I don't know which is more pathetic and embarrassing: the president's cowardly trip into the Green Zone in Baghdad, in which he didn't notify Iraq's prime minister of his "visit" until five minutes before the ostensible leader of Iraq was ushered in to meet the great Decider, or the fawning way the American media covered this farce.

The visit itself was hardly the bold stroke it was portrayed as. This was not a state visit by any standard. The president of the World's Last Remaining Superpower had to sneak into Iraq, not even notifying his own CIA of the trip for fear someone might tip off enemies in Iraq. When else has an American president visited another head of state without first notifying the head of state of his plans?

Apparently the White House is so worried about the reliability of the Iraqi government, from its chief of state on down, that it didn't dare to inform a single soul in that puppet regime in Baghdad of what was planned until it was a fait accompli. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had to be tricked into coming to the meeting with the president, presumably lest he alert the wrong people to Bush’s presence.

There was no state dinner, no 21-gun salute--well, I guess in a sense there were gun and bomb salutes going off all over Baghdad, some fired by the resistance, some fired by U.S. forces, and some fired by Iraqi puppet forces, all of which might in a sense be counted as "salutes to the president," but nobody was wearing color-guard uniforms for the occasion.

This was indeed a strange visit.

But the breathless coverage in the mainstream media has been as bizarre as the visit itself.

Apparently nobody in the corporate media has thought it strange and worth remarking on that the president had to sneak into Iraq in order to have a surprise meeting with the purported leader of the country.

In fact, if the president tried to sneak into any other country that had control over its own military, his plane would probably have been shot down as an intruder, or at least ordered to land at a designated airbase to be checked out. Not in Iraq, however, where the U.S. is the only country with planes in the air, and where decisions on who to shoot are made in Washington, not Baghdad.

What we really had here was a case of presidential grandstanding, akin to that famous posing on the flight deck of the Abraham Lincoln. That first time, it was to declare that "major combat" was over in Iraq. This time it was to declare that the leader of the Iraqi insurgency had been terminated with extreme prejudice.

We saw how hollow was the president's first claim.

The hollowness of this latest claim was amply demonstrated by the furtive way that Bush had to sneak in and out of Iraq, where armed resistance to the U.S. occupation continues unabated, and the internal civil war grows apace.

Somehow the vaunted Fourth Estate missed that, from their comfy offices in the Green Zone and their stage sets in the network newsrooms in New York.

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