Big Dick Down Under
US Vice President Dick Cheney will visit Australia from February 22 to 27.
Officially he's here to thank Australia, and Australian soldiers, for support in the Iraq War, and to talk up the benefits of a continued close alliance between Australia and the United States.
Unofficially, depending on who is doing the speculating, Cheney will be meeting the prime minister, John Howard, to tell him he can bring Australia troops home from Iraq before the November elections.
Or to gauge Howard's support for Australian troops becoming more involved along Iraq's border with Iran when/if the US begins air strikes on Iran's nuclear energy facilities.
Or to get in John Howard's face and demand he commit more Australian troops to the fight in Iraq, after turning down two or more near begging requests from former defence secretary (and Cheney's best mate) Donald Rumsfeld in the last quarter of 2006.
For whatever other reasons VP Cheney has decided to grace the nation with his presence, his will not be a popular visit with the public at large. The general reaction to the news of his visit could well be described as largely hostile.
Cheney Down Under is expected to provide a pivotal focus point for anti-war protesters, who have had few international targets to rally against in Australia since the Howard government first sent troops to Iraq, starting in late 2002.
Prime Minister Howard said that because "we do not live in a very certain world," it would be seen as to "rat on your ally" to disappoint the Bush administration when it comes to the Iraq War, and, more generally, the 'War on Terror'.
"I think this would be a very bad time, difficult though it is, a very bad time to be seen to be letting the Americans down," Mr Howard said.
You can see what some of the locals think of Cheney's visit (in comments) here, and here.
Cheney Visit To Grow Debate Over The Value And Future Of The Australian-American Alliance.