by Allan Uthman
"I had an armed escort because, because that’s what General Petraeus thought we ought to have. I was glad to go outside of Baghdad and have over an hour opportunity to talk to the people that I talked to. Now, they are very different from the people that, that you are quoting here and others. They said, “I’m glad to see you. Things are better here. We have, we have seen improvement.” … I didn’t call for the kind of, quote, “protection” that was around me. But I am not afraid, and I’m glad to go any place that I can to talk to the people of Iraq and tell them of my commitment to see that they have a free, democratic government where they don’t have to face the bombs going off and the suicide bombers and the--and can start leading normal lives… And I’ll be glad to go back to that market with or without military protection and, and humvees, et cetera.
April Fool’s day, Baghdad:
Translator: Greetings, Senator McCain. I’m Sergeant Mosley and I’ll be your personal translator for this trip.
Senator John McCain: Wonderful! How are you today, Sergeant?
Translator: Just fine sir. Ready to take a walk?
McCain: Sure! It’s a great day. Hot, but no humidity. This bulletproof vest is a little stuffy though.
Translator: Yes, sir. Now, we’re going to be reaching the market shortly, and I’ll introduce you to some vendors.
McCain: Excuse me? I can’t hear you over the damn choppers! Private!
Soldier: Yes sir, Senator!
McCain: Tell those birdies to wave off a bit, will you? It’s too damn loud; the microphones won’t be able to pick up anything!
Soldier: Right away sir! (The soldier barks into a walkie talkie. The noise level drops gradually.)
McCain: That’s better. Let’s go shopping, gentlemen.
The group nears and enters an outdoor market, the vicinity of which has been thoroughly scanned for possible threats. Soldiers fan out throughout the area. Smiling, McCain approaches a rug seller.
McCain: Hiya partner, I’m John McCain from the United States of America. How’s business?
Translator: (in Arabic) This guy is an American senator. Smile and shake his hand or you’ll be killed.
Shopkeeper #1: (in Arabic) Wonderful. Can we make this quick? I’m trying to sell some rugs here, because your stupid war has made the money I had saved completely worthless, and I lost my job as an engineer. Generally. My life has gone to hell.
Translator: He says it’s an honor to meet you, sir.
McCain: Oh no, no, the honor is mine! So, would you say things here have improved since the recent upsurge in US troop strength?
Translator: (in Arabic) He wants to know if things have gotten better
Shopkeeper #1: (in Arabic) Haha! Oh, yes, everything’s just hunky dory! Thanks to you imperialist swine, I may survive long enough to die from radiation poisoning after you nuke Iran!
McCain: What’s that about Iran?
Translator: (in Arabic) He says things are getting better everyday, sir, but he’s concerned about Iranian interference in Iraq’s democratic development.
McCain: Ah, yes. Well, that’s a very serious concern, one I and the American people share with you. But my message to you is that we won’t give up, we’ll stand with you against the Iranians, so you needn’t worry.
Translator: (in Arabic) All right, that’s it. Just shake his hand again and say goodbye.
Shopkeeper #1: (in Arabic) Goodbye you dumb son of a bitch. May you die horribly.
Translator: (in Arabic) He says again what an honor it is to meet you.
McCain: Thank you. Gee, what a nice fellow!
Translator: Yes, sir. Let’s move on. This man is selling electronic appliances. (in Arabic) This man is an American senator. Smile and shake his hand or you’ll be killed.
McCain: Hi, I’m John McCain. How are things here?
Translator: (in Arabic) He wants to know how things are.
Shopkeeper #2: (in Arabic) Well, aside from the fact that my country and society have been destroyed, and two of my children have been killed, not so bad.
Translator: He says the security situation is improving steadily.
McCain: Wonderful! I’m so pleased to hear that.
Translator: (in Arabic) He says can the attitude or you’ll be detained indefinitely
Shopkeeper #2: (in Arabic) I speak English, asshole. Ask Senator McCain how much torture I have to endure before they make me a presidential candidate.
Translator: He says he hopes to run for office someday
McCain: Excellent! See, in America people think you guys aren’t ready for democracy. I’m already learning that’s not true.
Shopkeeper #2: That’s not what I said.
McCain: Oh, you speak English!
Translator: (in Arabic) Be cool and we’ll give you ten dollars. Insult him and die.
Shopkeeper #2: (in Arabic) Whatever. (in English) Good luck in the primaries. I hope your cancer doesn’t come back.
McCain: Thanks so much. Gosh, everyone’s so nice!
Translator: Sir, we have to keep moving.
A visibly enraged shopkeeper approaches.
Shopkeeper #3: (in Arabic) There he is! The war hero! Are you happy now, asshole? They killed my brother yesterday! Oh, thanks so much for saving us, you bastard! I love the remodeling you’ve done to my house! Rubble is so fashionable this year! By tomorrow, I will likely be murdered because you decided to come here. Thanks a bunch, shithead!
McCain: Well, this man seems very animated.
Translator: Yes, sir. He is upset about al Qaeda operatives stirring trouble in his country. He says they must be stopped.
McCain: I agree wholeheartedly with you, sir. And when I am president, I will redouble our efforts to defeat al Qaeda.
Translator: (in Arabic) Smile and shake his hand or you’ll be killed.
Shopkeeper #3: (in Arabic) So what? Today, tomorrow—what do I care?
Translator: (in Arabic) We’ll give you ten dollars.
Shopkeeper #3: (in Arabic) Fine. Whatever. You scum will burn for eternity.
Translator: He says thank you for standing with the Iraqi people.
McCain: Wow, this is a real eye-opener. All of my suspicions about this war are being confirmed. The media is presenting a much worse picture of the security situation than I see here.
Translator: Definitely, sir. Good news doesn’t sell papers.
McCain: Seems kind of silly to bring this entire company of marines with us, don’t you think? Maybe we should send them back.
Translator: Oh no, sir! They’re uh… they’re really excited to be on this detail. They’re so happy to be in your presence. It’s the highlight of their stay here. You’re an inspiration to them.
McCain: Wow. That just makes me swell with pride.
Indiana Representative Mike Pence: Hey McCain, man, you need to check out these bargains! These rugs are a friggin’ dollar a piece! And that guy’s got counterfeit DVDs for, like, 75 cents a pop! You oughta get in on this action, man! It reminds me of an Indiana open air market, except for the snipers and garbage.
McCain: No shit! Do they have Grindhouse? I’m dying to see that. We should come back here sometime by ourselves and do some real bargain-hunting!
Pence: Haha, yeah—wait. Are you serious?
McCain: Sure, why not?
Pence: What are you, McCain, soft in the head? We’d be kidnapped or dead in five minutes!
McCain: Pence, you’re obviously not listening to the people on the ground. That’s why we’re here. Take some time and talk to the people. You’ll see. Here, why don’t you borrow my translator for a while?
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