The delegation has engendered a hostile and bitter reception from the foreign and U.S. media. The general tone of the U.S.-based coverage has been dismissive to insulted. Video tape of the press conference shows an incredulous and perhaps even insulted press corp. After visiting Tikrit and Ramadi, McCain met with press and came under intense scrutiny by Baghdad-based media. Sounding weary and tired McCain and his entourage tried to paint a picture of Baghdad being safer than "before". The charade could only last so long. The American military decided to cut off transmission of a press conference when it appeared that McCain's "good news" nemesis Michael Ware raised his hand to ask a question.
TWO MONTHS AGO:
ONE MONTH AGO:
Sorry, you will have to watch 60 Minutes this Sunday.
It was clear to all assembled that the trip to Thieves Market in Shorja yesterday was a carefully orchestrated event by the U.S. military and Senator John McCain but many did not know it was specifically for CBS's 60 Minutes. Kirk Semple of the The New York Times went back a day later to discover that it was all a sham.
“They paralyzed the market when they came,” Mr. Faiyad said during an interview in his shop on Monday. “This was only for the media.”
Unlike the Utopian scene designed for the media, many of the merchants wanted to express their need for more security. As expected, the area the group visited was locked down, traffic diverted and access restricted. The NYTimes follow up correctly points out that the market has been bombed at least half a dozen times and residents do not feel the benefits of the surge.
"In recent weeks, snipers hidden in Shorja’s bazaar have killed several people, merchants and the police say, and gunfights have erupted between militants and the Iraqi security forces in the area."
The junket wore body armor and was surrounded by over 100 members of the armed forces. Sniper patrols bristled from surrounding rooftops, six helicopters flew overhead and the " diamond" instead of being 4 people was 30 deep. In a classic psyops move, the entrourage was told to take their helmets off and even General Petraeus put on a forage cap.
A very tired McCain stayed on message and other junket members were there to back him up. What the American public did not know is that McCain's primary purpose is to get location and interview footage for a 60 Minutes segment with Scott Pelley to be broadcast this Sunday.
Many reporters in Baghdad will admit that the surge is working...somewhat. There are fewer explosions, less shooting, but none have agreed with McCain's rosy assessment. Many like Ware, who were openly hostile to McCain's statements on CNN and other Baghdad based journos are writing scathing rebuttals to the Presidential candidate's optimistic viewpoint.
So whose version of Baghdad will win? The pessimistic cynical view of a hardened Baghdad press corps, or the "real picture" presented by John McCain to the American public on Sunday?