Yesterday, Senator McCain took issue with Wolf Blitzer’s statement that “everything we hear, that if you leave the so-called green zone, the international zone, and you go outside of that secure area, relatively speaking, you’re in trouble if you’re an American.” Here’s McCain’s response:
MCCAIN: You know, that’s why you ought to catch up on things, Wolf.
General Petraeus goes out there almost every day in an unarmed Humvee. You want to – I think you ought to catch up. You see, you are giving the old line of three months ago. I understand it. We certainly don’t get it through the filter of some of the media.
But I know for a fact of much of the success we’re experiencing, including the ability of Americans in many parts – not all. We’ve got a long, long way to go. We’ve only got two of the five brigades there – to go into some neighborhoods in Baghdad in a secure fashion.
Then Michael Ware, a reporter who has been in Iraq for years, came in for a later segment, and challenged Senator McCain’s claim:
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I’d certainly like to bring Senator McCain up to speed, if he ever gives me the opportunity. And if I have any difficulty hearing you right now, Wolf, that’s because of the helicopter circling overhead and the gun battle that is blazing just a few blocks down the road.
Is Baghdad any safer?
Sectarian violence – one particular type of violence – is down. But none of the American generals here on the ground have anything like Senator McCain’s confidence.
I mean, Senator McCain’s credibility now on Iraq, which has been so solid to this point, has now been left out hanging to dry.
To suggest that there’s any neighborhood in this city where an American can walk freely is beyond ludicrous. I’d love Senator McCain to tell me where that neighborhood is and he and I can go for a stroll.
And to think that General David Petraeus travels this city in an unarmed Humvee. I mean in the hour since Senator McCain has said this, I’ve spoken to some military sources and there was laughter down the line. I mean, certainly, the general travels in a Humvee. There’s multiple Humvees around it, heavily armed. There’s attack helicopters, predator drones, sniper teams, all sorts of layers of protection.
So, no, Senator McCain is way off base on this one – Wolf.
Predictably, right-wing blogs and radio programs went into a tizzy that Ware, a man who has, after all, only been on the ground in Iraq for four years, would have the temerity to challenge Senator McCain. Fortunately, the Washington Post has posted retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey’s paper for the U.S. Military Academy (.pdf) on its website today. Perhaps it can help clarify the situation?
No Iraqi government official, coalition soldier, diplomat, reporter, foreign NGO, nor contractor can walk the streets of Baghdad, nor Mosul, nor Kirkuk, nor Basra, nor Tikrit, nor Najaf, nor Ramadi—without heavily armed protection.
It seems Senator McCain either a) doesn’t know what he’s talking about, or b) is not telling the truth. In either case, continuing cause for alarm from a man who wants to be president.