Thursday, November 27, 2003

Bush in Baghdad

BBC reporting.

... link

BAGHDAD, Iraq - President Bush (news - web sites) made a surprise Thanksgiving visit to American troops in Baghdad Thursday, flying secretly to violence-scarred Iraq (news - web sites) on a trip tense with concerns about his safety.

It was the first trip ever by an American president to Iraq.

Air Force One landed in darkness at Baghdad International Airport. Security fears were heightened by an attack last Saturday in which a missile struck a DHL cargo plane, forcing it to make an emergency landing at the airport with its wing aflame.

Bush was to spend only two hours on the ground, limiting his visit to a dinner at the airport with U.S. forces. The troops had been told that the VIP guests would be L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Iraq, and Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of coalition forces in Iraq.

Bush's trip — on the large plane he most frequently uses — was a well-guarded secret — announced only after he landed in Baghdad.

In a ruse staged in the name of security, the White House had put out word that Bush would be spending Thanksgiving at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, with his wife, Laura, his parents and other family members. Even the dinner menu was announced.

Instead, Bush slipped away from his home without notice Wednesday evening and flew to Washington to pick up aides and a handful of reporters sworn to secrecy. Plans called for the trip to be abandoned if word had leaked out in advance.