Does the flak jacket match the drapes?
Condi admits, it’s getting better.
Wearing a helmet and a flak jacket and flanked by machine-gun-toting bodyguards to defend against insurgents, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice came here Thursday, insisting that there were new signs of progress in Iraq and that the Bush administration had never sugarcoated its news about the American occupation.
Yet signs of progress were not much in evidence in the first hours of her visit.
It began inauspiciously when the military transport plane that brought her to Baghdad was forced to circle the city for about 40 minutes because of what a State Department spokesman later said was either mortar fire or rockets at the airport.
On Thursday evening, during her meeting with President Jalal Talabani, the lights went out, forcing Rice to continue the discussion in the dark. It was a reminder of the city’s erratic — and sometimes nonexistent — electrical service.
She arrived in the midst of an especially bloody few days for American troops. At least 21 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq since Saturday, most in Baghdad. Two car bombings in the city Thursday left at least four Iraqi civilians dead.
Traveling from Israel on Thursday morning, Rice had to abandon her comfortable official jet at an American air base in Turkey and board a C-17A cargo plane equipped with anti-missile 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, Rice flew by military helicopter to the heavily fortified American-controlled Green Zone, bypassing the dangerous, explosives-strewn airport highway into the city.
On Thursday, Sen. John Warner, R-Va., the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, offered a stark assessment of the situation in Iraq after a trip there this week. He told reporters that parts of the country have taken “steps backward” and that the United States is at risk of losing the campaign to control an increasingly violent Baghdad.
Warner said the Iraqi government is incapable of providing even basic human necessities to people in certain areas of the country. Echoing the sentiments of several leading Democrats on his committee, Warner said he believes the United States may have to re-evaluate its approach in Iraq if the situation does not improve dramatically over the next several months.