Bush Makes Surprise Trip to Iraq
BAGHDAD — On a farewell trip to Iraq, President George W. Bush said Sunday the war has been hard but was necessary to protect the U.S. and give Iraqis hope for a peaceful future.
Mr. Bush visited the Iraqi capital just 37 days before he hands the war off to President-elect Barack Obama, who has pledged to end it. At the end of nearly two hours of meetings at an ornate, marble-floored palace along the shores of the Tigris River, Mr. Bush defended the war, now in its sixth year.
“The work hasn’t been easy, but it has been necessary for American security, Iraqi hope and world peace,” the president said. “I’m just so grateful I had the chance to come back to Iraq before my presidency ends.”
But in many ways, the unannounced trip was a victory lap without a victory. Nearly 150,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq fighting a war that is remarkably unpopular in the United States and across the globe. More than 4,209 members of the U.S. military have died and the war has cost U.S. taxpayers $576 billion since it began five years and nine months ago.
After an arrival ceremony, Mr. Bush began a rapid-fire series of meetings with top Iraqi leaders. The president wanted to highlight a drop in violence in a nation still riven by ethnic strife and to celebrate a recent U.S.-Iraq security agreement, which calls for U.S. troops to withdraw by the end of 2011.
Air Force One landed at Baghdad International Airport in the afternoon local time after a secretive Saturday night departure from Washington. In a sign of security gains in this war zone, Mr. Bush received a formal arrival ceremony — a flourish absent in his three earlier trips.
Referring to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, seated beside him, and the country’s two vice presidents, mr. Bush said: “I’ve known these men for a long time, and I’ve come to admire them for their courage and their determination to succeed.”
Mr. Bush’s meetings at the palace were held as the sun set outside and darkness fell over Baghdad. Mr. Talabani called Mr. Bush “our great friend,” who “helped to liberate” Iraq. “Thanks to him and his courageous leadership, we are here,” Mr. Talabani said.
Mr. Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki planned a ceremonial signing of the security agreement — a “remarkable document,” according to Mr. Bush’s national security adviser, Stephen Hadley. He said the pact was unique in the Arab world because it was publicly debated, discussed and adopted by an elected parliament.
Mr. Hadley said the trip proved that the U.S.-Iraq relationship was changing “with Iraqis rightfully exercising greater sovereignty” and the U.S. “in an increasingly subordinate role.”
The year is 2018. Iraq is a viable and peaceful nation. An upstanding member of the United Nations. Their economy is humming. They are cracking down on extremism. Law and order is the rule of the day. They are aiding in the effort to bring peace to the Middle East.
If such a future comes to pass, will anyone admit that Bush was right for invading Iraq?
I think the Left will do everything in their power to credit Barack Obama. He will deserve credit. But if it happens, the architect of that future is George Bush.
I don’t know if such a future is in the offing. No one does. Iraq could go either way or end up somewhere in the middle of the chaos and anarchy predicted by the doom and glooming left and the bright and sunny picture of peace and prosperity that Neo-Cons try to push as the most certain future.
I’ll hope for a peaceful future for the people of Iraq. After a century and more of Ottoman rule followed by decades of Colonialism and the more immediate past decades of terror at the hands of the madman Saddam Hussein, these folks are due a bit of peace and prosperity.