Sunday, April 01, 2007

More news from Iraq: Me, the Light Brigade & John McCain

Good grief! Iraq is just BRIMMING with news. I don't even know where to begin. At 4 am this morning, a huge armored vehicle moved us from the Baghdad airport to the Green Zone in a convoy composed of vehicles that looked like they had just came out of a Toys R Us catalog.

Nobody in Iraq seems to need sleep. Not even me. But they don't go without food. Did you know that the average American soldier in Iraq gains 26 pounds -- while the average insurgent lives on rice and beans? If that doesn't give our troops an edge here, then what will? If we are now entering the fourth year of this war and it still is bogged down even despite our tremendous Cheesecake advantage, the Bush guys are in big trouble. But I digress.

I've been here in Iraq for three days and this is the first day I have even seen -- let alone talked to -- an Iraqi. So I started at the top and interviewed an Iraqi general. His basic message seems to be that the Iraqi army now has about 25 new ways to kill people and/or make them go to their rooms. "We have more troops, more joint security stations, more ammunition, more tips from informants, more security...." Then his translator went on and on about how the Iraqi army is eliminating tourists. Tourists? Oh, he meant TERRORISTS. My bad.

Then I spoke with an American admiral who stated, "The people of Iraq need to be able to walk to the local coffee shop safely." By this does he mean that after four whole years of occupation, people still can't walk safely to the coffee shop -- or does he mean that what Iraq needs today is more Starbucks? I'm confused.

After that, you will never guess what happened next! I got to interview John McCain! Seriously. He was here. Right here in the press room. Which is fifty feet down the corridor and around the corner from the cot where I had dumped off all my stuff this morning and is now my new home. Senator McCain, Senator Graham, Rep. Pence and Rep. Renzi had put together what appeared to be the 2007 GOP Hype-the-War Tour. "Do you think that they will give us souvenir T-shirts of the tour," I asked some guy from CNN. Probably not.

Anyway, Sen. McCain and his backup singers were here and even though I don't agree with them, I was glad that they came. It takes courage to come to Iraq.

"Our new strategy is making progress," said McCain.

"We are doing things differently," said Sen. Graham. "We cannot let suicide bombers set the pace. If we talk about leaving and losing, the car bombers win." Then Graham talked about how the four of them went down to the Baghdad market today and it was perfectly safe. "We bargained and bought rugs."

Pence agreed about the safety of the market. Later, however, he added that they did have to travel there in Humvees and be escorted by soldiers and wear body armor -- but other than that...

Later I talked with an Iraqi reporter who said that the market they went to was the safest in the city and several American reporters added that walking around in Baghdad without troops backing you up was suicidal and anyone who did something like that had a death wish.

Renzi then stated that, "We will not turn our backs on the Iraqi people," and the other Dream Boys agreed. And apparently if the bill to end the war makes it through Congress, Bush will veto it. "The President [sic] will veto any bill that will cut the legs out from under the military," added Graham.

So far, the group had talked a lot about how to make the "war" policy regarding Iraq succeed, but none of them talked about the elephant in the living room -- that the policy itself is fatally flawed. But I did! Shut up, Jane.

Yes, even with all those Senators and reporters and everything there I still had to have my say. So. Exactly what DID I say to John McCain? Sorry but you're gonna have to die of suspense a little bit longer. Someone just brought me some food!

Fried chicken, meatloaf, honeyed carrots, mashed potatoes, green beans and cookies! Giant chocolate chip cookies, macadamia nut cookies, peanut butter cookies, chocolate fudge cookies. Hey! You forgot the cheesecake.

So. What did I say to Sen. McCain? I gave him my famous "Light Brigade" speech. "I have been so completely impressed," I began, "by the quality, training, competence and skill of our troops here. They represent yet another generation in a long line of competent and capable Americans." McCain smiled and nodded his head, thinking I had finished my speech. Not.

"But," I continued, just getting warmed up, "our troops are also like the heroes of Lord Tennyson's poem, 'The Charge of the Light Brigade.' They are fighting bravely and well in a situation caused by a blunder. So why should we senselessly continue to put our troops in harm's way for a mistake?" Or in order to appease some greedy, immature Lord Nelson wannabe. It doesn't make sense to destroy a whole generation of American soldiers just to support Bush and Cheney.

Then I got down to the heart of my question. Giving McCain that special look that us moms usually reserve for recalcitrant children, I said, "And after this terrible blunder in Iraq, are you then going to go ahead and make that same horrible mistake in Iran?"

McCain's answer was brief. "No comment."