Thursday, June 9, 2011

Abu Dhabi, June 8-9

We are back at the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi. I've got a picture of the infamous gold-nugget dispensing ATM ("Gold to GO") on my cellphone, but for some reason the file is corrupted and I'm too tired to try to figure out how to upload it now. If you see it I've figured it out at a later date!

Clinton is back in the Emirates for another "contact group" meeting on Libya. We flew in all night/day from DC, and arrived to the usual ferocious summer heat -- must have been close to 95 degrees at midnight, and the air thick with humidity.

When you arrive in Abu Dhabi they put all your baggage thru a special scanner on arrival..not for weapons, particularly, but more for any booze or porn you might have on you! I guess they are also looking for weapons, but the warnings were all about booze (people had to leave their duty free from Shannon aboard Clinton's plane).

Then the bus ride back to this ridiculous hotel, described in earlier posts. Not much to add except that, for a "$3 billion" hotel it is absolutely the most visitor unfriendly place I have ever seen...The staff is very attentive, but the place is just too damn big and all of the marble/chandeliered hallways look exactly the same. It is easy to get mesmerized walking around..and it always feels as though you are walking down the same endless hallway. The "public spaces" are equally gaudy and equally indistinguishable..which vast cavernous lobby? All very hard to tell.

The contact group meeting was in the hotel so I can say I did not go outside ONCE today..except to look out from my balcony this morning on the very elaborate pool outside. Even then it was ferociously hot...but they still seem to get tourists, from Europe or Russia or wherever. I guess it is sort of like staying at Disney World.

Not much to say about the conference (all behind closed doors) except that they came out determined to call it a success: more support for the rebel Transitional National Council, more vows of taking it to Gaddafi. We waited and wandered, found a few Libyan exiles, watched people waiting and wandering. Then, finally, a few back to back press conferences with the hosts, Clinton and others -- and the expected vows of support/aggression for the rebels and for Gaddafi. It feels like a play (and a not very interesting one)..everything scripted, and ultimately inconsequential...I guess until Gaddafi finally DOES go.

The big quote coming into the conference was that the conflict is in "end game" and time to plan for the future. But there were very few words on what the actual plan for Libya is. You have to think they'd be on this from the minute Obama made the decision to intervene..but there's not much public sign of it. Worrying.

The subtext to the trip has been the Internet scandal involving Rep. Anthony Wiener, whose wife is one of Clinton's closest aides. Everyone felt sorry for her and..when the news came from New York, quoting "family friends", that she is pregnant, we all refused to ask about it. Maybe that's cowardly, but somehow it didn't seem appropriate or important at 2 a.m. in Abu Dhabi where the poor woman is just trying to do her job. Let Wiener talk about it.

That's it -- am tired. Will try to figure out the picture tomorrow..maybe in Zambia, which is our next stop!