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VP Cheney drops into Baghdad, notices considerable progress

It must be kinda crowded in Baghdad's Green Zone these days, what with lines of senators like John McCain and, unexpectedly today, Vice President Dick Cheney dropping in for a quick visit and, of course, a media availability.

At a news conference today, Cheney said: “I come away with a sense that there's been significant progress in the 10 months since I was last here, that we've made progress not only on the security front, but that they've made progress in governing, as well."

Marking the fifth anniversary of the U.S. led invasion of Iraq, President Bush will deliver a "war on terror" speech Wednesday at the Pentagon.

That, of course, was one of the targets of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, in a war with terrorism that the Bush administration maintains is playing out in Iraq today and almost certainly will play a key role in the upcoming general election campaign.

The vice president visited with military and embassy leaders in Baghdad, where he also met with leaders of the new Iraqi government -- and the traveling press.

"It's clear that there's still a number of major issues that need to be addressed that they are focused on as a government," Cheney said. "You can't help when you come here, after you've been here a few times over the years, and watched these events unfold, and focus on the fact this is the -- this week marks the fifth anniversary since we launched into Iraq in March of '03 – all that has transpired, not only in the last, what, 14 or 15 months since the surge decision by the president and Gen. Petraeus' arrival with his counterinsurgency strategy.

"It's been a remarkable turnaround in the overall security situation and the level of violence, both in terms of military and civilian casualties," Cheney said.

With barely 10 months left in office, does the Bush administration have a weaker hand in Baghdad than it did when Cheney last visited in May? "I don’t feel any loss of influence," Cheney responded. "if anything, the successes that we've demonstrated here have given us greater credibility than would have been the case if we hadn't had the surge and the progress of the last 12, 15 months."

--Mark Silva

Mark Silva writes for the Swamp of the Chicago Tribune's Washington Bureau.

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How he can see anything by being coddled in the green zone is beyond me. Real progress would be him going out for a tour with troops to speak with some locals. 5 YEARS in and still not much to report. I wonder if the 4000th American casualty will wake up the voters and say enough of these chicken hawks and their losing battles!

To label what we've been doing in Iraq as a "success" is a vile insult to the many Iraqis and Americans who have paid with their lives and their physical and psychological well-being to enrich Halliburton and other corporate bloodsuckers. But the most pernicious aspect of this trip to Iraq that doesn't get the attention it deserves is the arm-twisting that Cheney is engaging in to convince the Iraqis to sign over future oil development to Chevron, Shell, et al, and to make agreements that will tie the hands of any future presidents who might have notions of getting us out of Iraq any time in the near future.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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