Column Date 2007-04-08

My imaginary trip to Baghdad and other places

GREEN ZONE, BAGHDAD. I arrived in Baghdad on a secret, overnight military flight, along with a dozen U.S. politicians with low poll numbers. They were already running for office in the 2008 elections.

To keep us safe, we were surrounded by hundreds of heavily armed members of the 82nd Airborne, with swarms of surveillance and attack helicopters hovering overhead.

We spent 15-minutes shopping in an outdoor marketplace, where one genial congressman smiled at me and said: “It’s just like our market back home. I wonder if they have Kettle Corn?”

“I can’t wait to tell the voters that I’ve been to Iraq and seen what’s going on with my own eyes,” said a legislator from the southwest. He gave a friendly wave to some U.S. Army snipers who were hidden on the rooftops surrounding the market.

Like all of us, he wore full body armor as he drank tea with the merchants and bargained for cheap rugs.

We had some coffee and donuts with the troops, and then the entire 10th Mountain Division escorted us back to our plane.

Now I know what’s happening in Iraq. First-hand.

This was all very exciting and, confident that I could now understand what was happening anyplace by just making a quick visit, I went on to other cities.

HOLLYWOOD, CA. I arrived in Los Angeles on a morning flight from New York.

As we landed, I could see an enormous fire burning not far from the HOLLYWOOD sign.

A California Highway Patrol car followed my rental car for a couple of miles on the 405 before losing interest. He could probably tell I was driving too slowly to be a native Californian.

The Hollywood farmer’s market was enormous – with wonderful fruits and vegetables, good jazz and folk music, but no Kettle Corn.

A tall, stunning woman in a tight-fitting outfit was handing out pamphlets in the middle of the market.

A friend told me that she was really a man.

Now I know what’s happening in Hollywood. First-hand.

WASHINGTON, D.C.  I flew to Washington on the shuttle from New York. All the people on the plane seemed to be lawyers or lobbyists.

A smiling man walked down the aisle shaking hands with everybody. My seatmate told me the man was a politician who nobody liked. I guess he had missed the flight to Iraq.

The Mall was filled with senior citizens marching around with anti-war signs. Nobody paid much attention to them.

Washington seemed very quiet.

I picked up a newspaper and learned that Congress was in recess. While they were gone, the President had appointed three people, all of whom Congress thought were un-qualified, to important government positions.

I took the Metroliner back to New York to avoid any more politicians.

Now I know what’s happening in Washington, Los Angeles and Baghdad. First-hand.

I’m considering making more imaginary trips. Darfur, Beijing and Teheran are on my list.

With all the expertise and insight I’m sure to gain, perhaps I’ll even run for Congress.

©2007 Peter Tannen