Reporting on a recent visit to Baghdad by Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-SC) and Reps. Mike Pence (R-IN) and Rick Renzi (R-AZ), an April 2 online article from The Hill uncritically quoted McCain's claim during a press conference following the lawmakers' visit to Baghdad's Shorja market that Americans "are not getting the full picture of what is happening here." The article further quoted Graham saying that there are "signs of progress" in Iraq and that "it would be a huge mistake to set a deadline" to withdraw U.S. troops. Although McCain cited his trip to the market as evidence of the improved situation, the article did not report the security measures that made it possible for the members of Congress to stroll through the market, located outside the Green Zone. In fact, McCain and Graham reportedly traveled to the market in armored military vehicles while under heavy guard by more than 100 U.S. troops and five helicopters.
The April 2 Hill article reported, in full:
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Monday in Baghdad that Americans "are not getting the full picture of what is happening here."
McCain, a presidential contender who is visiting Iraq with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Reps. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) and Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.), argued that Americans are unaware of the drop in the murders, the deployment of more Iraqi troops and other positive developments.
However, McCain cautioned that the road ahead would be difficult.
"But I am not saying, 'Mission accomplished,' 'last throes,' 'dead-enders,' any of that," the senator said. "It's long and it's hard and it's very, very difficult -- a very, very difficult task ahead of us."
The other lawmakers also cited progress in Iraq.
"I think you see four people here who believe, more now than ever it would be a huge mistake to set a deadline," Graham said. "Because it is working. There are signs of progress. We're doing now what we should have done three years ago. And if you set a deadline now, it will undercut everything positive that's going on."
Graham added that Iraqi officials and every soldier to whom he spoke agreed with his assessment.
The Associated Press reported on April 1 that the Republican delegation to the Shorja market "was accompanied by heavily armed U.S. troops" and that "[t]hey traveled in armored military vehicles under heavy guard." Similarly, as the weblog Think Progress noted, on the April 1 edition of NBC's Nightly News, NBC News correspondent Tom Aspell reported McCain's response to a question about his previous statement that he "could walk through" neighborhoods in Baghdad today: "Yeah, I just came from one." Aspell then reported that McCain was heavily guarded during the trip to which he was apparently referring:
ASPELL: In Baghdad today, Senator John McCain said the American people were not getting an accurate view of what's happening here.
McCAIN: They're not getting the full picture of the drop in murders, the establishment of security outposts throughout the city, the situation in Anbar Province, the deployment of additional Iraqi brigades who are performing well.
ASPELL: McCain fielded a question about a statement he'd made last week.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You said there are areas in Baghdad that you can walk around freely.
McCAIN: Yeah, I just came from one.
ASPELL: He and his delegation had just spent an hour walking around an open-air market. The U.S. military, which provided stills pictures, told NBC News the market was a three-minute drive directly across the Tigris River from the Green Zone and that McCain's delegation was guarded by more than 100 American soldiers with three Black Hawk helicopters and two Apache gunships overhead.
Other articles published after The Hill article have reported that local merchants disagreed with McCain's comments, with one labeling his visit to the market "propaganda." Reuters reported that snipers returned to the market area one day after the delegation's visit.