis image, since its ridiculousness can be come at again and again. And from so many angles. Here, for instance, Times reporters go back to talk to the merchants on hand for McCain's dog and pony show, who promptly dump on the senator's malarkey. When asked about the senators' claims that their jaunt showed that security was returning to Baghdad, appliance shop ower Ali Jassim Faiyad said, "“What are they talking about? The security procedures were abnormal!”
Politicians can be wrong and successful. But what no politician can handle or sustain is to be ridiculous. And isn't that what we have here? And especially from someone who, at least some seasons ago, some of us had learned to expect so much more from.
Via Juan Cole James Hider reports that it was just another day in John McCain's Mesopotamian paradise as 21 Shia market workers were ambushed, bound and shot dead north of the capital.
The victims came from the Baghdad market 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.