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Clinton Gets Red-Carpet Treatment In Iraq

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Copyright 2009
Saturday, April 25, 2009

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton flew into Kuwait on Friday on Air Force 2, a top-of-the-line jet featuring leather seats, TV monitors and dinner served on china with silverware and cloth napkins.

For her hour-long hop to Baghdad on Saturday, however, the frills were gone.

Clinton, her State Department staff and a dozen journalists boarded an Air Force C-17 cargo jet, a hulking windowless gray workhorse, whose interior resembled a giant garage. Several rows of seats were plopped down in the middle of the cargo area. Passengers stuffed in ear plugs because of the roar of the engines.

Once on board, staff and reporters grabbed sweaty body armor from a mound in the back of the aircraft, and practiced strapping on helmets.

It looked like the kind of wartime scenario that Clinton evoked during her campaign when she described landing amid sniper fire in Bosnia - a story she subsequently acknowledged was exaggerated.

But the Baghdad landing turned out to be quiet. Clinton got red-carpet treatment as she descended from the plane, with greetings from U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and Adm. Mike Mullen, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And her motorcade zipped into the city on roads cleared of their normally chock-a-block traffic.

--Mary Beth Sheridan

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