Welcome to your war, Madame Secretary

Condoleezza Rice make a surprise trip to Baghdad

Published October 6, 2006 4:02PM (EDT)

We're not sure what the White House thought it would accomplish by air-dropping Condoleezza Rice into Iraq Thursday. Between Foleygate and a flurry of school shootings, the secretary of state's visit didn't exactly commandeer the airwaves. And if people back home actually paid any attention to what Rice was doing in Baghdad, they wouldn't have been much impressed by what they saw.

As the New York Times reports, conditions in Baghad are so dangerous that Rice -- usually the very picture of modern fashion as she touches down in foreign capitals -- was forced to arrive in Iraq "wearing a helmet and a flak jacket and flanked by machine-gun-toting bodyguards to defend against insurgents."

That's once she got there. As the Times reports, the secretary couldn't just fly into Baghdad on her State Department jet and take the customary Town Car ride on her rounds. Instead, Rice had to fly to Turkey, where she ditched her usual plane for a C-17A equipped with antimissile technology. Even that wasn't enough, however. As the military transport plane approached Baghdad, pilots were forced to circle high for about 40 minutes because rocket or mortar fire was coming from somewhere around the airport.

Once Rice finally touched down, the military shuffled her into a helicopter for the short trip to the Green Zone; the highway from the airport is still too dangerous for travel.

Things didn't get much better as the day went on. Iraqi officials said that at least 35 people were killed or found dead around the country Thursday; 27 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq so far this week. While Rice didn't come face-to-face with any of that violence, she did get one small glimpse of what life is like in Baghdad now: The lights went out in the midst of Rice's meeting with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani -- "a reminder," the Times says, that Baghdad's electrical service is "erratic and sometimes nonexistent."

Rice finally left Baghdad today, but two hours later than she'd expected. The State Department says the military transport that was to fly her out had mechanical problems, and Rice had to wait for a new plane to be brought in. The delay meant Rice was late to arrive in London today for six-nation talks on the Iran situation.

All things considered, maybe it was just as well.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

MORE FROM Tim Grieve

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Iraq Iraq War Middle East War Room