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February 17, 2007

Everyone Loves a Good Surprise

By Ankush

In the scheme of annoying things about the media, this may rank pretty low, but every time an American official makes an unannounced visit to Iraq, I go a little nuts.

The Times, the Post, and the LA Times all refer to Condoleezza Rice's trip to Baghdad today as a "surprise" visit, either in a headline, a homepage teaser, or a lead paragraph.  At various points some of these stories call the visit "unannounced," as does the AP. They then all go on to recount what she told to reporters -- pretty much nothing you haven't already heard many times before -- after her meeting with the Prime Minister.

That's all well and good, so far as it goes, and is technically accurate, but no one ever explicitly writes about why these visits are always a "surprise."  The problem, of course, is that four years after our invasion, a high-level American official still can't go into Iraq without worrying about an assassination.  The "surprises" are motivated, quite literally, by the fear of death

This holds true, ironically, even as Rice talks up what she says is the initial success of the new security plan.  (Did you know the plan is called "Enforcing the Law"?  That elemental objective tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the current state of affairs.)  The closest we get to some sort of acknowledgment of this fact is the AP's report, twenty-five paragraphs into its story, that "[a]t least two tracer or flares apparently were fired at a group of helicopters ferrying Rice's party into" Baghdad.

And who are these visits a "surprise" to, anyway?  I've always been curious about how far in advance the Iraqi government is even told about them. After all, they are our allies, right?  It's not like telling the government well in advance about an American official's visit -- and asking them to keep it secret -- could possibly expose the official to danger, is it?

In all seriousness, someone should aggressively report a story with a headline like this: "Concerns Over Assassination Result in Rice's 'Surprise' Visit."  That article is bound to be more interesting than anything you read about Rice's trip today.

February 17, 2007 | Permalink

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Posted by: judy | Sep 26, 2007 12:02:23 PM

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