So President Bush flew to Baghdad for
Thanksgiving. He flew in utter secrecy and had a meal with a few
troops, then left. You’ll notice Bush had a clear personal
exit strategy: Spend as little time in Baghdad as possible, and
then get the fuck out.

Janna Hutz

Now I will admit that Bush’s visit benefited the situation
in Iraq. After all, he did give overworked cafeteria workers some
time off by taking over the duty of serving mashed potatoes. Of
course, Bush might have better spent the time giving out Kevlar
vests. Or assurances that this occupation would end within
soldiers’ expected lifetimes.

This trip was so risky that officials on Air Force One told
reporters that if word got out that Bush was en route, then they
would cancel the trip. I imagine the directive went something like
this: “If you reporters don’t shut up and report what
we say, I’ll turn this plane around, I swear to God!
I’ll turn it around! I’m not kidding!”

Imagine the political failure that would have been for Bush. The
news would report that Bush was going to Baghdad to visit troops
and then would immediately report that Bush could now not go
because it was too dangerous to land in that rocket-propelled
grenade-strewn nation. That image of Bush running from the chaos of
Baghdad would have been the most telling story of the war. The fact
that Bush was willing to risk it gives an idea about the importance
he gave this trip.

Why did he find it so important? Well, it could be that Bush
wanted to share Thanksgiving with the troops who are sacrificing
their lives daily because of his boastful remarks that terrorists
should bring it on. Maybe he felt that their morale would be
boosted if the commander in chief gave them an extra big helping of
freedom fries. But that can’t be the reason. Bush had
Thanksgiving with 600 troops. Of the 100,000-plus troops in Iraq,
meeting in secret with a few hundred troops doesn’t do shit
for morale. What do you tell the rest of the soldiers? “Oh
yeah, Bush was here last night, but see, he couldn’t stay
because Iraq is a dangerous place and he might be killed at any
moment.” Yep, that’s gonna boost the ol’ morale
alright.

Well, maybe he needed to talk with the U.S. advisors in Iraq.
Bush did meet with U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer for a brief
meeting. But can’t they do that shit over the phone?
Don’t we have billion dollar satellites to transmit
super-secret messages so our president doesn’t have to fly
all over the world like a glorified bike messenger?

So Bush didn’t go for the troops and he didn’t go to
speak with Bremer. He went for you and me and a little day on the
calendar next November that he’s got triple circled in red.
Bush went to Iraq because his last cowboy photo-op on the aircraft
carrier was a big failure. That footage with the troops is ruined
because the mission is not accomplished, and he looks like a big
chump in a flight suit.

We’ve got a risk-taker for a president. Bush loves the
thrill of doing what others deem risky. It makes us unwilling to
question his motives. “How can you accuse the president of
going to Baghdad for political reasons — he risked his life
to support the troops.” That’s exactly what this
thrill-seeking president wants you to think. However, he only went
for political gain.

When he flew out to the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, the story was
that he had to make a dramatic carrier landing because the ship was
so far out. In reality, the carrier was in sight of land and an
easy helicopter ride away. But because the trip appeared risky, it
seemed impressive. And for the most part it works. America loves a
risk-taker. Remember Bush standing in the rubble of the World Trade
Center? It was impressive because it was risky.

Bush has a history that suggests he loves risks. Risking other
motorists by driving drunk, risking his life by visiting Iraq,
risking U.S. troops by telling terrorists to bring it on and
risking international relations by taking unilateralist stances
reveal a president who loves his thrills. But for the good of the
country can’t someone buy this guy some skydiving lessons or
take him bungee jumping, so the only person he is risking is
himself.

This time the risk taking succeeded, and Bush got his nice
campaign advertisement clip by keeping the cafeteria
mission-accomplished-banner-free. But I wonder what they did with
that banner. My guess is they cut it up and used it for napkins.
After all, it’s not like Bush is going to need it anytime
soon.

Piskor can be reached at
“mailto:jpiskor@umich.edu”>jpiskor@umich.edu.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *