On Monday March 17, in victorious celebration of the fifth anniversary of the "three-week cakewalk" attack he masterminded and cheered for, Vice President Cheney bravely visited the rubbled residue of what was once the thriving city of Baghdad.
The trip was made in secret, because advance announcement was thought to be "too dangerous". Reporters were ordered not to report Cheney's schedule or location until after his departure.
Cheney arrived via Britain's Mildenhall Royal Air Force Base, making the flight to Baghdad while safely encased within a heavily armored stainless steel Airstream executive travel trailer cabin securely strapped in the hold of a C-17 military cargo plane.
The specially constructed travel trailer was delivered to Al Anbar, or Baghdad International Airport. The ten-mile trip to the "heavily fortified" 4 square-mile Green Zone was made by military helicopter, with the fearless Cheney wearing a helmet and body armor. The flight was escorted by a large number of helicopter gunships. Additional gunships circled over downtown Baghdad.
Cheney spent almost all his time in Baghdad within the Green Zone, where he was briefed on "progress". However, on Monday evening, Cheney daringly ventured about one mile outside the Green Zone, for an extremely important meeting with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.
Cheney made that short trip in a convoy of armored Humvees with darkened windows. The convoy was protected by additional armored military vehicles, manned by gunners and equipped with bomb-detectors. Helicopter gunships circling overhead provided additional protection. Hundreds of heavily armed soldiers stood guard along streets that had previously been swept for explosive devices. Streets along the route were closed and protected by concrete barriers and rolls of concertina wire.
The reason for this dangerous foray outside the Green Zone? The current crude oil differential between the $1.50 per-barrel cost of production and the $117 per-barrel value on spot markets. Cheney made this dangerous expedition to urge Iraqi leaders to quickly approve a law that will allow American oil companies to take over Iraqi national resources for their private gain. As a result, Iraq will be stripped of the ability to pay the multi-billion dollar costs of reconstructing the destruction America inflicted and now refuses to pay to rebuild.
Cheney's presence was quickly followed by that of John McCain, whose trip was also undertaken in secret, for briefings on gains in security in the country.
Those "gains" were affirmed by comparisons with a similar trip by McCain a year earlier, when he purchased a rug in an open market near the Green Zone.
A year ago, news photographers took pics of McCain as he proclaimed by personal demonstration that Americans could "walk freely" around Baghdad.
Those photographers were ordered to only take close-up shots, so as not to show that McCain was protected by about 100 heavily armed American soldiers, three Blackhawk helicopters and two Apache gunships.
This year, McCain wasn't allowed to visit the market, because of "markedly deteriorated security conditions". The market is now controlled by Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi militia.
American-supported Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Miliki is similarly protected. While venturing to headquarters of the Dawa party, located one-half mile outside the Green Zone, Maliki customarily travels along streets cleared of all people by soldiers waving guns in the air. Maliki rides in one of six identical bullet-proof vehicles with blackened windows, protected fore and aft by American Humvees, all led by four black armored cars, each with three machine gunners projecting from roofs.
Similar security concerns affect operations at the American embassy in the Green Zone. But constructive solutions to lessen violence are not being sought. Instead, increased levels of protection against escalating levels of violence are being sought.
Embassy employees had been sleeping in trailers protected by walls of sandbags.
No more. That is now forbidden. Employees are now required to sleep in blast-resistant structures. All embassy personnel are required to remain under hard cover at all times, except for "mission essential" reasons. Outside activities undertaken for those essential reasons must be sharply limited in duration.
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