I’ve been mulling over my reaction to Bush’s trip to Iraq for Thanksgiving. From the troops’ perspective, I think it was a wonderful gesture. I’m sure it boosted morale, and even those who weren’t there to see him personally are certainly hearing about it through the grapevine. On the other hand, it certainly feels more like a calculated political campaign publicity tactic. And that’s bad form and an abuse of taxpayer dollars as much as the carrier landing was earlier this year.
The stealth surrounding the trip was understandable. Even G.W. isn’t naive enough to think Iraq is a stable and secure place, and a well publicized landing of Air Force One would have certainly drawn a 21 shoulder-fired missile salute from the insurgents. But it’s the following statement which ultimately makes me believe this had nothing to do with the troops.
This CNN report detailing the timetable of the trip noted, “On his way home, Bush tells reporters that he would not have made the trip if the press had not been able to accompany him, but he says he had been ready to cancel the journey if the story leaked and security was threatened. ”
In other words, if the people back home weren’t going to get a first hand detailed photographic account of Bush demonstrating what a great guy and supporting leader he is, then he ain’t goin’. Given all the stealth planning already in play, getting out of the country with no press support shouldn’t have been too hard. Further, the Iraqi grapevine would have better carried morale inducing stories to the troops than the press ever would have. Eventually, the news would have leaked to the press anyway. Soldier’s personal snapshots would have made the front page. But how much better would it have looked for Bush to be sheepishly “outed” for this trip? He could have at least feigned that he didn’t do this for publicity, but rather for the troops. How much better of a message would that have been to the citizens and soldiers alike?
But instead, it was just more of, “Hey y’all, watch this!!”