More Than a Visit: W's Turkey-Day Jaunt Also a Message To Iraqis & World
"The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of
what is before them, glory and danger alike, and notwithstanding go
out to meet it."
December 1, 2003 -- NO question, President Bush's derring-do visit
to Iraq last week was a major public relations coup for the White
House and a great morale boost for the troops. But the visit was
really a lot more than that. Above all else, it was a policy power
Bush's gutsy Thanksgiving engagement in the Iraqi sands sent a
strategic message for all the world to hear: The United States is
going to see this one through, and my presence here today is
* For the troops, it was a special thanks from the Commander in
Chief and the American people for their selfless sacrifices and
bravery a long way from home, especially on one of America's most
The president knows that it is critically important that the troops
in the field know that what they do day-to-day is appreciated by
those back home - and they have not been forgotten. (Thankfully,
this is something we, as a country, learned well from our painful
experience in Vietnam.)
* For the Iraqis, it was a message of commitment to finishing the
job that has been started. True, the president did not walk the
streets of Baghdad and glad-hand a lot of regular Iraqis, but his
(first) visit will have lifted the spirits of those who are glad
that Saddam Hussein, the man who murdered more Muslims than anyone
on the face of the planet, is gone from power.
It also must have reassured the Iraqis who wonder if America, after
a tough month, is going to tire of this Herculean effort and - in
current parlance - cut and run. The presidential layover should
allay those fears and encourage regular Iraqis to work with the
coalition to rebuild a free country.
And it showed the Iraqi Governing Council and religious leaders,
such as Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, that the president is
"hands on" when it comes to Iraq - and that cooperation with the
Coalition Provisional Authority is in their and Iraq's best
interest. The leader of the free world stands behind Paul Bremer:
* To the insurgents, foreign fighters and terrorists, the fly-in
said: America is pledged to your demise and I've come here to speak
to my charges to make sure it happens.
It also told the thugs and assassins that the world's most powerful
man can come and go from their turf without their knowledge. They
are not invincible and their time will come - sooner rather than
* For the rulers of Iraq's neighbors, such as Iran and Syria, the
presidential pop-in meant that America has its eye on both
countries and that their terrorist transgressions and
weapons-of-mass-destruction desires have not gone unnoticed. To the
millions of Syrian and Iranian youth longing for liberty, Bush's
sojourn highlighted that freedom and democracy can be theirs - just
watch us build it before your eyes in Iraq.
* And to the international community, the stopover reinforced that
the United States will see this through whether you are with us or
not - at this we will not fail.
Failure would be a dishonor to all those - American, Iraqi,
British, Spanish, Italian, Polish, Japanese and others - who have
made the ultimate sacrifice to make Iraq free and plant the seeds
for changing the repressive politics of the Middle East for the
Attacks on U.S. forces are down (from 40 to 30 a day) - and arrests
and weapons seizures are up - since U.S. troops engaged in a
stronger show of force. But the weekend attacks on the Spanish
patrol and the unarmed Japanese diplomats demonstrates that there
may still be tough days ahead.
The president's lead-from-the-front visit was clearly a lot more
than a photo op as some have suggested. True, it was symbolic - but
some symbols, like the American flag, have powerful, hopeful,
Brookes is a senior fellow for National Security
Affairs at the Heritage Foundation. E-mail:
First appeared in the New York Post.