McCain to Obama: Could You Pick Up a Few Things for Me at The Baghdad Market?

07/27/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011


Listen, Barack, while you're at the market can you pick up a few things for me?

With Obama's visit to Iraq expected any day now, the Right is about to move into full belittlement mode.  They'll attempt to trivialize, satirize, and diminish whatever occurs on this trip.  So this is a good time to remember John McCain's last visit to Iraq, a visit that he now claims helped form his war policy. 

In case you missed it, this week the media reported heavily on the way McCain "mocked" Obama for laying out an
Iraq and Afghanistan policy before visiting the region - without reporting that McCain had also "laid out a policy" before his visit. __________________________________________________________________

And how did that visit go? That's the one where McCain claimed he was able to move freely around town, where one of his Republican colleagues claimed that the market was "just like Indiana," and Lindsay Graham bought a rug for $20 that street vendors said later was worth about a dollar.  (That's your GOP military procurement system for you.)

Remember those claims?  And how the truth came out eventually?  If not, here's a walk down memory lane:

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.

The market was shot up by snipers the next day, as a matter of fact, so it's a shame
McCain didn't leave that bulletproof vest behind for some innocent civilian to use. 

Somebody should ask McCain how that highly scripted visit, which eventually brought ridicule upon his campaign - and which cost the U.S. military a great deal of money and effort - helped define his current war policy. And whether it was representative of the way he plans to run the military.

Now McCain is claiming that "the surge" worked. But he and the President are also claiming "the surge" (a euphemism for increased troop levels) is over - despite the fact that the current deployment of 150,000 is 18,000 higher than it was before the surge was announced. (Question:  If an increase of 28,000 troops is a "surge," isn't a continued increase of 18,000 two-thirds of a surge?)

Actually, McCain and the President (sounds like a movie, doesn't it? Like "Smokey and the Bandit," but without that Burt Reynolds charisma ... I digress. Sorry.)

As I was saying, McCain and the President actually spent the week implementing Democratic policy initiatives in the Middle East - first by opening diplomatic talks with Iran, then by embracing troop increases in Afghanistan, and now by embracing timetables for troop withdrawal in an agreement with the Iraqi Prime Minister.

If you're going to follow Democratic policies, why not eliminate the middleman and elect a Democrat?

Oh, but wait.  About that agreement?  There's a loophole.  In fact, it's all loophole. What they agreed to turns out to be - and I quote - "a general time horizon for meeting aspirational goals." Man, who writes this stuff? If truth is the first casualty of war, language runs a close second. Let's try to do some decoding, but be warned: the experience may be hallucinogenic. 

First, what are "aspirational goals"? Well, the dictionary says that "aspirations" are "a strong desire to achieve something high or great," while a goal is "the end toward which effort is directed." So an "aspirational goal" is really just the "desire" to achieve an "end" - not a commitment to actually achieve it.

As for that "time horizon" thing, Merriam-Webster defines "horizon" as

1 a: the apparent junction of earth and sky b: the
great circle on the celestial sphere formed by the intersection of the
celestial sphere with a plane tangent to the earth's surface at an
observer's position c: range of perception or experience d: something that might be attained .

what's a "general time horizon"? As far as I can tell it's a non-specific time along a tangential intersection of planes and celestial spheres - or maybe just a perception or experience somebody had at some unspecified time. And with enough time anything is possible. If a million monkeys typed war plans for a million years ... you get the idea.

While you're at the market, Barack, could you pick me up a copy of Huxley's "Doors of Perception?"

Meanwhile McCain bragged this week that "I know how to win wars." But which wars would those be? America's only clear military victory of his lifetime was the first Gulf War, and he was preoccupied at the time with the Keating Five scandal.


So, has the "surge" accomplished anything? Well ... If all we can agree upon are "aspirational goals" along a protracted "time horizon," then no. Violence is down, and some of that is the temporary result of using U.S. troops as an internal Iraqi police force - which means as long as we're willing to continue standing between warring Iraqi factions, with no limit on time, expense, or human sacrifice, then of course we can continue to have some effect.

But much of the reduction in violence is the result of ethnic cleansing.  At what human cost? There  are 2.8 million internal refugees and millions more leaving the country:

Women and children have been hit especially hard in Iraq's refugee crisis, often forced to beg and in some cases turn to prostitution to provide for their families because so many men have been killed, a report said Friday.

If you kill the men, and then separate their families by force, there will be less fighting.

So ... mission accomplished ... I guess.

The media has failed to ask why McCain is "mocking" anybody in this horrific situation.  And he and his right-wing supporters will only redouble the "mockery" as Obama moves through the region.  They should be asking Obama to pick up a few things at the market for them instead ... like their next two or three military initiatives, to follow up on the last bunch they lifted from him.

Why should they get away with it? This situation is the direct result of foolish and sloppy policies that McCain has enthusiastically endorsed from the start - an act for which he shows neither remorse nor comprehension.

It's sad. John McCain used to be an admirable guy. I liked him, even if I didn't agree with him. But now he's cozying up to the extreme right, abandoning veterans on key issues like this one, and clinging stubbornly to a failed and lethal war policy.

It looks like the only war he knows how to win is the one with his own conscience.

RJ Eskow blogs: