President Bush flew into Baghdad today aboard Air Force One to celebrate Thanksgiving with a group of astonished American troops and U.S. officials.
The Associared Press reports that the troops were surprised:
With the president out of sight, L. Paul Bremer, the chief U.S. civilian administrator, told the soldiers it was time to read the president's Thanksgiving proclamation and that it was a task for the most senior official present.While here, President Bush stood in a chow line and dished out sweet potatoes and corn for Thanksgiving dinner and posed with a platter of a fresh-baked turkey. The President spoke with soldiers from the 1st Armored Division and the 82nd Airborne Division at an airport mess hall, telling them:
"Is there anybody back there more senior than us?" he asked. That was the cue for Bush, who promptly stepped forward from behind a curtain, setting off pandemonium among the troops.
"I was just looking for a warm meal somewhere," he joked. "Thanks for inviting me. I can't think of finer folks to have Thanksgiving dinner with than you all."
"You are defeating the terrorists here in Iraq so we don't have to face them in our own country."The trip, the first ever to Iraq by an American president, was an extraordinary gesture. The International Herald Tribune reports that presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, appearing on CNN, called it "a perfectly executed plan" that would be "one of the major moments in his biography." It would have provided "an incredible thrill" for the Americans.
President Bush slipped out of Crawford on Wednesday in an unmarked car, then flew to Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington. He then flew on to Baghdad International Airport, arriving around dusk.
The trip must have raised enormous concerns for the president's security team. A DHL cargo plane using the same airport Saturday was struck in the wing by a shoulder-fired , forcing it to make an emergency landing.
UPDATE: The text of President Bush's remarks to the troops in Iraq is available here. You should read the whole thing.