Defending the virtues of liberty, free markets, and civilization... plus some commentary on the passing scene.
Friday, December 12, 2003
Baghdad's Thanksgiving Special
Yeah, I'm way late on commenting on Bush's surprise Thanksgiving visit to Baghdad, but like I said, I'm busy damnit! As everyone has probably forgotten by now George Bush made a surprise visit to Baghdad to join and serve some much deserved Thanksgiving dinner to our soldiers. This was not the somewhat bland George Bush from that other world of roughly 1990-September 10, 2001. This was the post 9/11 Bush, the one that has been shockingly successful with all of his major policy initiatives. The one that faced a paradigm shattering crisis that no president has ever been confronted with before, and showed that he can lead. This was the George W. Bush that I am proud to call our president. He was of course incredible well received, and I think it provided a good moral booster for coalition forces as well as sending a message to the citizens of Iraq -- We will not abandon this mission to bring you peace, democracy, and prosperity.
Not surprisingly, critics have spun this as a photo-op, and it would certainly be naive to think that political considerations were not made. But if photo-op was the primary motivation for this, he picked the wrong day. Most Americans spent their Thanksgiving visiting with families, eating, drinking, and watching football, not watching news. Ditto for Friday and into the weekend. This was one of those rare things that was a good political move, but more importantly the right thing to do. Bush did it with sincerity.
I have all the patience and open-mindedness in the world for those that disagree with his politics. But absolutely none for those that would paint him as an evil war-monger that hates the poor, wants to steal all the oil, and run the world. Never mind the fact that his actual policies are doing nothing to secure the success of these alleged goals. Bush does not have the shrewd instincts of Bill Clinton, he does not have that amazing ability to empathize with seemingly every specific person in his general audience, public speaking is not his strong suit. When he takes the podium and says he’s doing what he is because it is in the best interest and safety of the American people, he means it. I'm not being naive, if Bush wants only to kill the Arabs and steal the oil he simply does not posses the charisma to convincingly say things like this:
"Thanks for inviting me. I can't think of finer folks to have Thanksgiving dinner with than you all."
"We thank you for your service, we're proud of you, and America stands solidly behind you," Bush said. And he urged the people of Iraq to "seize the moment and rebuild your great country based on human dignity and freedom."
"You are defeating the terrorists here in Iraq," he said, "so we don't have to face them in our own country."
Terrorists are testing America's resolve, Bush said, and "they hope we will run."
"We did not charge hundreds of miles into the heart of Iraq, pay a bitter cost of casualties, defeat a ruthless dictator and liberate 25 million people only to retreat before a band of thugs and assassins," the president said, prompting a standing ovation and cheers.
He also had a message for the people of Iraq: "The regime of Saddam Hussein is gone forever," he said, and pledged the help of the United States and its coalition partners, saying "we will stay until the job is done. I'm confident we will succeed."
He flew into a hot zone, a place where he would be the prized target to send his message. That is the Bush we saw on Thanksgiving and that is the George Bush that realized the powerful message he would send and the moral boost this would give to the troops. As blogger Michael Graham notes:
WHAT CAN PRESIDENT BUSH DO IN BAGHDAD THAT SADDAM HUSSEIN CAN'T? Appear in public. If that doesn't send a message to the Ba'athists and their would-be allies, I don't know what does.
Wag The Turkey?
Of course as I mentioned not all see it this way, some cannot help but look for conspiracy theories and proof of the "Bush is evil" meme. Political columnist and author Wayne Madsen was surely aware of the political boost this would give to the President as he noted in his column titled Wag the Turkey:"
I may be a bit naive, and it has been a while since I served on active duty, but I can't recall ever sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner at 6:00 AM. Air Force One touched down at Baghdad International Airport, under cover of darkness, at 5:20 AM Baghdad time. Bush was on the ground for two and a half hours, his plane departing Baghdad at around 7:50 AM. Considering that it likely took some 30 minutes for Bush to disembark from Air Force One and travel by a heavily secured motorcade to the hangar where the troops were assembled, that means our military men and women were downing turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and non-alcoholic beer at a time when most people would be eating eggs, bacon, grits, home fries, and toast.
And the abysmal and sycophantic Washington and New York press corps seems to have completely missed the Thanksgiving "breakfast dinner." Chalk that up to the fact that most people in the media never saw a military chow line or experienced reveille in their lives. So it would certainly go over their heads that troops would be ordered out of bed to eat turkey and stuffing before the crack of dawn.
Madsen sure is confident in his understanding and recognition of politics and grandstanding, unfortunately the same cannot be said for his comprehension of such complexities as time zones and typos. If Madsen were to change all those am's to pm's he would have a real story, but instead he appears to simply have misread the report (Baghdad is 8 hours ahead of New York) and ran with a typo that appeared in an early edition of The Washington Post. But why bother with facts when farce more closely fits your vision?
And why bother with fools like Madsen. Who cares what they think when the wonders of the internet can bring us a sample what real Iraqi's think. Here are some excerpts with links.
Zeyad had this to say after watching coverage on Al-Jazeera:
You could easily detect the anguish in their analysis to the fact that Bush didn't go down to the streets or meet everyday Iraqis, or that Air Force 1 wasn't hit by an anti-aircraft missile fired by Iraqi militants. They were really frustrated. Their news have become so predictable. My father was peculiarly furious with one of these 'analysts', he almost kicked the tv. The guy was saying that this visit would practically achieve nothing, or to be more accurate "would trick nobody". He also said that it would have no effect whatsoever on morals of American troops...etc.
I have mixed feelings myself. The fact that he is the first American president to set foot on Iraqi soil is a huge event in itself, and a three hour visit to Baghdad Airport definitely wouldn't be the same as a tour in the country and most importantly meeting Iraqi citizens, Iraqis who would be grateful for this visit. But I understand the security considerations and this gesture alone would be sufficient to send a message to whoever it may concern that Iraq is safe enough for an American president to visit. To tell the truth I'm still shocked to this moment that he took the risk to come here. I used to like him before, but now I admire the guy.
Here's a few words from Omar about the visit:
A wonderful sunny day in Baghdad, I couldn't sleep last night, I was anxious.
The rest of his post is about the Iraqi demonstrations against terrorism, it's well worth reading the rest.
The day is my day.
I've stayed awake late watching the news channels broadcasting the news about president bush's visit to Baghdad.
I tried to figure out the meanings behind this visit.
I shared the tears with him, tears of joy, anxiety, and care for the future of his country men.
I was also afraid for the future of my people and I felt some kind of unity of feelings with all the good on earth.
I expressed that today as I marched with my brothers in the demo. That fights the terrorism and defends freedom and democracy.
The president of the USA Bush make his first visit to Iraq in Baghdad airport for tow hours in the thankful day he had eat his launch with the US soldiers, and this is the first visit from an American president to Iraq, he came with secret plane, no one know this visit, and he said if anyone run out any news he is able to cancel this visit, what a brave man he is a lot of the presidents was afraid to come to Iraq but he did it he has come to Iraq. The Arabic channels like (ALJAZEERA and ALARABIA) says that if he came to Iraq to makes the freedom for its people then why he doesn't go out side with Iraqi people and visit the schools, this is toddle not right because there are some of the terrorist out side maybe the could kill him, so this is the first visit of him and we want a lot of another visits to Iraq from president BUSH and we hope that the another visit from him came with new Iraq republic that will be great to rebuild the new Iraq.
Finally, this from the Alaa (aka The Messopotamian):
Yes GWB, though the visit was brief, it was very meaningful. We know that you have come, not as the President of an invading nation, but as the friend who wishes to renew commitment to our people, and as long as your intentions are what you have repeatedly said (and we don't doubt your sincerity), the land and the hearts welcome you.
It gives us pain that the visit is so short and that the masses cannot in the present circumstances come out to give you the welcome that you deserve, but the day will come, the day will come (God's Willing). Yes the day will come when the millions will come out to welcome the best friend that the Mesopotamian people have ever had, and he will be amongst the most devoted and allied people that America will ever have.
The bones in the mass graves salute you, Avenger of the Bones.
Avenger of the bones.
What a powerful, yet chilling observation. Those that used to be loved brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers have since been reduced to anonymous piles of bones in shallow graves. Look at the pictures, here are the bones he's talking about. Fair warning, the pictures are pretty gruesome, there are 50 pages of them, I made it through 10. You should at least look through that many before you continue reading.
Now that your back, realize this was the status quo for Saddam's Iraq, as this piece in The Guardian reminds us:
The killers kept bankers' hours. They showed up for work at the barley field at 9 a.m., trailed by backhoes and three buses filled with blindfolded men, women and children as young as 1.
Saddam has been out of power since March. How many lives have been saved from his brutality in that time? Who could possible know? Bill Whittle does:
Every day, witnesses say, the routine was the same: The backhoes dug a trench. Fifty people were led to the edge of the hole and shot, one by one, in the head. The backhoes covered them with dirt, then dug another hole for the next group.
At 5 p.m., the killers - officials of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party - went home to rest up for another day of slaughter.
In this wind-swept field in the central town of Mahaweel, witnesses say, this went on without a break for 35 days in March and April of 1991, during a crackdown on a Shiite Muslim uprising that followed the first Gulf War.
"I watched this with my own eyes,'' said Sayed Abbas Muhsen, 35, whose family farm was appropriated by Saddam's government for use as a killing field. "But we couldn't tell anyone. We didn't dare.''
The mass grave at Mahaweel, with more than 3,100 sets of remains, is the largest of some 270 such sites across Iraq. They hold upward of 300,000 bodies; some Iraqi political parties estimate there are more than 1 million.
Here's a math quiz for you:
The rest of his column offers some insightful observations on foreign policy, go read it all.
During the 30-odd years he was in power, Saddam Hussein murdered at least 300,000 of his own people. These are the ones we are finding in mass graves in Iraq. Another 300,000 – at least – were killed in his war with Iran and his two conflicts with the US. Those are bare-bones, undeniable, non-speculative, minimums.
That darling arithmetic works out to no less than 20,000 people a year killed by that lunatic, or about 1,700 people a month.
So how many innocent people have not died as a result of the Iraq war?
I get about 13,000 so far.
Thirteen thousand is about the size of a good basketball game. Perhaps we can convince the Lakers to play a charity game against the Spurs, say. Then we can put 13,000 Iraqi men, women and children into the Staples Center, and make Michael Moore and Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Sean Penn, George Clooney, The Dixie Chicks, Janeane Garofalo, and every single person who signed the Not in Our Name petition kill those people in cold blood - electrodes, acid baths or shredders, to get the full effect, although the weak-stomached should be allowed to merely shoot them in the back of the head.
Because that is exactly what would have happened if these people had gotten their way.
As for me, I feel like a broken record, these horrific stories just keep coming out. I've documented them on more than a few occasions, here's one such time. But go ahead critics, step right over those bones, close your eyes, ears, and nose to the sights, cries, and stench of mass destruction and call this an evil war. Keep doing that, and I'll keep showing you pictures like this:
Lots of souls to step over there, you'll need to be long on legs and short on conscience to make it. Perhaps you can join Sarandon, Robbins and the rest of the gang at the Staples Center.