Cheney Makes Surprise Trip to Iraq

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Vice President Cheney arrives in Baghdad for a previously unannounced visit. It comes as the Bush administration marks an apparent success in Iraq with a huge turnout for Thursday's parliamentary elections.


As Ron mentioned, Vice President Cheney paid a surprise visit to Iraq today. Cheney left Washington Saturday for a weeklong trip to the Middle East and south-central Asia. After a refueling stop in England, the vice president's plane stopped in Baghdad. NPR's David Greene is traveling with the vice president on Air Force Two.

DAVID GREENE reporting:

The vice president landed at Baghdad international airport and immediately boarded a pack of Blackhawk helicopters. There were guns mounted on the sides, heavy, heavy security. The ...(unintelligible) flew over the airport road that was once the site of some of the very deadly attacks in the beginning of the war, went into the heavily fortified Green Zone, had some meetings with the president and prime minister of Iraq, some military officials, right in US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad's house, which actually is an elegant home, and it used to be owned by Saddam Hussein's family.

And then the vice president went on to an air base where he saw some demonstrations that were supposed to give him a sense of how the training of Iraqi security officials has been going. It's a matter of debate, and one thing the president and vice president have been stressing is that the training is going well. It's one reason they think that they can start to think about pulling troops out of the country.

HANSEN: David Greene also told us that Cheney took only a few questions on the flight from Washington, and that the vice president did not talk about President Bush's authorizing the NSA to use wiretaps without warrants.

GREENE: It's interesting to think about the connection of the vice president's trip to the news back at home because, as you know, President Bush is giving a major Sunday evening address on Iraq. The vice president's aides say that this trip was coincidental. But there's no doubt right now that the White House, the president--trying very, very hard to blunt the criticism of his war policy and take advantage of the enthusiasm over the elections here to build some support back for the war, but some stories, like about the NSA wiretaps, seem to be getting in the way and making it more complicated for the White House.

HANSEN: Vice President Cheney is scheduled to fly to Oman later today. From Oman, he will make day trips to various places in the region. On Monday, Cheney flies to Kabul for the opening session of Afghanistan's new parliament. Later in the week, Cheney is expected to visit parts of earthquake-devastated Pakistan, and he will also make stops in Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

It's 18 minutes past the hour.

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