(updated below - with a must-read response from the grateful Iraqi rug seller who loves Rep. Mike Pence and the American occupation so very, very much)
I have remained steadily optimistic as a result of the inspiring reports of the great progress of our Glorious Surge, accompanied by the re-assuring vows that we are now on the Road to Sweet Victory. But I confess that I've been plagued by some nagging doubts, mostly due to the pessimistic media. Thankfully, all of those doubts were dispelled when, this morning, I read in The Washington Post these very comforting descriptions from Indiana Republican Rep. Mike Pence, one of the war supporters who joined John McCain on his relaxing stroll through a Baghdad market:
Another member of the delegation, Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), declared that it was "like a normal outdoor market in Indiana in the summertime."
On Pence's own site, he recounted all the great things he saw on his trip and assured us that "despite all you see and hear in the media" -- listen to Pence, not those news reports -- "let me also say, with conviction that we are making progress on the ground in Baghdad and Ramadi, and I believe there is reason for cautious optimism about the President's surge." And when he tried to buy a rug, this is what happened:
The merchant almost refused to take my money. He kept touching his heart and shaking his head no. His eyes, like so many others, radiated with affection and appreciation. He wanted to give me the rugs. I insisted that he accept my ten dollars and, happily, he relented.
Mike Pence wants you to know that he has "seen the impact of the surge firsthand," and in Baghdad, this is the Surge impact he saw firsthand: "lots of people, lots of booths and a friendly relaxed atmosphere."
On his site, Pence "describes himself as 'a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.'" He was supported for House Minority Leader in 2006 by the right-wing blogosphere and "movement conservatives," and he has great, great credibility on national security matters in general, and particularly when it comes to Iraq.
While some people have questioned the reliability of statements made by war supporters about the state of affairs in Iraq, Pence ought to be immune from such suspicion given his long history of being very candid and credible with what he has told the American people about what is going in Iraq:
Pence Press Release - May 20, 2004:
PENCE TAKES TO HOUSE FLOOR TO TALK ABOUT IRAQI WMDs FOR SECOND TIME IN A WEEK
Washington, D.C. -- U.S. Congressman Mike Pence spoke today on the House floor about the recent discovery of sarin gas in Iraq, marking the second time this week Pence has discussed WMDs in a floor speech. His comments follow:
"Despite the national media's best efforts to minimize the news, I am here to report, as the United States military confirmed in Iraq on Monday, weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq.
"They were found in the form of two separate artillery shells containing sarin and mustard gas, shells that had been used by insurgents to create roadside bombs. The 155 mm shell found last week included nearly a gallon of a deadly gas, a drop of which will kill a human being. . . .
'Where are the WMDs?' We've been asked that again and again. They are where they've always been: hidden in Iraq, within the reach of terrorists, a threat to the Iraqi people, U.S. soldiers and the world."
Pence: We are Winning the War in Iraq
Washington, D.C. -- Congressman Mike Pence gave the following speech today on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives:
"Despite what many Americans may have seen on cable television networks over the last several months, I learned again today in a meeting with the President of the United States, the Secretary of Defense, General Casey, [who is] the four-star general in charge of Iraq Freedom, we are winning the war in Iraq. . . .
The ongoing victory in Iraq was described by the President at a speech just one week ago at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. And like the meeting I attended at the White House today, I had the privilege of joining the President for that address.
We are winning in this cause. . . . I have been to Operation Iraqi Freedom three times, I have sat even today with the military commanders and the President of the United States and as we go into this weekend, let the word go forth from there: we are winning the war and winning the peace in Iraq.
PENCE HERALDS "PROGRESS IN IRAQ" ON HOUSE FLOOR
(Photo: Pence speaks on the House Floor)
Washington, D.C. -- Congressman Mike Pence said today during a speech on the House floor that yesterday's naming of top Iraqi governing officials marks significant progress for Iraq. His comments follow:
"Amidst the violence and struggle that always attends the transition between tyranny and liberty, we have progress in Iraq. . . .A quagmire, hardly."
On this June 30 that we commemorate this resolution, the U.S. will disengage, and the words of that Preamble [of the Iraqi Constitution] will begin to become the reality of a new free and democratic Iraq. And know this, Mr. Speaker, the people of Iraq are grateful.
As we stood in the midst of 30 or 40 men and women in al Basra, the day before we were in Baghdad, I will never forget -- people approaching me, tears in their eye, taking me by the hand -- and saying: "please, when you go home to America, tell the people you serve that we will never forget what the U.S. has done for the people in Iraq." The people I have met in Iraq have an undying gratitude, that will begin to express itself most eloquently in advance of freedom and democracy for themselves and their posterity.
Although Basra is the second largest city in Iraq, it has been relatively peaceful and secure since coalition forces liberated its people from Saddam Hussein in the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom. . . .
These attacks against Iraqis by Iraqi insurgents show how desperate the enemy has become.
It is actually difficult to fathom what historians are even going to be able to say when they compile the statements and representations of our country's political leaders over the past four years. It all reads like some caricatured cartoon of a country ruled by compulsive liars and two-bit cons -- like some college freshman's attempt to write a science fiction account of a country ruled by leaders who continuously manipulate the citizenry with the most unabashed, simplistic and transparent lies on the gravest of matters. And no matter how many times it is exposed, they just continue to remain in power, openly engaging in exactly the same behavior without any consequences.
There is nothing unique at all about Pence. He is merely illustrative. Virtually every person -- almost every last one of them -- who is running around now excitedly proclaiming that "The Surge is Working!", has a virtually identical, equally disgraceful record as Pence's. And yet they are still the ones driving our nation's conduct in Iraq and generally. (And, of course, fish rot from the head down -- From the Leader himself yesterday, whose credibility is roughly equal to Pence's: "The reinforcements we've sent to Baghdad are having a impact. They're making a difference").
Leave aside the well-documented deceit that induced Americans to support the invasion in the first place. These Surge cheerleaders -- the ones assuring us that things are finally now working and that we are compelled to let it work -- are the same exact people who have been telling Americans ever since the invasion began that things are going great, that we are winning, that claims to the contrary are simply the inventions of the lying, America-hating media, that they strolled through markets in Basra and met with grateful Iraqis in Baghdad who kissed their hands and assured them that everything was so, so very great now that Americans are Winning.
They have repeatedly proven themselves to be the most craven and dishonest propagandists, people completely unburdened by reality and truth. Virtually everything they have said about Iraq over the four years of our occupation (never mind prior to it) has been blatantly and knowingly false -- just look at what Pence has been saying. And this behavior has been as destructive as it is morally deranged -- we stayed in Iraq, continuing on our disastrous course, and even re-elected the War President precisely because the Mike Pence's constantly lied to the country by insisting that we were winning, that reports of violence and chaos were media lies, and that Glorious Victory was just around the corner.
And they're still doing exactly the same thing, while continuing to reside in the core of our country's political power, treated as though they are respectable and credible figures. Even though it's not some new realization, it is nonetheless just staggering every time one goes and looks at their actual history -- what they have done and said -- and ingests the extent to which our government is run by such blatantly dishonest and amoral buffoons exactly like Mike Pence. And they continue to get quoted on the front page of The Washington Post as someone whose assessment of the Great Progress in Iraq is worth hearing.
Strictly for journalistic accuracy, every article that quotes someone like Mike Pence claiming that things are improving in Iraq and the Glorious Surge is working ought to include a statement that informs readers that Pence has been making exactly the same claims for four years straight, and that he announced in 2004 that we found WMDs in Iraq. Passing along his claims without including those vital facts is misleading.
It may sound extreme, but it really is difficult to understand how someone like Pence (and there are swarms of them) can read their own history of completely cringe-inducing propaganda and outright lies which they have repeatedly spewed over the last four years and do anything other than voluntarily disappear from public life in shame. What honorable person would do anything else after reading something like this:
"'Where are the WMDs?' We've been asked that again and again. They are where they've always been: hidden in Iraq, within the reach of terrorists, a threat to the Iraqi people, U.S. soldiers and the world."
Any country that listens to people like that (as we do), and that continues to be influenced by the political faction to which they belong (as we are), cannot do anything but create deeper and more dangerous problems for itself.
UPDATE: I can't recall anything which so vividly demonstrates the sheer delusions governing our country more than the following episode. NPR went and interviewed the exact Baghdad rug salesman who refused to take Mike Pence's money, and he had a somewhat different understanding of that episode and its meaning than the one Pence conveyed, to put it mildy (h/t Thinga). From NPR's report -- audio here:
Across town is Shorja market, where a U.S. Congressional delegation, led by U.S. Sen. John McCain, visited on Sunday under extremely heavy security. People were blocked from entering the market while the lawmakers were there. Helicopters whirled overhead, and there were at least 100 soldiers accompanying the delegation.
Rep. Mike Pence was so impressed by the visit, though, he compared Shorja to a summer market in his home state of Indiaina: "One gentleman tried to refuse our money when we were purchasing rugs - he kept touching his heart - said thank you, no, no - I was deeply moved."
NPR went to Baghdad's Shorja market after the visit, and spoke with the carpet seller, Ahmed al Krudi: "I didn't accept the money. I said to myself, they must be guests, so I must give them a good impression of Iraqis. After all, we are occuped by these Americans, and they are accompanied by a lot of U.S. security."
Al Krudi says he is angry at the insurgents who bombed the market in February, killing dozens, but he doesn't like the American presence here either:
We are not against the resistance. We are with them. However, the resistance must fight the occupiers, not the Iraqi people. A huge number of U.S. forces came yesterday. Why didn't they shoot at them, instead of harming us?
Feel the gratitude. So inspiring. Winning hearts and minds. Freedom is on the march. The sprawling and truly disturbing gap between Mike Pence's delusions/claims and actual reality is, in essence, the black hole into which America's credibility and security have disappeared over the last six years.