Friday, October 06, 2006

Courageous, Optimistic Words From Deep Within the Green Zone

Condi Rice's lips flapped and the following words came out:

"It is a quite critical time for the Iraqi government," Ms. Rice said of the reasons for her brief unannounced visit to the Iraqi capital.

"What the American people see on their television screens is the struggle," she said. "It is harder to show the political process that is going on at local levels, at provincial levels and indeed at the national level." Iraqis, she said, are "making progress."

Clearly, Rice is not willing to experience "the struggle" herself or risk being anywhere near it.

Traveling from Israel on Thursday morning, Ms. Rice had to abandon her comfortable official jet at an American air base in Turkey and to board a C-17A cargo plane equipped with antimissile technology for the final, 90-minute leg into Baghdad; that procedure has become routine for all high-ranking Bush administration officials visiting Iraq.

From the airport in Baghdad, Ms. Rice flew by military helicopter to the heavily fortified American-controlled Green Zone, bypassing the dangerous, explosives-strewn airport highway into the city.

Reporters traveling with her were told of the Baghdad trip only hours before departure and were instructed not to share details with anyone, including their editors and families, until she had arrived safely. They were barred from reporting how long she would stay in Iraq until after she had left the country.

Even after reaching Iraq safely, Condi still felt a bit shaky about "the struggle": she touted the "new signs of progress in Iraq" while wearing a helmet and flak jacket, and surrounded by a phalanx of bodyguards bristling with machine guns "to defend aganst insurgents."

Ms. Rice said she was in Iraq to offer support to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and to urge him to move faster to settle political differences that are seen as having prevented actions to curb the insurgents' violence.

Ms. Rice met twice with Mr. Maliki on Thursday and praised him for his "excellent leadership of Iraq."

Perhaps we will be able to give such praise more credence when Mr. Maliki and other members of Iraq's government actually lead Iraq from outside the Green Zone. Just as we might start to believe the U.S. Secretary of State when she says that Iraqis are "making progress" if she had enough faith in that progress to talk about it from the streets of Baghdad and not from deep inside the Green Zone, where ordinary Iraqis -- alas -- do not have the luxury or the privilege of going to escape the insurgents and the death squads.

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