McCain, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, was combative during a press conference in the military's media center in the heavily guarded Green Zone, and responded testily to a question about remarks he had made in the United States last week that it was safe to walk some Baghdad streets.
"The American people are not getting the full picture of what's happening here. 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 which are performing well, and other signs of progress having been made," said McCain, of Arizona.
He said the Republican congressional delegation he led to Iraq drove from Baghdad's airport to the center of the city, citing that as proof that security was improving in the capital. Prominent visitors normally make the trip by helicopter.
The delegation was accompanied by heavily armed U.S. troops when they were not in the Green Zone, site of the U.S. Embassy and Iraqi government. They traveled in armored military vehicles under heavy guard.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, criticized congressional Democrats who passed spending legislation that would set deadlines for pulling U.S. forces out of Iraq. He said President Bush would veto the measures and should.
"It will be a huge mistake to set a deadline. It (the U.S. troop surge) is working. We are doing now what we should have done three years ago. The Iraqi people want their own destiny but they don't have the capabilities yet," he said.
The delegation, which also included Rep. Mike Pence, a Republican from Indiana, and Rep. Rick Renzi, an Arizona Republican, spoke glowingly of an hour they spent in the Bab al-Sharqi market which was hit by a suicide bomber on Jan. 22. At least 88 people died in the attack.
The congressmen said they were impressed with the resilience and warmth of the Iraqi people, some of whom they said would not take their money for souvenirs the delegation bought.