Secretary of State Powell made a surprise appearance in Baghdad today (photos are posted here). As he entered the room, a member of the Iraqi media rose to request a moment of silence for two Iraqi reporters killed yesterday. He then denounced the killings, called for an investigation, and led a large group of the Iraqi press out of the room in protest for what he called the murder of the press by Americans.
Powell suggested that the terrorists were responsible for these and other deaths, although in Q&A he admitted that he was not familiar with all the details, and that the event was under investigation. He began with the point that the press have new freedoms, and can walk out of the room or express their protest now--things they could not have done under Saddam Hussein. His prepared comments were short, emphasizing the progress that had been made in the last year, and offering the assurance that "America will not shrink from this task."
When asked a question by the Iraqi press about American bases after the June 30th transition, Powell stated that "[a] smaller size force than is currently here will be here after July 1." He also suggested that there were currently no plans for a permanent base in Iraq.
Then there was a question from Peter Jennings. Let me begin by noting that his hair appears to be a really bad dye job in peson. He asked a meandering question about a lack of support by America’s allies. He then asked for a comment from Powell to the French foreign minister’s statement to the effect that there was no terrorism in Iraq before the war, and that "the war in Iraq has not led to a more stable world." I thought it very appropriate to hear the French line being parroted by Peter Jennings. Powell essentially responded that terror existed before we went in and it exists now. The response should have been stronger. Worldwide terrorism would undoubtedly be worse if a terrorist sympathesizer such as Saddam Hussein were still in power. The Iraq war may have focused some of the terrorist efforts, but it has the long term effect of limiting terrorist capacity.