Bush makes last surprise visit to Iraq

Rick Moran
President Bush paid a last, surprise visit to Iraq today in order to highlight the new Status of Forces agreement the government reached with the Iraqis last month:

Air Force One arrived in Baghdad at 4 p.m. after a 10-and-a-half-hour overnight flight from Andrews Air Force Base near Washington. It was his fourth visit to Iraq, a country that occupied the bulk of his presidency and will to a large extent define his legacy.

On arriving, he met the two senior American officials, Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker and Gen. Ray Odierno on the tarmac. He is expected to meet with Iraqi leaders and American troops.

As with previous visits — in November 2003, June 2006 and September 2007 — preparations for the visit were cloaked in secrecy and carried out with ruse. The White House schedule for Sunday had Mr. Bush attending the “Christmas in Washington” performance at the National Building Museum in downtown Washington.

Mr. Bush instead left the White House by car on Saturday night, arriving at Andrews at 9 p.m. Air Force One remained inside its immaculate hangar until moments before taking off. A dozen journalists accompanying him were only told of the trip on Friday and allowed to tell only a superior and a spouse — and only in person.

Much has been made about how much the US gave up in concessions with the Iraqi government to get the deal done before the end of the year deadline. But many analysts have pointed to its provisions regarding the status of military personnel and contractors who violate Iraqi law being placed into the custody of the host government as not much different from other troop agreements we have with Japan, Germany, and other nations.

Iraq is a sovereign nation and we bargained with them in that context. In the end, we got an agreement where both sides didn't get everything they wanted but that both sides could live with.

It must have been a bittersweet moment for the president. He must now await the judgment of history regarding his efforts in Iraq. I suspect that judgment will be a lot kinder than the one's offered by his contemporaries but not as favorable as it could have or should have been. This is true especially in light of this report that was leaked today showing the Administration's failure to this day to come up with a viable reconstruction plan for Iraq and that untold billions of dollars out of the $117 billion procured has been wasted or has disappeared.

I have a piece at my own blog today on this report.

President Bush paid a last, surprise visit to Iraq today in order to highlight the new Status of Forces agreement the government reached with the Iraqis last month:

Air Force One arrived in Baghdad at 4 p.m. after a 10-and-a-half-hour overnight flight from Andrews Air Force Base near Washington. It was his fourth visit to Iraq, a country that occupied the bulk of his presidency and will to a large extent define his legacy.

On arriving, he met the two senior American officials, Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker and Gen. Ray Odierno on the tarmac. He is expected to meet with Iraqi leaders and American troops.

As with previous visits — in November 2003, June 2006 and September 2007 — preparations for the visit were cloaked in secrecy and carried out with ruse. The White House schedule for Sunday had Mr. Bush attending the “Christmas in Washington” performance at the National Building Museum in downtown Washington.

Mr. Bush instead left the White House by car on Saturday night, arriving at Andrews at 9 p.m. Air Force One remained inside its immaculate hangar until moments before taking off. A dozen journalists accompanying him were only told of the trip on Friday and allowed to tell only a superior and a spouse — and only in person.

Much has been made about how much the US gave up in concessions with the Iraqi government to get the deal done before the end of the year deadline. But many analysts have pointed to its provisions regarding the status of military personnel and contractors who violate Iraqi law being placed into the custody of the host government as not much different from other troop agreements we have with Japan, Germany, and other nations.

Iraq is a sovereign nation and we bargained with them in that context. In the end, we got an agreement where both sides didn't get everything they wanted but that both sides could live with.

It must have been a bittersweet moment for the president. He must now await the judgment of history regarding his efforts in Iraq. I suspect that judgment will be a lot kinder than the one's offered by his contemporaries but not as favorable as it could have or should have been. This is true especially in light of this report that was leaked today showing the Administration's failure to this day to come up with a viable reconstruction plan for Iraq and that untold billions of dollars out of the $117 billion procured has been wasted or has disappeared.

I have a piece at my own blog today on this report.