Bush jetted into Baghdad, with a steep and winding descent so his plane couldn’t be hit by insurgent fire.
And he gave Prime Minister Maliki all of a five-minute heads-up that he was in town before arriving at his door.
That doesn’t really inspire confidence that Iraq is a safe place to be, or that the U.S. is on the road to success there.
And Bush needs to work on his manners. He had the chutzpah to tell the new prime minister that he came to Baghdad “to look you in the eye,” as though he was inspecting a horse he had just bought. And he had the audacity to suggest, while he was in Baghdad, that the Americans may care more about freedom than the Iraqi leadership. Bush told a gathering of U.S. troops: “Today, I have come to not only thank you, but to look Prime Minister Maliki in the eyes—to determine whether or not he is as dedicated to a free Iraq as you are.” Lucky for Maliki, Bush concluded: “I believe he is.”
Bush’s Iraq visit, like his Camp David get together, was more for show than anything else.
He’s trying to give the appearance that the situation on the ground is improving and that the new Iraqi government is in control, but these are wishes, not facts.
The insurgency remains strong, and is now spreading to Basra.
The attacks continue to mount.
And the U.S. presence in Iraq remains a lightning rod.
But Bush won’t reduce that presence very much, even though Maliki wants all the troops out in 18 months. Maliki reiterated his desire for the departure of foreign troops when he met Bush, but that desire will remain unfulfilled.
U.S. officials have started to backpedal on the notion that the Pentagon can draw down troop levels from 133,000 to 100,000 in the near term.
And U.S. officials expect at least 50,000 troops to remain in Iraq long term, according to the New York Times.
It’s not about what Maliki or the Iraqis want.
It’s not about what the American people want.
It’s about what Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld want.
And they want oil, and permanent U.S. bases to guard that oil.
That’s why Republicans in Congress last week quietly deleted in conference committee an amendment that both the House and Senate had passed that would have banned funds for permanent military bases.
As David Swanson reported, “the removal of the language about permanent bases” was not a story for the mainstream media.
But it did matter to Representative Barbara Lee, who introduced the amendment in the House.
“The House and Senate went on record opposing permanent bases, but now the Republicans are trying to sneak them back in the middle of the night,” Lee said. “The Republicans’ willingness to abuse the legislative process is clear evidence of their unwillingness to level with the American people about their plans for Iraq.”
This move imperils U.S. troops, Lee said.
“The perception that the U.S. intends to occupy Iraq indefinitely is fueling the insurgency and making our troops more vulnerable,” she said. “We need to make it perfectly clear that there will be no permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq.”
Bush is making the opposite perfectly clear.
He may have been in Baghdad just for a few hours. But he wants U.S. troops to be there for many, many years to come.