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CNN State Department Correspondent
Condoleezza Rice said something a little surprising, in a packed auditorium here at the State Department the other day. She got a little personal about Iraq. The road for the US in Iraq has been "harder, longer, and more difficult than I personally imagined."
Every time we hear Rice speak, or do a one-on-one interview with her, she's careful not to be personal. Usually she's pretty clinical in her responses. I don't think her comments this day mean her views on Iraq have shifted overall. She still believes invading Iraq was right, and that life in Iraq is improving: Iraqis are returning home, the economy's picking up, al Qaeda is weaker. Rice called these developments a "hopeful but fragile turn of events."
Yet the surprises kept coming. This time it was an ambush - of the friendly variety - of one of the top U.S. Generals. He was caught off guard. General David Petreaus was lured to the State Department under the false pretense that he was to give a speech. Instead, he suddenly found himself in the middle of an award ceremony, where he was one of the two star recipients. Both General Petraeus and the US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker were given the highest award the State Department can give: The Distinguished Persons Award.
Petreaus seemed genuinely taken aback and joked about the speech he had written that he wasn’t to read now. Ambassador Crocker joined the ceremony via satellite and got his award from Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte - who was in Baghdad. He only got a faxed copy of his award certificate. The real thing is back here in Washington.
Rice praised both the general and the diplomat for their teamwork in Iraq and pointed out the strong bond they have formed over the years. Each man referred to the other as his “wingman.” That was cute.
But Rice warned, too, that despite all the progress, success in Iraq is "not a sure thing."
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