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Bush's Win-Win

27 Nov 2003 by Jason Fried

Secret, bold, and successful. Is there a better winning combination? Bush’s surprise visit to Iraq to visit the troops on Thanksgiving was one of the shrewdest political moves in recent memory. This one is going to resonate. It scores big points in various ways:

  • Big morale boost for US troops. ‘Nuff said.
  • Reinforcing the emotional connection between the Commander in Chief and his troops. Plenty of Americans will feel pride while watching this.
  • Psychological blow to Al Queda and Saddam. It says “Our guy can come over to your neck of the woods, show his face, have a meal, greet his warriors, and leave peacefully. Your guys can’t even show their faces in their own backyard.” Note: Expect to see some Saddam and Bin Laden tapes in the coming days/weeks. They’ll have to show their faces.
  • A positive change of heart for those on the fence.
  • Priceless Photo ops.
  • Needed boost in approval ratings and goodwill at home. Just watch.
  • The first visit by a US President to Iraq. Ever.
  • Boost for the Iraqi people. Bush invited and embraced members of the Iraqi Ruling Council at the surprise meeting/dinner. Including a woman. This is strong symbolism. These pictures and videos will tug at the humanity of the Arab world. Note: Look for a big PR push from the other side shortly - pictures of dead civilians, children, emotional/cultural imagery, etc.

Students of politics and strategy will remember this moment for a long time. This could be a tipping point (tipping towards the positive). We’ll see. Thoughts?

125 comments so far (Post a Comment)

27 Nov 2003 | Ben Langhinrichs said...

It will be viewed positively by some, but I personally feel it was typical Bush grandstanding. Show up and wear a military flightsuit and get lots of applause, then leave. Great, but how about dealing with the mess he got us in to? I cast a vote for this being annoying, not laudatory.

27 Nov 2003 | Steven Garrity said...

Agreed - a powerful PR move all around.

27 Nov 2003 | Jonny Roader said...

Jesus, he really doesn't need spin doctors with you around JF does he?

27 Nov 2003 | mephisto said...

How is this impressive in the grand scheme of things? The only thing this is doing is pissing the Arab people more by going to their land as a conquering hero. You know Muslims have this theory that the end of the world will happen when non-Muslims come near Mecca and Medina (actually conquer it) - well this is coming awfully close to that. Yeah that will boost the Iraqi people! Stop smoking crack, you are actually believing their crap. Hey that rhymed

27 Nov 2003 | AJB said...

yeah, I agree. It was, and will be viewed as, a grandstanding piece of bullshit. I would hazard to bet that the majority of the troops over there would have taken a swing at him had they had the chance too.

Plus, I think the only people in the USA that are swallowing this are incredibly ignorant.

27 Nov 2003 | Joshua Kaufman said...

Jason Fried: Secret, bold, and successful. Is there a better winning combination?

How about a president I can actually trust? One that doesn't need pathetic PR moves like this to build up approval ratings.

27 Nov 2003 | Matthew Oliphant said...

A liberal point of view. Or points of view depending how you look at it.

So glad I haven't turned on the TV today.

27 Nov 2003 | Steven Garrity said...

Many of the replies here are critical, and I agree with most of the criticism, but you have to admit that for Bush this was a smart move.

28 Nov 2003 | Chris from Scottsdale said...

This was an awesome move. I think that the idea was excellent.

Tip: Whenever I see something I always try to think: "What if somebody from the other party were to do this, would I still think it's cool?" and if it passes the "cool test" then it's normally a winner all around.

Chris

28 Nov 2003 | Will Parker said...

Oh, come on! You don't win a war with a PR stunt. This is a frickin' photo op, and changes nothing on the ground in Iraq. You'll see a blip in the polls, going back to the negative as the economy and the war continues to slide into the crapper.

Let President Dress-up move the entire White House operation to Baghdad until we can *actually* say 'Mission Accomplished', and then I'll give him some respect.

28 Nov 2003 | ~bc said...

I'm a Bush detractor, but this was indeed a shrewd move. It's a all-win in his camp.

My father broke the news to me "You'll never guess what our President did today." My reply? Forgetting the date, "Oh, boy, who'd he bomb now?"

28 Nov 2003 | MrAnonymous said...

So, I'm assuming all you critics are also offended by Hillary Clinton doing the same thing in Afghanistan. Or maybe that's okay.

Give the man a break. He's showing support for the men who he has sent into the line of fire. I agree completely with JF. Of course this is partly publicity, but regardless of the intentions, this was a great thing for him to do. Give him a little credit.

28 Nov 2003 | ed said...

PR Bologna! Shrewd ratings lifter. Bush shows up, un-announced in Iraq, hands out Turkey for a half hour (in Military garb, again!) and hi-tails it outta there. What a disgrace. But oh yeah, we're winning the war. Folks, this smells like bacon to me, can you say 'election' next year? I just wished Bush could stay the night in Baghdad, I'm sure he would have recieved the same hospitality that Paul "neo-con oil grab" Wolfowitz got. Bush is such a pin head. You want a real depiction of how things are going? Tell your elected leaders to lift the media ban on reporting about the dead (both our soldiers and iraqi cilivians). What's the unofficial number at right now 30,000? The only thing we're winning is the largest can of whupp-ass ever seen (not to mention a boat-load of bad karma). And on this Thanksgiving Day, when Bush shows up in Iraq for a half an hour, I'd like to point out that GeeDub is the only President never to have attended ANY of the funerals of soldiers killed during war time. Nada, Zip. And why is that, and why aren't the media reporting on it? because he doesn't want to draw attention to the human side of this conflict, that people are dying. Happy Thanksgiving, I hope the Iraqis don't fall for that same schtick we gave the Native Americans way back when. Have things really changed all that much?

ps. Congress aughtta pass a frickin bill that makes it illegal for GeeDub to wear Military garb. The guy was AWOL for an entire year and his dad got him off the hook. Talk about Un-Patriotic. What a sleaze-ball.

28 Nov 2003 | Chris from Scottsdale said...

Anybody know how long a flight it is to Iraq?

28 Nov 2003 | me said...

Yah. much better then say, walking down the hall and finding out which one of his white house people endangered national security and the national trust by "outing" the wife of a person that disagreed and embarresed them on their misleading of the american people into war.

yep.... shrewd.

insert emoticon denoting a dumb ass topic here....

28 Nov 2003 | Ed Thibodeau said...

I'm no Bush guy, but I think what he did was totally cool. Nice job Mr. President.
http://www.edthibodeau.com/nonplussed/2003/11/totally_cool.html

28 Nov 2003 | Dr_God (fka Tibloto) said...

To me the whole thing is just Bush trying once again to put a happy face on the war. This trip to Iraq won't do anything to change public opinion, as the comments in this thread prove IMO. Bush backers will think it's great, and Bush bashers will thing it's a hollow PR stunt.

I on the other hand have a screwed view. I see it as yet another rich white politician up for (re)election who feels compelled to pretend he knows his way around a kitchen. Whether it's Bush carving turkey or Kerry flippin' pancakes, it always seems so staged as to be laughable, but it must work, because they continue to do it.

If only presidential hopefuls could square off on Iron Chef. Now *that* would get my attention. ;)

28 Nov 2003 | Jonny Roader said...

"I'd like to point out that GeeDub is the only President never to have attended ANY of the funerals of soldiers killed during war time. "

My brother was a soldier in the British Army, and after seeing his best friend shot in the face by a sniper in Bosnia he lost it a bit and was taken away from duty for several months while an 'investigation' took place. His friend's death was officially noted as some kind of 'misadventure', and when my brother found out about this blatant lie he hanged himself. Not terribly brave or glorious of course, but on top of everything else he'd had enough of the bullshit cover-ups designed to protect politicians. I know because he told me on the phone about one week before he died. His death - and he was found by one of his own best friends at the end of a rope - was also reported as 'misadventure'.

What I'm getting at is an obvious point: war has human costs, and if politicians cannot face up to the consequences of their decisions then they are not fit to lead men and women into conflict. If Bush really is the first president never to attend the funerals of those he was so publically gung-ho about sending to Iraq, that should be a fucking scandal - it's a show of disrespect on a scale that dwarves the normal chickenhawk stuff.

I should be flabbergasted that this isn't a point of outcry in the US, given your proud military traditions and sense of duty towards veterans, but with apologists around to puff up every PR stunt I'm not.

28 Nov 2003 | MrAnonymous said...

I think all you people are so upset that Bush looks so good when he's among the troops. I'd like to see Al Gore pull this off.

I don't think anyone, no matter what side of the debate they are on thinks this had nothing to do with publicity. But critics seem to think that's a bad thing. Whatever. Stop being so naive. Everything the president does is political. Bill Clinton was no better.

What the hell is wrong with a commander visiting the troops in the field? Get over it.

I'd like to denote some dumb*ss comments here. Grow up.

28 Nov 2003 | Xavier said...


Smart and ballsy move from his counsellors I must admit but...

JF : Psychological blow to Al Queda and Saddam

Would be impressive if it had been a planned visit, not a secret touch-and-go in an army and secret service crowded airport...

Now how can you trust your president when he says he'll be in Crawford and shows up on the other side of the globe for his re(s)election campaign? Someone obviously lied at some point here... this is not the kind of relationship one can expect from his president...

JF: The first visit by a US President to Iraq. Ever

Now let's talk about Sec. of Defense Rumselfd... :)

28 Nov 2003 | MegaGrunt said...

I think it's a real shame that Iraqis didn't have time to put together a proper reception for Mr Bush. No doubt a lot of them would have liked to meet him in person.

28 Nov 2003 | ssn said...

Sneaking into a country due to the *fear factor* and justifying it with the "surprise" argument it's a (irony) "grand" achievement.

(irony mode)
I'm glad to have witnessed this moment of history... the president of the richest country in the world *sneaks* into a destroyed country in the middle of a war that was (announced as) won 3 month ago...

Sad world this is.

28 Nov 2003 | Florida proxy said...

**********************************************

Fried's win-win

Things have been pretty quiet on the SVN board for weeks, no single post attracting a deluge of comments the way things go some months.

Time for Jubya to peddle some semi-controversial nonsense to boost the SVN ratings.

Jubya would like a three-figure comment approval rating on this one please.

*********************************************

28 Nov 2003 | Jonny Roader said...

"What the hell is wrong with a commander visiting the troops in the field?"

Absolutely nothing, but if that same commander has avoided attending any of the funerals of his own troops what does that tell you? Where's the honour in attaching yourself to the good news only? Where's the respect for the sacrifices that the sons and daughters of your country have made?

A bullshit exercise from a bullshit president.

28 Nov 2003 | Conspiracy Theory said...

What would be even more impressive is if this stunt was set on some backstage lot in Hollywood somewhere with actors as happy troops and hired photographers snapping AP photos to make it look like Bush really was visiting Iraq to boost morale. Probably not true, but you have to admit...it would be way more impressive.

28 Nov 2003 | David B said...

For the benifit of the Americans who post here and who don't have access to a free press:

"Since 1 May, 70 more US soldiers have been killed in hostile action than during the war itself - and November has been the worst month for casualties so far."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3245584.stm

There have also been approximately 9000 civilians killed so far during this conflict.

http://www.iraqbodycount.net/

"We don't do body counts" - General Tommy Franks, US Central Command.

28 Nov 2003 | dmr said...

Bush handed out turkey for a little while—this is news? Someone should have spit on him; our military should be eating thanksgiving dinner with their families here, in the US—not with the "president"—in a puffy jacket.

I'd like to know how most of the military really feels about the "president". I really can't imagine how George Bush boosts the morale of anyone. He is a disgraceful military leader; can't show up for funerals but I've got the time for some fucking turkey.

The fat, upper and middle-class white male is a dying breed, I just hope we all can facilitate this a little faster. They are in the minority, but hold all the cards in a lot of instances. I hope those who are complaining, angered and moved by any of the political issues going on are talking to people, contacting their presidential hopefuls and articulating where they still fall short—we all have to act and participate as it's our responsibility to reach out and move.

28 Nov 2003 | Carl said...

Now how can you trust your president when he says he'll be in Crawford and shows up on the other side of the globe for his re(s)election campaign? Someone obviously lied at some point here... this is not the kind of relationship one can expect from his president.

You have to be kidding. You can't consider this a "lie." It was a necessary security precaution. Come on now.

28 Nov 2003 | Ben Langhinrichs said...

Mr.Anonymous says "I'd like to see Al Gore pull this off."

If Al Gore had not had the election stolen from him, as I believe it was, I believe he would have been having Thanksgiving dinner here in the US, along with all those troops. This war was a major mistake, and feel-good photo ops do not change that.

As for the question of whether I feel the same about Hilary Clinton's visit to Afghanistan, of course I do. I have great respect for her, but it is still grandstanding.

28 Nov 2003 | Miles said...

wasn't hilary in afghanistan with a senate comittee? There were other senators there weren't there?

don't jump donw my throat for asking, I can't find an answer on news sites.

and of course it's all political, they're politicians. I don't think it's right that they started the war but now they have to finish it and if bush being there gives the troops a bit of a boost on what must be an incredibly depressing tour then, politics aside, I'm all for it.

I'm sure the troops would rather have seen paris hilton though... ;)

28 Nov 2003 | Dr_God said...

I think we're all missing a major point here. Regardless of your feelings about the war itself (I am on the side of those who think it should never have taken place), you have to think about the troops. Did this visit boost the morale of the troops? I think it did. If a celebrity would have gone, we would all be praising him/her for making the trip. It is no different that he is the president. If Bob Hope was still around, I think he would have been proud.

28 Nov 2003 | Carl said...

I think we're all missing a major point here. Regardless of your feelings about the war itself (I am on the side of those who think it should never have taken place), you have to think about the troops. Did this visit boost the morale of the troops? I think it did. If a celebrity would have gone, we would all be praising him/her for making the trip. It is no different that he is the president. If Bob Hope was still around, I think he would have been proud.

Amen. This is the point. If the troops feel better, even if it's just for a limited time, then it was a success. Anyone who claims they are "for the troops" or "with the troops," and disagrees with this move, is blinded by their own ideology. This was a good move for the people who are making the real sacrifice - the troops. And for that I praise Bush.

28 Nov 2003 | Steve said...

It's pretty clear that this can be spun both ways:

Bush is a hero for going. Bush is coward for going under the cover of darkness.
Bush is boosting the morale of the troops. Bush should boost the morale of the troops by bringing them home.
Bush showed the Iraqi people he cared. Bush showed the Iraqi people he is afraid of them.
Bush's meeting with the Iraqi Ruling Council will "tug at the humanity of the Arab world". Bush's meeting with the Iraqi Ruling Council will prove to the Arab world that the council is in the pocket of the U.S.

And so it goes. Win-win for those who love Bush. Win-win for those who hate Bush. Can it be any other way in American politics? Seems the middle ground has completely disappeared.

28 Nov 2003 | Carl said...

If a celebrity would have gone, we would all be praising him/her for making the trip.

One more thing to add about this point... I'm certain that if a celeb went instead of Bush, the people here complaining about the trip would be saying "It would have been nice if BUSH went... Where's the President on this? The Pres is sitting on his ass eating a big fat Thanksgiving dinner in Texas, and the troops are sitting on folding chairs eating a mass-produced meal in Iraq... Yada yada yada..."

28 Nov 2003 | AJB said...

it's nice to see that part of the USA is starting to wake up to the fact that they're getting hosed by a stupid man.

On the other hand, I really have to wonder whether or not the other part is just plain stupid.

I'm done backing up my comments with facts, I've done that enough and if you don't see the truth by now, then you never will.

Anyone that suports GWB is dumber than he is, and that's a sad state of affairs.

And, no, I don't mean "ignorant". There's been more than enough time and events to give the "ignorant" the opportunity to learn something. If they don't know it now, then they are in fact stupid.

28 Nov 2003 | Jonny Roader said...

"If the troops feel better, even if it's just for a limited time, then it was a success. Anyone who claims they are "for the troops" or "with the troops," and disagrees with this move, is blinded by their own ideology."

Of course, being blinded by your own ideology you can't even see the bigger picture here. What if the short burst of feelgood leads to a deeper disillusion once the turkey is finished and the cameras have gone?

If 'morale boosting' is your only criteria for success then you're surely jumping to conclusions to announce this visit as a success? From what I know of British squaddies, they have a keen nose for bullshit and view politicians with a wary eye. Try asking a real soldier some day what he makes of those who only turn up when the cameras are rolling.

Maybe it's different in the US army, but I doubt it's that much different.

28 Nov 2003 | MrAnonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with Dr God and Carl. And dmr, I think the troops like Bush more than you realize.

28 Nov 2003 | Ben Langhinrichs said...

Actually, from what I know of friends in the military, they seem every bit as divided as the rest of us on Bush. Maybe a higher percentage like Bush than in the general population, but not a much higher percentage.

As for morale, I am glad Bush did this if it is genuinely good for morale. Our soldiers need every bit they can get right now in a very tough situation. I just don't know whether it will be or not.

28 Nov 2003 | Carl said...

If 'morale boosting' is your only criteria for success then you're surely jumping to conclusions to announce this visit as a success?

For this trip, yes. That was the point. There were other points too (see JF's original point), but a morale boost was the main reason. And that was accomplished. As far as the boost being temporary, well, that's just the nature of a boost and there's not a single thing wrong with it. At least these folks got to smile for a few hours. And maybe that goodwill will last a few days, weeks, months, whatever, but if they're happier, I'm happier.

28 Nov 2003 | Jonny Roader said...

"I'm certain that if a celeb went instead of Bush, the people here complaining about the trip would be saying "It would have been nice if BUSH went... Where's the President on this? The Pres is sitting on his ass eating a big fat Thanksgiving dinner in Texas, and the troops are sitting on folding chairs eating a mass-produced meal in Iraq... Yada yada yada..."

Again, you're missing the bigger picture here. If Bush was making proper commitments to the troops - maybe going to some funerals would be a start? - then his respectful intentions would be clear. But people are suspicious of these one-off stunts, and quite rightly given that this is self-evidently the start of the re-election campaign (seeing as he didn't quite get the planned Reaganesque beginning he wanted).

28 Nov 2003 | Jonny Roader said...

"As far as the boost being temporary, well, that's just the nature of a boost and there's not a single thing wrong with it. At least these folks got to smile for a few hours."

Hell, I don't know how those on the ground feel about this. But it's a crackhead mentality that sacrifices longer-term happiness for short-term gain.

28 Nov 2003 | Carolynn said...

All of the critics - are you out of your minds? It was a great move. It showed he wasn't afraid to go down and rub elbows with the men and women doing the dying over there.

...as for it all being PR...this war is going to be won and lost on PR.

28 Nov 2003 | seattle jay said...

It was a good thing to do. Frankly he should do more stuff like this, after all he is a cowboy, right?

The comment above about Al Gore and election stealing is dopey. The body count argument is silly too. 25 million people are free from despotic tyranny. Even though the rush to war was not clearly and honestly described by the administration, the fact that Iraq has a good chance of becoming a great, free nation is compelling. I am sure Al Gore would be too busy worrying about the environment to worry about fellow world citizens if he were president.

28 Nov 2003 | One of several Steves said...

Thoughts?

I think you're easily impressed, JF. Yes, it was a nice little publicity move, and as far as photo-ops go, it was a very well-thought one. But some kind of tide-shifting, textbook case of politics? Far from it.

It occurred on one of the tw-three slowest news days of the year. Huge numbers of people aren't even going to be aware, because they aren't paying attention to news this weekend. It occurred a year before the election. It's certainly not sufficient at this point to counter the negative images of him in his flight suit under the "Mission Accomplished" banner.

It was a nice, smart move. But it's far from the groundbreaking move you think it is. No one will remember this two months from now, let alonge 12.

28 Nov 2003 | JF said...

I think you're easily impressed, JF

Just the opposite (I can't think of someone harder to impress than me).

Further, can someone please point out a negative here? Besides just calling out your personal hatred for Bush, and/or all the other stuff you think he's doing wrong, what was negative about this trip? I didn't say I support the guy. I didn't say I'm voting for the guy. I didn't say the guy was going to win the election. I didn't say the war was over because of this. I didn't say this changed my mind about anyone. I just pointed out all the things that I thought were win-wins about the trip. Feel free to point out a negative.

28 Nov 2003 | MrAnonymous said...

Good greif. Even Howard Dean failed to criticize Bush on this.

"It's nice that he made it over there today, but this visit won't change the fact that those brave men and women should never have been fighting in Iraq in the first place."

Clark's campaign was even supportive.

"We're not going to throw stones at the guy for trying to do a nice thing for the troops. When the president goes and spends time with the troops, that's a good thing."

28 Nov 2003 | Thumper said...

46 comments here already. Verdit: victory.

28 Nov 2003 | Steve said...

JF, from the American/PR perspective there is no negative. Of course, there are other perspective (which are often completely ignored). From the Iraqi side, things might be a little different. The visit didn't seem to impress them much. If anything, they're wondering why he didn't say anything to the general population. Disgruntled Iraqis wondering why Bush doesn't have enough confidence to say anything to them is a definite negative I think.

28 Nov 2003 | Benjy said...

I detest Bush and his policies, but I have to say I support his trip to Iraq. I'm sure it was a big morale boost for those risking their lives every day and away from their families on Thanksgiving. It also showed some sacrifice on Bush's part because he had to miss spending the holiday with his family--like the troops. But I don't think that it should or will impact anything in regards to the conflict in Iraq or in terms of the election next year. Just not that big of an event.

28 Nov 2003 | Jonny Roader said...

"Feel free to point out a negative."

People have tried to point out the negative, namely that it's the kind of bullshit spin that you normally seem to pride yourself on spotting. Indeed, if he was attempting to flog you some dodgy cellular phone deal I'm sure you'd be up in arms.

Besides, surely it's always valid to point out that specific events have contexts? And that often it's in the context of the event that true meaning is found? Does history count for nothing?

And will someone answer the point about the funerals please? Or don't any of you Bushies - or proto-Bushies in JF's case ;) - care about this?

28 Nov 2003 | JF said...

the kind of bullshit spin that you normally seem to pride yourself on spotting.

What's the bullshit spin? Bush went over to see the troops on Thanksgiving like other wartime Presidents have done. Were those trips bullshit spin too? I don't see any "spin" in any of these cases. Their actions made the troops feel better and themselves look better. Those two things don't have to be mutually exclusive. That's why I called it a win-win.

As far as the funerals go, I agree with you. Bush should attend a funeral (or a few). I understand politically why he's not doing it, but I don't agree with him.

29 Nov 2003 | ~bc said...

I'm with JF here, BS or not, the telling factor isn't all the background... it's that the troops in that tent jumped out of the seats when he stepped out in front of them. Many of them probably had to do a double take. Secret, cowardly? Iraq is a dangerous place for GWB. Every terrorist on the planet would have been there if they knew he was coming. I think he handled it the best he could in his situation (that is thinking he's doing the right thing in the whole Iraq affair).It was indeed balsy. GWB is likely the third most wanted man on the planet next to OBL and Saddam.

In reality, GWB is a moron and a Texas Air National Guard AWOL'er. But that short time he spent with those few troops meant a lot to them, without doubt. If I was there, I would have appreciated it without being a fan of his. Reality doesn't usually apply in politics nor war.

29 Nov 2003 | MegaGrunt said...

But the turkey was dry! It was dry!

29 Nov 2003 | Paperhead said...

Not only is Dubya not attending any of the funerals he has enforced the ban on any of the funerals being shown on television/in the papers, etc. Which shows an administration that clearly understands the value of spin. It was body bags on the news that brought your troops back from vietnam and other places because it has led to disapproval of the conflict among the ordinary american citizenry. By removing that reminder of a mounting number of troops dead, the administration hopes to avoid becoming unpopular over the issue of dead troops.


Now, bearing in mind that the administration won't even extend the standard show of solidarity with the relatives of troops who died fighting a war that they only had to fight because the president and his administration lied to the american people and the rest of the world. Bearing that in mind, do you think he sincerely wanted to cheer up the troops or that he thought he could get a cheap ratings boost by trying to look like a good guy for half an hour.

I really don't get you people. Frankly, I don't care whether this was a good PR move or not. How coldly cynical do you have to be to even bother discussing that whilst there are still people - on both sides - being killed in acts of voilence every single day in Iraq. What's crucial here is that order is not being brought to this situation. What's crucial is sorting the situation out and finding a resolution. Not whether this was "shrewd or not". FFS you people.

And Jason, I don't believe you sometimes. First you post about "air miles for heroes" and then you post this. If Dubya really wanted to cheer the troops up I'm sure that getting some of them back to their families for the holiday would have gone down a lot better than serving 5 of them turkey. I mean, couldn't he have stopped the troops having to pay their own air fares to get to see their families. Hell he could have paid for a lot of them to fly home and see their families and then take their family on holiday wioth the amount of money that will have been spent on a secret mission like this, because it will have cost million upon million of dollars to stage all of this.

Anyone else know who in the midst of all this secrecy managed to get seats on the plane with dubya? Give you a clue: it starts with a j for journalists.

Where's the negative? It's not in an individual point, it's in the hypocrisy of the whole thing. The troops are fighting a war because their country told them to go and do it. They deserve better than to be used for a photo op. And you Jason, I'm disappointed that you would think that they don't deserve better than being part of a "priiceless photo op" for the president.

you know, I don't even know how the draft-dodging little coward even has the face to stand in the same room as them.


. . . ooh look . . . shiny stuff . . .

29 Nov 2003 | ed said...

well put Paperhead. well put.

JF, i understand your point about this GeeDub trip being a purely positive move, but you must also realize that you are viewing this through a certain lense. when you pull back and look at the conflict and politics as a whole, the positive elements you see are results of purely nefarious moves on his part.

I'd go in to details, but alas I must go and set the table for t-day leftovers. night y'all. keep on discussing...

29 Nov 2003 | KennyEarl said...

...as for it all being PR...this war is going to be won and lost on PR.

I'm pretty sure that the families of everyone that has come home in a box, or even the guys sleeping with an assault rifle next to their bunk, would have a very different opinion.

29 Nov 2003 | Mark said...

Was it a bullshit political ploy when Clinton went to Kosovo in'99? Or when Bush, Sr. went to Saudi in '90? Or when Nixon went to Vietnam in '69? Or when Johnson went to Vietnam in '66 and '67? Or when Ike went to Korea in '52 (after he won the election)?

Bush writes a letter to the families of each soldier killed and met with families of KIAs earlier this week at Ft. Carson, out of view of the cameras.

The anger you all show about the war in general is understandable (though I do not agree with it), but the president has shown he does give a damn about the troops.

29 Nov 2003 | ek said...

Yes, the troops certainly "deserve better than to be used for a photo op" and in a perfect world they'd be home, and there never would have been a war, and there wouldn't be insane dictators, and so on and so forth.

Personally, I think the war was a sham, based on allegations that people within the administration knew were, at the very least, trumped up. And for that I very sincerely hate this administration and this president. I also thought his aircraft carrier photo-op a while back declaring "mission accomplished" was absolutely disgusting.

But the fact is that the war happened, we have a lot of troops in Iraq, and, unless we want the country to almost certainly fall into a horribly destructive civil war, we need to keep our troops there for a while.

Given those facts, I think it was a nice gesture for the president to go visit the troops who are, as Paperhead pointed out, there because they have to be. It is clear that his visit made a lot of the soldiers there very happy, happier than a visit by any other politician could have made them.

On the other upside points, though, I can't say I agree. I don't think will change the feelings of many on the war or Bush--one excursion like this can't make up for the daily reports of casualties. I definitely don't think the Iraqi people are going to give a damn about it. If anything, I think the fact that he didn't speak to the Iraqi people will serve as ammo to those in the country saying Bush doesn't actually care about them. And I certainly don't think this is going to cause UBL or Sadaam to lose any sleep. It'll be easy for them to spin this as an illustration of their power--forcing the most powerful leader in the world to fly in to a supposedly defeated country in secret and under the cover of night (isn't it the losers who slink around in the dark?).

29 Nov 2003 | Jonny Roader said...

"And I certainly don't think this is going to cause UBL or Sadaam to lose any sleep. It'll be easy for them to spin this as an illustration of their power--forcing the most powerful leader in the world to fly in to a supposedly defeated country in secret and under the cover of night (isn't it the losers who slink around in the dark?)."

Indeed. Surely the fact that the President of the US cannot fly into a US military airbase within a country where US-declared 'major combat operations' ceased nearly six months ago is a sign that the situation is most certainly not under control? That terrorists, not the all-conquering US military, now rule the roost?

29 Nov 2003 | Carl said...

A comment from Zeyad, the Baghdad Blogger:

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.

29 Nov 2003 | filchyboy said...

There seems to be this underlying assumption that

Bush visits troops = boost in morale

It strikes me that with the military as divided as the electorate over the actions of the President since taking office that such a move would simply reinforce this division. Those that already agree with him touched by his gesture and those that don't offended by his grandstanding at the troops expense.

If this is true, which I think it is, then it is wrong to make a correlation like:

Bush visits troops = boost in morale

So JF's point may be accurate for some of the intended audience but surely for those already disposed against the man it was not a good PR move at all, but just the opposite.

29 Nov 2003 | filchyboy said...

There seems to be this underlying assumption that

Bush visits troops = boost in morale

It strikes me that with the military as divided as the electorate over the actions of the President since taking office that such a move would simply reinforce this division. Those that already agree with him touched by his gesture and those that don't offended by his grandstanding at the troops expense.

If this is true, which I think it is, then it is wrong to make a correlation like:

Bush visits troops = boost in morale

So JF's point may be accurate for some of the intended audience but surely for those already disposed against the man it was not a good PR move at all, but just the opposite.

29 Nov 2003 | Jonny Roader said...

"A comment from Zeyad, the Baghdad Blogger"

You meen a Bagdhad blogger? There's more than one:

"Everyone here sees it for what it is- just a lame attempt to try to look good. We actually expected him in Iraq during his Asia tour- he was bound to stop by for a good gloat. I just think the whole thing could have been a little bit less transparent (and I expected it would occur closer to elections).

Seeing him on tv was amusing- so why did he have to sneak into and out of Iraq with such secrecy? Why didn't he walk the streets of the country he helped 'liberate'? Why didn't he at least *hover* above the country he 'liberated'? He constantly claims the situation is much better now than pre-war, so why isn't he taking advantage of our excellent security situation?! We all sat there, watching him garble out the usual stream of words and shook our heads… he's just as much of an ass in Baghdad as he is in Washington.

I am curious about how the troops felt about his presence though… I'm sure the hand-picked group in the airport were elated, but I can't help but wonder about the troops stuck in Tikrit, Najaf, Falloojeh or Mosul… I imagine they'd much rather be at home. "

Baghdad Burning

29 Nov 2003 | bj said...

No good deed goes unpunished.

29 Nov 2003 | Jonny Roader said...

Taken from filchyboy's blog:

Bush administration slashes veteran’s benefits

Wonder if that's good for morale?

29 Nov 2003 | Carl said...

Yes, slashing veteran's benefits is bad. Absolutely. I'm on your side on that one.

But can you not focus on the original post at hand? Why must you always try to change the discussion? I'm still not seeing why the President visiting his troops can be considered a bad thing.

29 Nov 2003 | Jonny Roader said...

"But can you not focus on the original post at hand? Why must you always try to change the discussion? I'm still not seeing why the President visiting his troops can be considered a bad thing."

It's not changing the discussion, it's a 100% relevant point when deciding whether or not this is a symbol of a commander who truly values his troops or who's just a grandstanding bullshitter.

As I've tried to point out, you can't separate events from their context. Here's a simple parallel for you: if I avoid my mother's phone calls all year and then phone her when my birthday comes around and I want a present, is that a genuine act or the act of an uncaring, hypocritical git? By your reckoning, the fact that I phoned her is the only thing that matters - and the context is irrelevant.

29 Nov 2003 | Carl said...

if I avoid my mother's phone calls all year and then phone her when my birthday comes around and I want a present, is that a genuine act or the act of an uncaring, hypocritical git? By your reckoning, the fact that I phoned her is the only thing that matters - and the context is irrelevant.

What the hell are you talking about? How has Bush ignored the troops up until now? First you criticize Bush for going over there, and now you are saying he's not going over there enough? Bush is always talking about the troops, the war, etc. He's not ignoring them. In fact, most people think he's talking war, military, troops too much. But I guess you'll spin it any way YOU can because you don't have an ounce of objectivity in your body. No matter what Bush can do no good in your eyes. No matter what. And that's a sign of ignorance.

29 Nov 2003 | Jon Gales said...

Reading the notes posted by Drudge, the whole day read like the best story you've ever read. From the back door of his Texas house, to the lights-off landing in Iraq, it was a hell of an event. Good move for everyone involved.

29 Nov 2003 | Carl said...

Another Baghdad Blogger says:

Yes GWB, though the visit was brief, it was very meaningful. We know that you have come, not as the President of an invading nation, but as the friend who wishes to renew commitment to our people, and as long as your intentions are what you have repeatedly said (and we don't doubt your sincerity), the land and the hearts welcome you.

30 Nov 2003 | One of several Steves said...

Further, can someone please point out a negative here?

There aren't any. As I said, it's a nice, smart move. There's no downside I can see from it.

But your initial post was so glowing about it, and I don't think that it's going to make a bit of difference in anyone's mind. For people who admire the president, this simply affirms the opinions they already held. For those who dislike the president, it's going to come off as just a cheap publicity stunt. For people in the middle, it's not going to cause them to give up their misgivings about the war or cause them to change a view of giving the president the benefit of the doubt.

This is hardly the sort of tipping point you think is possible. Whatever bounce he gets in approval ratings, if any, will be short-lived. Ditto the morale boost. It no doubt was quite nice for the troops to suddenly see their president there. But talk to them again in a month when their tours are extended yet again, another hundred of them have been killed and another several hundred wounded, and they still have no clear-cut idea of what they're doing there and when it's going to end, and we'll see just how much of a "tipping point" this is.

30 Nov 2003 | Angry Left said...

He said he was going to be in Crawford. BUSH LIED!!!!

30 Nov 2003 | Jonny Roader said...

"What the hell are you talking about? How has Bush ignored the troops up until now? First you criticize Bush for going over there, and now you are saying he's not going over there enough? Bush is always talking about the troops, the war, etc. He's not ignoring them. In fact, most people think he's talking war, military, troops too much. But I guess you'll spin it any way YOU can because you don't have an ounce of objectivity in your body. No matter what Bush can do no good in your eyes. No matter what. And that's a sign of ignorance."

Not as ignorant as completely misunderstanding my point, of course. The example I gave wasn't meant to be a 'just swap the names' case, just an example of where context is important in understanding an event. But then you are a product of an inferior education system and such subtleties are probably beyond you. ;)

The point I'm *trying* to get across (third time now) is that while some people will judge this event in splendid isolation and declare it a wonderful success, others will point to the wider context and remain suspicous. If you turn up in Iraq for a thirty minute photo-op after backing policies such as requiring troops to pay for their own food while injured on duty, or refusing to pay for their body-armour, or cutting veteran benefits, or not turning up at their funerals, etc. then your attachment to the troops may just be viewed as superficial. If you're informed and objective, that is.

30 Nov 2003 | ed said...

Good points, Johnny Roader, your last paragraph sums it all up beautifully. Carl, I'd have to agree with Johnny, you are being a bit short sighted on the subject. and your name calling isn't so cool, so please stop.

30 Nov 2003 | Jonny Roader said...

"But your initial post was so glowing about it, and I don't think that it's going to make a bit of difference in anyone's mind. For people who admire the president, this simply affirms the opinions they already held. For those who dislike the president, it's going to come off as just a cheap publicity stunt. For people in the middle, it's not going to cause them to give up their misgivings about the war or cause them to change a view of giving the president the benefit of the doubt."

Exactly, well put. And I reckon Bush's team realise this: the re-election campaign starts here, and this move (as the comments here seem to bear out) will overjoy those who already support him.

From that perspective it's a good PR move, and on reflection if this is all JF means by 'tipping point' - reversing the recent trend where core support has been dipping a bit, as the war drags on - then I agree.

But 'tipping point' as in influencing wider public opinion, here and in the Arab world? I doubt it, although it's a shrewd move domestically because no politician can easily criticise it - not at the moment anyway.

01 Dec 2003 | ak said...

secret, bold and successful

signal vs. noise just slipped way down my list of daily reads. how anyone can applaud this publicity stunt is beyond me.

i think baghdad burning probably best represents typical iraqi sentiment:

" We all sat there, watching him garble out the usual stream of words and shook our heads… he's just as much of an ass in Baghdad as he is in Washington."

juan cole has some interesting opinions on the stunt as well:

"Instead, the President had to sneak in and out of Iraq for a quick and dirty photo op, clearly in fear of his life if the news of his visit had leaked."

http://www.juancole.com/

for more on the incompetence going on in iraq, this new story in the new yorker is required reading:

"“I later realized they were losing faith in us by the second.”

http://www.newyorker.com/printable/?fact/031124fa_fact1

i hope mr. fried turns off FOX news and starts taking a look at some other less breathless in their enthusiam news sources prior to future posts on the subject.

01 Dec 2003 | JF said...

i hope mr. fried turns off FOX news and starts taking a look at some other less breathless in their enthusiam news sources prior to future posts on the subject.

Thanks for the kind words, ak.

FYI, even though I doubt you're listening, I don't watch FOX News, I didn't vote for G.W.B. in 2000, I most likely won't vote for G.W.B. in 2004 (I don't know who he's running against so I can't say for sure yet), I don't listen to Rush, I don't read the Weekly Standard, etc.

how anyone can applaud this publicity stunt is beyond me.

How anyone can dump on a President for visting his troops in a war zone is beyond me. I don't care who it is -- Bush, Clinton, LBJ, Nixon, Eisenhower, Lincoln, whoever. Anytime a President visits his troops it's part publicity, part morale boost, part politics, but what isn't when we are talking about a US President (or Senator)?

I'll say it again: I applaud the President for visiting the troops in Iraq on Thanksgiving. Doesn't that just piss you off? Someone who didn't vote for Bush or someone who doesn't watch FOX News actually saying a nice thing about one thing the President has done? Gets under your skin doesn't it?

I'm done here.

01 Dec 2003 | Jonny Roader said...

"Someone who didn't vote for Bush or someone who doesn't watch FOX News actually saying a nice thing about one thing the President has done? Gets under your skin doesn't it?"

That's a childish point, JF.

Like you I'd like to think that despite the fact that I don't rate his presidency one bit I could stand back and applaud a positive action he makes. His stance on AIDS, for example, has been largely for the good (even prompting praise from Bob Geldof) and, indeed, I broadly support the war in Iraq.

But you can't just wheel out the 'you're just anti-Bush' line when he's being legitimately criticised. You say you don't watch FOX, but you may as well with a mindset like that.

01 Dec 2003 | Darrel said...

Wow. 78 comments. Too many to read. I will say that JF's opinion of the event is exactly what Bush was after.

I think JF is correct in that many people will probably think what he does. That said, I doubt very few soldiers actually agree with him 100% (and many may disagree completely). Well, the Marines may agree. They're kind of crazy as it is.

In fact, I think a lot of military folks over there probably have little respect for Bush being CIC. They certainly respect his position as boss, but I doubt they feel a comraderie with him. He sent them to dangerous (possibly unjust/uneeded war) and sitting down for some turkey is supposed to make it all right? I dunno...

How anyone can dump on a President for visting his troops in a war zone is beyond me.

What? HE'S THE ONE THAT SENT THEM THERE. So, that's one reason to dump on him. If that were my child over there fighting this war with the daily reality that s/he may be killed at any moment, I don't think that Bush flying in secretly (what a chicken) to eat a turkey sandwich would make me fell any better. It's no different than you working over Thanksgiving weekend and having your boss pop in for 5 mintues to pat you on the back and say 'keep up the good work...I'll be out on the back 9 if you need me'.

I'm done here.

Typical 'I'm a pundit with something important to say but I won't bother responding to any actual opposing view in any considerate manner and instead will just ignore them because I know I am right' reaction.

;o)

01 Dec 2003 | Carl said...

I don't think that Bush flying in secretly (what a chicken)

Chicken? Jeez. The President (any President) can't walk the streets of any civilized country during the day without intense security. This is just another level of security in a very dangerous part of the world. Taking the correct security precautions is smart, not chicken.

In fact, I can't imagine a worse scenario for the future of the world as we know it for the US President (I don't care who that Persident happens to be) to get shot down by terrorists over Iraq. The implications would be enormously bad for just about everyone. Chaos and destruction would be an understatement. World War III for sure. The fact that Bush flew into these circumstances highlights the fact that it was a bold move. And solid security planning, carried out to perfection, was a necessary condition for his visit. It would be insane not to do this under the best possible circumstances (darkness, secrecy, quickly).

Typical 'I'm a pundit with something important to say but I won't bother responding to any actual opposing view in any considerate manner and instead will just ignore them because I know I am right' reaction.

To defend JF I think he's put in plenty in this thread. He wrote the original thread, responded more than a few times, and now he's made his final point and he's done. Leave it alone.

01 Dec 2003 | ak said...

The implications would be enormously bad for just about everyone.

carl you seem to forget that the presidents people told us at the outset that going into iraq was going to be a "cakewalk" (ken adleman) and that we would be welcomed "by the iraqis with open arms" (wolfowitz, chalabi).

instead of making iraq, the US, and the middle east more safe - this war has made all 3 arguably less safe - as demonstrated by bush's need to secretly sneak out of texas and into baghdad - great PR sure, but ask those grunts who told ABC news that they would ask for rumsfelds resignation were he to visit iraq a couple months ago - im sure they would offer some interesting opinions of bush's visit. unfortunately, it is very clear that the military has hushed all dissent with the ranks in the months since that interview.

many here are simply saying that jf's post lacked the type of critical - look at all sides approach one would expect from those in our industry.

when bush goes to a funeral of one of the fallen, and allows the event to be shown in the media - he'll get a little respect from this corner.

01 Dec 2003 | MrAnonymous said...

many here are simply saying that jf's post lacked the type of critical - look at all sides approach one would expect from those in our industry.

So JF can't excercise free thinking if it conflicts with what you expect? Why does he have to be critical? The whole point of his post was to point out the good things about this trip. You Bush haters are getting desperate for things to criticize JF on here. He was right and made excellent points, but your hatred for Bush prevents you from admitting, or realizing, that. Rush Limbaugh would be out of business if all liberals/Democrats acted like JF (who I'm assuming falls under that category).

01 Dec 2003 | Darrel said...

Chicken? Jeez. The President (any President) can't walk the streets of any civilized country during the day without intense security.

Hey, I'm not against security...but sneaking in to a country unannounced must imply something. What? No one likes him? Maybe. ;o)

I thought the whole point of this 'war' was to make Iraq safe for freedom. What? We haven't done that yet? Our leader still needs to sneak in unannounced? Oh. OK. Well, let's fight for another year or so and see what happens.

The implications would be enormously bad for just about everyone. Chaos and destruction would be an understatement.

You think? I don't know. It wouldn't be good, for sure, but I'm sure Dick could handle things. I also don't expect Bush to wander into a unsecured village alone, either. If it's not even safe to fly in to a secured base, then how can he insist that all of those soldiers stay over there for a yet undertermined about of time?

To defend JF I think he's put in plenty in this thread. He wrote the original thread, responded more than a few times,

Nothing against JF. Hey, this is his blog, he can do whatever he wants to. I'm just saying that the 'out of here comment' just seems typical of the type of discussions like this. "I love/hate bush. You disagree? Well I'm not going to waste my time debating it." Fine, but then why bring it up to start with?

Oh yea...ratings. ;o)

01 Dec 2003 | Darrel said...

He was right and made excellent points, but your hatred for Bush prevents you from admitting, or realizing, that.

Umm...you can't win a debate by just saying 'I'm right'. That's the point I was trying to make.

Rush Limbaugh would be out of business if all

Rush limbaugh (and the like...on both sides of the political spectrum) would be out of business if most Americans preferred critical analysis and took the time to think and come to their own conclusions instead of listening to ranting media celebs to prefer to spew opinions based on a few facts and prefer not to actually engage in any sort of dialogue other than 'I'm right, you're wrong, now shutup'.

It certainly is entertaining, though.

01 Dec 2003 | ek said...

It's always funny reading threads like this because it's such a perfect illustration of how close minded people on both sides of the fence are.

So many liberals hold themselves in such high, self righteous esteem, but then resort to the same "I'm right and the other guy's crazy, stupid, lazy, misinformed, etc." (those on the right would probably use words like godless, immoral, unethical, misguided, etc.) rhetoric as the Limbaughs and O'Reilly's of the world.

01 Dec 2003 | Jonny Roader said...

"It certainly is entertaining, though."

And what happens when it stops being entertaining? What if we're left with a debased culture that cannot debate maturely?

That's why it remains important to think critically and not just judge things for their immediate effect in the here-and-now, surely?

01 Dec 2003 | Jonny Roader said...

"It's always funny reading threads like this because it's such a perfect illustration of how close minded people on both sides of the fence are."

Everybody's close-minded, ek. And in my experience those who claim to see it everywhere are some of the worst offenders.

01 Dec 2003 | ek said...

Don't be so hard on yourself JR.

01 Dec 2003 | Jonny Roader said...

"Don't be so hard on yourself JR."

Heh. :)

02 Dec 2003 | pollster said...

quick poll. should this site change its name to:

1) noise vs. noise
2) anything for posts
3) we type, we done
4) bait and switch
5) jf rules

02 Dec 2003 | ak said...

"It took two years for US deaths to reach 324 in Vietnam. It passed that figure in seven months in Iraq"

http://argument.independent.co.uk/commentators/story.jsp?story=463172

02 Dec 2003 | Carl said...

"It took two years for US deaths to reach 324 in Vietnam. It passed that figure in seven months in Iraq"

Wow, what a powerful correlation. What exactly is the point? Tens and tens of thousands died in WWII, should we not have participated? What about World War I? And don't forget the Civil War - over 600,000 died in the US Civil War. Should we have skipped that one too?

And, as far as your 324 number, well, let's see how many people Hussein killed in any given two years. Or, maybe not because that would kinda blow your argument.

02 Dec 2003 | Darrel said...

Carl:

His point is that a lot of people are dying. Period.

02 Dec 2003 | beerzie boy said...

Cagey P.R. move that, upon cursory reflection, is meaningless crap for the masses.

02 Dec 2003 | One of several Steves said...

Bringing up the "how many people did Saddam kill" argument is a bit of a canard, Carl. There's no question that Saddam was brutal and hugely dangerous to his own people. But he has been for 20 years. Why now? Why not before, when Reagan, Bush, Cheney, et al. looked the other way in the 80s when Hussein was gassing Kurds and Iranians? Why stop in southern Iraq in 1991? Why not support the Shi'ite insurgency later that year, where a lot of the cumulative casualty count under the Saddam regieme was generated? The US has blood on its hands in that one, since it actively encouraged the Shi'ites to rebel but provided no support whatsoever.

Few people other than some cranks on the left will ever deny that the world is a better place without Saddam. But the question I have never seen adqueately answered from the war's supporters is justification for why *now* was the time to do this, and why it was appropriate and good for the U.S. to act alone, with a thin loin cloth of Brits, Poles, Aussies and Spaniards for some international cover. Yes, Saddam was a bad, bad man. So are dozens that the US has supported and looked the other way (such as Pinochet, Samoza, Marcos and, hey, look at this - Saddam!). Why now? Why him? When that can be answered, then we can start talking about how the war was a good thing because it got rid of one of about 50 leaders around the world right now that are systematically killing their own people.

Not to mention, Saddam's brutality to his people started being offered as a justification for the war only *after* it was apparent that WMDs were not to be found. You can't fairly justify things after the fact, not when you're trying to change the whole intenational system that's been in place since the Treaty of Westphalia in the 1600s.

Not to say that the left isn't full of canards as well. The war for oil thing has always been a load of crap. Some of the same people who advocated usign the UN, sanctions and the like were a year beforehand arguing that the sanctions were immoral and should be lifted.

I'm about as pacifist as they come, but I realize that sometimes the world doesn't behave as it should and there are things that need to be done that are unpalatable. Here's the thing: Saddam was going to need to be dealt with sooner or later. It was probably going to take war. My problems with this have less to do with invading Iraq than the fashion in which it was done. Bush I did it properly - work with the international community, build a strong, broad alliance. Bush II not only ignored the international community but deliberately and continually insulted it and told it it was irrelevant (and then acted surprised months later when it wouldn't chip in and help when things started to go pear-shaped). This war has been contrary to America's self-interest, because it has eroded and weakened alliances and freidnships, fanned increased hatred (two years ago, something like 60-70 percent of Indonesians had favorable impressions of the U.S., today 70-80 percent have negative impressions), and weakened the international structure that the US pushed after World War II and has served US interests quite well for 60 years.

Given the harm the war has done to the international community, and the failure it's been from the perspective of realpolitik American self-interest, people are going to have to come up with better justifications and reasons than "Saddam was a bad man."

02 Dec 2003 | ek said...

One interesting thing that I haven't heard mentioned by any of the pundits (though I don't see much TV, so many someone has mentioned it) is that the current situation in Iraq proves just how right George Bush Senior and Colin Powell were to stop when they did during the first Iraqi conflict.

Without the cover of 9/11 (which, in my opinion, is a complete ruse as there is still no definitive evidence that the leadership in Iraq had anything to do with it), there's no way in hell that the population at large would be accepting the losses that we're suffering in Iraq.

As for One of several Steves' questions, I suppose those on the right would say "If not now, when? If not us, who?" Or they might talk about the long-term benefits of a democratic Iraq in a strategically crucial region where dictatorships are the norm. I think their belief is that, if we can pull it off, it would be worth whatever short-term damage is done to our int'l standing.

As for the past, we were doing a heck of a lot more than just looking the other way during the Reagan and early Bush I years--we were actively supporting Hussein with arms, money, and intelligence because secular Iraq was useful as a counter to Islamist Iran.

But I think the point that those who've been supporting JF have been trying to make is; yeah, we've done some stupid stuff, but that doesn't make this specific act (i.e. Bush Jr. going to visit the troops on Thanksgiving) wrong.

And on a completely different note, I've always loved the word canard. ;-)

02 Dec 2003 | Don Schenck said...

Bush should NOT have gone.

Instead, he should have sent the head of the MILITARY to ... wait ... oh ... NEVER MIND.

02 Dec 2003 | One of several Steves said...

Good responses to those questions, ek. I'm not sure if they're the right responses, but they're worth thinking about. Because, just because we failed to do something that we, for argument's sake, should have done before doesn't mean we can't or shouldn't do it now.

I agree that none of this makes the Thanksgiving visit wrong. At its worst, it's a harmless publicity stunt. I think it's neutral - the people who get excited by it were already excited by Bush, and anyone who was already skeptical of or opposed to Bush isn't going to have their mind changed. Which is why I say it's pretty much harmless publicity.

03 Dec 2003 | p8 said...

Steve, why do you think the war for oil thing has always been a load of crap?

What do you think will happen when the dollar continues it's downward spiral and the OPEC would decide to switch to the more stable euro?
Oil prices would skyrocket in the US, and dollar prices would crash (nobody would want/need dollars).

Interesting read:
http://www.feasta.org/documents/papers/oil1.htm

03 Dec 2003 | One of several Steves said...

Steve, why do you think the war for oil thing has always been a load of crap?

Because the driving forces behind this war - namely Paul Wolfowitz and other neoconservatives - have been pushing for this for years on idealistic, Wilsonian grounds.

Because it's an easy, speculative argument to make, and yet no one has offered credible evidence to support the idea (that I've seen).

The idea that OPEC is going to swtich to the euro for pricing is nothing but speculation. And the source of the article you cited is hardly what I would consider a balanced source.

None of the post-war activity so far has led to any use of the Iraqi oil reserves at all. In fact, the administration pushed hard against marking some of the aid to Iraq as loans, precisely because they wanted to avoid the impression of this having been about access to Iraqi oil.

Even the most optimistic scenarios don't have Iraqi oil being a major factor in world supply for several years.

The rhetoric has always been that Iraq would use its own oil money to build a thriving democracy.

Do I think that things related to oil have been completely out of the equation? No. The sweetheart no-bid deals for Halliburton put paid to that notion. But this war was never primarily about seizing control of Iraq's oil fields.

It has been about naive, Wilsonian ambitions (Wolfowitz), pure, naked assertion of American power (Rumsfeld and Cheney), or some sort of mission from God (Bush).

03 Dec 2003 | p8 said...

"The idea that OPEC is going to swtich to the euro for pricing is nothing but speculation. And the source of the article you cited is hardly what I would consider a balanced source."

Well one OPEC country did and with a lot of success: Iraq.

"There is little doubt that this was a deliberate attempt by Saddam to strike back at the US, but in economic terms it has also turned out to have been a huge success: at the time of Iraq's conversion the euro was worth around 83 US cents but it is now worth over $1.05." - From the article as are the following sources I'm quoting.

"Iraq recognizes it has the ability to influence the market one way or another," said Jareer Elass, head of the Washington-based consultancy Oil Navigator. "The Iraqi leadership is going to want to remind the West, as well as OPEC, that Baghdad can mess with the markets."
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2000/12/22/2000/main259203.shtml

The choice of currency is certainly of interest to the OPEC.
http://www.opec.org/NewsInfo/Speeches/sp2002/spAraqueSpainApr14.htm

And Iran and Venezuela were planning to switch.
"US scrutiny of global banking since September 11 has spooked Iran into mulling a switch from dollars to euros for crude oil sales, its primary revenue earner, oil industry sources said. Iran could deal a psychological blow against the struggling dollar if it forces customers to pay billions of euro every year for their oil imports. "
http://www.gasandoil.com/goc/news/ntm23638.htm

Do you think any other OPEC country would dare to switch to the euro after the war on Iraq?

03 Dec 2003 | Darrel said...

Because it's an easy, speculative argument to make, and yet no one has offered credible evidence to support the idea (that I've seen).

I don't believe that there is any direct evidence, either. And it may be a war that has nothing to do with oil at all, but, that said, it's hard to completely ignore the fact that we have a president and vice president in office who have (or who their family has) made their fortunes off of the oil industries and that we currently live in a country that seems to be highly dependant on cheap oil to maintain our elevated standard of living.

I agree with you that, if anything, the oil issue was just a nice side benefit and that they had other higher motivations (right or wrong) for doing this.

04 Dec 2003 | ak said...

let bush and rove dig their own graves and stick to web design, boyz... again and for the last time this was a made for tv photo-op.

04 Dec 2003 | Toby said...

AK, that WashPost article is such overwrought nonsense. So what if that Turkey was a showpiece -- what about all the photos showing Bush on the serving line handing out plates with huge slices of turkey?.

Look, I'm not a Bush fan, but really, the lengths people will stretch to say something bad about the guy is insane. This anti-Bush hysteria is almost as bad as the Clinton bashing of the 90s.

04 Dec 2003 | Jonny Roader said...

Spot on about that article, Toby. But what are your views on the overall event?

04 Dec 2003 | Justin said...

The following is from Wired.com's "Furthermore" section. Hmmmm......

"Give 'Em the Bird
You know that picture of President Bush serving a big, fat turkey to the troops in Iraq on Thanksgiving Day? It was a fake. Not the photo, but the bird. Turns out the succulent-looking gobbler was merely an attractive centerpiece -- provided by a subsidiary of Halliburton, no less -- concocted to make Bush look like the consummate host. According to the Washington Post, the soldiers were served slices from a much more modest bird, well out of camera range."

04 Dec 2003 | Toby said...

Jonny...if you'll indulge my ranting..

I'm mixed. Overall ithe event was political grandstanding -- but, hell, he's a politician and an election year is approaching. I think the sentiment, politics aside, was nice. That is, the soldiers seemed to sincerely appreciate that he was there and he manged to gain some diplomatic ground with the governing council. Still, he was stupid as shit to risk his life by going. So yes, he's exploiting the situation, but bad taste is not a crime, just another reason for people who don't like him to not vote for him.

On a wider note, Bush isn't a fraction the villain his opponents make him out to be, but he isn't a fraction the hero his proponents make him out to be either. I'm frankly disappointed in the Democratics for looking at Bush like LaRouche looks at the Queen. The conspiracy theories are bullshit, but still, as all conspiracy theories go, have a grain of truth in them. The Bush Administration, to put it mildly, is far too associated with big business. But I think it is simultaneously far too cynical and far too naive to classify the war in Iraq and the war on terror as either American imperialism or a business venture.

This whole adventure will be bloody, messy, and complicated and it could fuck everything up as much as anything else in history has (colonialism/fascism/communism/you name it) until this point. So, was it worthwhile? Yes. Will it end badly? You bet.


05 Dec 2003 | ak said...

Bush isn't a fraction the villain his opponents make him out to be

good lord toby. take a look at what the man is doing to our enviromental protection laws:

http://www.nrdc.org/bushrecord/default.asp


http://www.rollingstone.com/features/nationalaffairs/featuregen.asp?pid=2154

if you know about, and care at all about the enviroment we all share ... bush is worse than anyone has made him out to be in this thread.


05 Dec 2003 | said...

if you know about, and care at all about the enviroment we all share ... bush

I don't think the environment is at the top of the priority list of Bush supporters.

05 Dec 2003 | Toby said...

I'm sorry, I thought we were talking about the war here. Yes, he's not an environmentalist -- big fucking surprise. Find a republican who is. (Well, I'm sure there are some when it comes to whatever is in their backyard.)

05 Dec 2003 | ak said...

yes but toby: "On a wider note, Bush isn't a fraction the villain his opponents make him out to be," ... are your words. This man IS the villain opponents make him out to be... did you read either of the articles I posted links to??? what the hell difference does it make if he is supposedly making headway in the war on terror (although there has yet to be found a single shred of evidence of WMDs in iraq or links to al queda) while his policies are slowly poisoning us and our children at home? not to mention completely ignoring (if not denying) what many agree is the greatest threat to humans and our little green planet today... global warming. How many were killed last year by heatwaves across the world? vs. terrorism? I suppose we can stick our head in the sand and pretend the war (support it or not) is the only benchmark we should be judging bush on ... I'll pass on this approach to judging "bring 'em on" bush and his policies.


05 Dec 2003 | ed said...

i know this thread is kinda old, but i thought i'd post this link, since it's totally relevant:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/3294501.stm

Bush's turkey unmasked as 'fake'

"A roast turkey presented to troops in Iraq by US President George W Bush was reportedly a fake used for decoration."

--

Cuz ya know, this isn't a PR move or anything. Bush was there to serve the troops turkey, and in this case, plastic turkey, cuz ya know Bush is such a fervent vegetarian and tofurkey tastes like crap, so plastic turkey it is...

god, we're gonna look back in 20 years at Bush's political chicanery and Clinton's will pale in comparison.

05 Dec 2003 | Toby said...

For crying out loud, ak, we're talking about the war. Bush is responsible for global warming? You've lost it, pal. The industrial revolution is responsible for global warming. (and yes I read your links, and I agree, although RFKjr is a frothing maniac.)

Kyoto didn't die because of Bush-- although the Reps killed it domestically (Clinton agreed knowing it would never be ratified). Kyoto died because it was a shitty treaty -- something people gleefully signed with the realization that. Exactly how many nations are compliant with the Kyoto standards? Russia ( right now at this very moment) is using the whole affair to grab concessions from Western Europe. Real enlightened this business is.

And what crappy standards they are! As if 1990 was the height of sustainability.

As for Europe's shitty weather, yes global warming may be to blame, or it may not. Nobody knows for sure. The only certain thing is that man is warming the earth --- but we don't know what effects this will really have on historical weather patterns. Hell, climatology is still an infant science. What I do know is that asking developed nations to cut back on growth isn't going to work. I happen to think greener technologies are the only solution.

Back to the Thanksgiving visit -- Bush delivered Turkey (despite whatever the Washington Post thinks). It was a good thing.

05 Dec 2003 | said...

I'm sorry, I thought we were talking about the war here. Yes, he's not an environmentalist

It's not that he's not an environmentalist, it's that he's almost anti-environment. It's one thing to not make the environment a priority, it's another thing to actively strike down past legislation to the point of making a lot of our environmental laws almost meaningless. That's just being plalin malicious.

Bush is responsible for global warming? You've lost it, pal.

He didn't cause it, but he's making it worse. A lot worse. With a lot less chances of easily correcting it once he's out of office.

He's 'renting the apartment' and not only is he not unclogging the toilet, and cleaning the sink once in a while, he's actually shitting in the living room and punching holes in the ceiling. He's a bad, bad renter.

06 Dec 2003 | ak said...

toby. just so we are all clear - you belittled robert kennedy jr. who has basically given his life to defending the enviroment we all share and vaguely defended bush - who without question is doing everything is power to reduce the hard fought (albeit meager) protections we have in place to protect our environment in the same post ... ?

just so we are clear on where you stand...

i was going to retract saying "Bush is responisble for global warming" although for the life of me - i couldn't find the attribution in my previous posts.

06 Dec 2003 | Eric said...

Wow, all this effort. Imagine if we could bottle it up. So, what are YOU doing to help make change?

- Learning more about 'them', so you can appreciate and live peacefully with different cultures?

- Learning more about ALL the angles with this conflict, not just the one or two you see over and over on CNN and FOX?

- Please, draft your own recommendations for what we should do, that would be a more efficient and proactive debate.

08 Dec 2003 | ak said...

the leftist media left out the fact that thanksgiving "dinner" was served at 6am. please pass the orange juice.

09 Dec 2003 | David Locke said...

This was a stupid move. Sure 600 troops got to have turkey with the President. A lot of them were ordered by mid-level commanders to do this. That means that the military is more politicized that it's ever been. I'm a military brat and this is crap. This is why we used to have civil service protections.

The other troops were out doing patrols and flying choppers looking for folks with stinger missles that would have shot down Mr Idiot. And, what if Mr. Idiot had been killed. What then? Dick Cheany as President. And, Tom Delay as VP. Worse even would be the Kennedy effect. When Kennedy was shot all kinds of liberal legislation passed through in deference to him. Well, give the right carte blanche is what this would accomplish, no waiting until the lame duck presidency years of Mr. Bush. Nope, we would have prayer in school next week, church-based social services, a round up of liberals and gays, etc.

The worst thing is for something to happen to Bush. Sure he doesn't care. He the religion of his addiction to fall back on. The rest of America would end up in the trash can.

If America had been run by the right, the American revolution would not have happened. As it is we are undoing what that revolution built everyday that the right can vote.

09 Dec 2003 | p8 said...

James Baker (who works for Carlyle and is the lawyer for the Saudies) has to sort out Iraqs debt.
Debts made by Saddam, for which the worldbank doesn't hold the iraqis responsible, will be sorted out by the lawyer who also represents the people who loaned Saddam the money.
Can you say conflict of interest?
How will the iraqis pay for the debts?

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article5359.htm

09 Dec 2003 | Toby said...

ak, I really got to question your sources. Rense.com? In the 90s, Rense was a third-rate Art Bell. Still, the article didn't originate at Rense.

Besides, he's wrong. Dinner was served 6PM local time. Counterpunch got its non-story info from a since-corrected Washington Post typo.

Even still, what's the point?

09 Dec 2003 | Marmaduke Williams said...

I think the trip to Iraq was a waste of tax payer money, a waste of the troops time, unfair to those who couldnt have dinner with the president, just a political stunt for election purposes and a big attempt at spin.

If you agree with that, guess what? It was a smart move both politically, militarily, for moral or the trops, for moral for those who support him and against those who hate Americans.

As already mentioned, those who criticize W. for this "stunt" must also critize the Hilary trip to Afganistan and the Clinton trip to Kosovo. If not, you are letting you emotions(emoticons?) get the best of you. Dont confuse yourself your own BS.

10 Dec 2003 | Stella Maris said...

If Bush truly supported the troops he would make sure they had access to healthcare in the U.S. and that they didn't have to fly (from a base in the U.S.) to their own homes at their own expense.

It's another example of "he lied, they died." None of what Bush said about the reasons for invading Iraq is true. And there are many veteran's groups who are against the invasion, e.g., www.veteransforcommonsense.org

11 Dec 2003 | MCPO, USN said...

In response to the comment posted by Stella Maris regarding why soldiers had to pay their own expenses for travel from a base in the U.S. to their home, my question to you would be this -- ever heard of the JFTR?

While it's true that an Executive Order can lead to changes in the JFTR, one of this magnitude never has, and most likely never will be issued. You see, the JFTR funds for hundreds of thousands of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines ALONG WITH their family members, to fly from overseas locations where they are serving, back to the U.S. for free (if, for example, the service member agrees to perform back-to-back overseas tours). Once back in the U.S., the service member must foot the travel bill him/herself, but, the return trip from the U.S. back to their origin is paid by the DoD (read your tax dollars) as well.

Any idea how much $$ it takes to fly a family of four round trip from Narita Japan to Los Angeles and back? I just retired last Friday after having served my country proudly for 20 years and while I will certainly say there are things they could do better to take care of the men and women that provide our freedom for us, the argument you're trying to make certainly isn't one of them.

Bush bashing -- Like him or not he's our President. If you do not like him, then get out this year and DO MORE than just vote -- get involved in your political party of choice and actually WORK to make a difference rather than sit at home and piss and moan. I'd like to think that the "fruits of my labor" for the past 20 years (let alone everyone else that's ever left home hoping to make a difference) are valued by you critics sitting in your warm home, eating a hot meal, and surfing the internet, just a little more than that. Find someone near you that lost a son, daughter, father, mother, brother, sister, aunt, uncle or cousin and go cry to them, or...make a difference. Whine, or make a difference.


11 Dec 2003 | MCPO, USN said...

In response to the comment posted by Stella Maris regarding why soldiers had to pay their own expenses for travel from a base in the U.S. to their home, my question to you would be this -- ever heard of the JFTR?

While it's true that an Executive Order can lead to changes in the JFTR, one of this magnitude never has, and most likely never will be issued. You see, the JFTR funds for hundreds of thousands of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines ALONG WITH their family members, to fly from overseas locations where they are serving, back to the U.S. for free (if, for example, the service member agrees to perform back-to-back overseas tours). Once back in the U.S., the service member must foot the travel bill him/herself, but, the return trip from the U.S. back to their origin is paid by the DoD (read your tax dollars) as well.

Any idea how much $$ it takes to fly a family of four round trip from Narita Japan to Los Angeles and back? I just retired last Friday after having served my country proudly for 20 years and while I will certainly say there are things they could do better to take care of the men and women that provide our freedom for us, the argument you're trying to make certainly isn't one of them.

Bush bashing -- Like him or not he's our President. If you do not like him, then get out this year and DO MORE than just vote -- get involved in your political party of choice and actually WORK to make a difference rather than sit at home and piss and moan. I'd like to think that the "fruits of my labor" for the past 20 years (let alone everyone else that's ever left home hoping to make a difference) are valued by you critics sitting in your warm home, eating a hot meal, and surfing the internet, just a little more than that. Find someone near you that lost a son, daughter, father, mother, brother, sister, aunt, uncle or cousin and go cry to them, or...make a difference. Whine, or make a difference.


12 Dec 2003 | Jonny Roader said...

MCPO: forgive me for pointing this out, but there are plenty of people in this world who are contributing to the common good, and not all of them are in the military! Having lost a brother I certainly respect the sacrifices made by forces personnel, but it's also a truth that people in all walks of life make sacrifices. It will sound blasphemous to your ears, but some civilian jobs probably entail more danger than, say, sitting at a screen on a virtually invincible US aircraft carrier. Hell, the nurses in our local emergency department deal with knife and gun happy crackheads as a routine part of their job.

Danger is only one of the privations you good people suffer of course (and I'm not being snide when I say that). I certainly couldn't deal with 9 month tours on the other side of the world, away from my family and the comforts of home. But just because you're active military doesn't mean that you can blithely disregard people's political views as 'piss and moan'. How do you know people on here aren't politically active in the ways you suggest? How do you know what jobs they do, and what sacrifices they make to do them? You don't.

Besides, in all my years I've never met a bunch of people who moan more than soldiers. ;) Except teachers.

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