You know this was really weird. Just yesterday morning I was reflecting whether Bush would visit Iraq some time in the future and I turned it over in my mind expecting it to be a surprise visit in the same manner of Rumsfeld's. I knew it was going to happen, but I didn't imagine it to be so close, especially after the attacks on the DHL cargo plane leaving Baghdad Airport.
Anyway, I was at the cafe chatting with my cousin in London, and I was checking my blog's comments section at the same time when a reader asked me what I thought about Bush's visit to Iraq. I stared in disbelief at the screen for some time, then I went to Yahoo news and there it was: Bush landed in Baghdad Airport, spent a couple of hours with American troops, met Talabani and Chalabi, and left. He didn't leave the Airport area as far as I know.
I did hear American fighters flying over Baghdad though during the day, and I was wondering what was going on.
After leaving the cafe I asked some people in the neighbourhood what they thought of it. Everyone I talked to stared blankly at me as if I was crazy or something. It seems that nobody thought it was possible for Bush to visit Iraq at this time. I went to buy dinner from a nearby restaurant and IMN was displaying Bush's speech to his troops. Everyone stopped eating and stared at the tv. It was quite a scene, I just wished I had a camera at that time. It was so comical.
I watched it all on Al-Jazeera later, and as usual, they described it as a cheap attempt by Bush & Co. to boost American public opinion in his favour for the upcoming election campaign. You could easily detect the anguish in their anaylsis 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.