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President Bush is in Iraq

President Bush made a surprise visit to Iraq today!

President Bush was meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki face to face on Tuesday after making a surprise visit to Iraq to bolster the newly-formed government and discuss the next steps in trying to shore up Iraqi security after three years of war.

“I appreciate you recognize the fact that the future of your country is in your hands,” Bush told al-Maliki. “I appreciate your committment to representing the people of Iraq.”

The president arrived in Baghdad at 8:08 a.m. EDT, or 4:08 p.m. local time. It was the second surprise visit he’s made to the country in the past three years.

Plans for this trip were in the works for over a month and were carefully planned and coordinated. I imagine this five hour trip will be a long one for security personnel!

Bush is expected to stay in Iraq for five hours only, where security precautions are tightly executed in a precarious venue. Even the president’s arrival was cautiously orchestrated. Air Force One landed at a semi-deserted airstrip a good distance away from the main terminal in Baghdad. Bush and his crew then boarded a convoy of Nighthawk passenger helicopters to take them about seven minutes to the center of the city.

Everyone on the helicopters was in body armor except for the White House aides, who wore business suits but no armor. Bartlett had earlier said the president would not wear body armor. In the Green Zone, a line of Suburbans and other SUVs waited for the short drive to the Republican Palace, a 1950’s-era building which is now part of the U.S. Embassy compound.

Joining Bush on Air Force One were Bartlett, Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin, Press Secretary Tony Snow and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. Joining them on the ground in Iraq were U.S. Ambassador Zal Khalilzad and Gen. George Casey, head of the Multinational Force in Iraq.

The group arrived at the palace where the offices of Paul Bremer, head of the now-defunct Coalition Provisional Authority, had been, and is now being used as the temporary U.S. embassy. An American and an Iraqi flag had been arrayed next to the entrance to the hallway leading to the offices, where al-Maliki and one of his aides stood in anticipation of Bush’s arrival.

Bush swept into the room where he was to meet al-Maliki with his entourage and Secret Service in tow. He walked up to al-Maliki, who had been informed about five minutes before Bush’s arrival that he was to have a special guest, and shook the prime minister’s hand as the cameras flashed.

Al-Maliki said, “Good to see you,” to which Bush responded, “Thanks for having me.” They stood in the hallway for another minute and then disappeared into one of the palace offices.

…and a little bit of mischief and staging are always good when you are planning a surprise:

Bush’s departure from Camp David the night before had required some surreptitious behavior on the president’s part. While dining with officials Monday evening, the president excused himself from after-dinner discussion around 7:45 p.m. EDT, telling his guests that he was “losing altitude” and wanted to read in bed a little before falling asleep. By 8 p.m. when the dinner wrapped up, Bush was already on his way to Andrews Air Force Base, and Air Force One departed at 9:07 pm EDT.

Of course the MSM has to trump this visit up as nothing more than a publicity stunt to garner higher approval ratings:

Anxiety about the war has been driving down Bush’s poll numbers and causing Republican anxiety about holding control of Congress in the November election.

But those who know the reasons behind this visit, and what is truly going on in Iraq truly have a solid picture for why Bush decided to visit Iraq.

“I think the president is doing exactly the right thing today. … Sending a powerful signal to the Iraqi people that we are with you in the War on Terror, we are going to support this government that you have elected and we are going to win the War on Terror together,” said Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

“It’s just dynamite,” said Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., who returned from Iraq on Monday night and said he would have stayed there to catch a ride back on Air Force One if he’d known the president was going to be there.

Inhofe, who’s been to Iraq 11 times since 2003, said he met with Iraqi officials, who demonstrated some of the training received by the 264,000 Iraqi troops. He said he was told that when 11 divisions — or 325,000 troops are trained — the Iraqis will want to take over security for themselves, though that does not mean U.S. troops will leave completely.

“It’s a huge success story over there. I just don’t understand why the media don’t get it,” he said, adding that al-Maliki’s security adviser told him that the Iraqis are “getting very close to the time” when they will be in a position to take control of their security.

The problem is, the media don’t *want* to get it. In the days they are yelling doom and gloom about the first named storm in the gulf - grass blowing gets coverage on television I’m told - they only want those stories that can fit with their reports of death, destruction, scandal and doomsday. That’s why you don’t see reports about the *people* of Iraq - only the terrorists. I’m sure there are reports out there that the death of al-Zarqawi were carefully planned so Bush would arrive right after they happened. I think it is awesome that President Bush is there in support of the Iraqi people and leadership as well as having a positive impact on our men and women who are fighting the war on terror in the heart of it all.

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