Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Details of White House Planning for Secret Iraq Visit

President Bush's weekend stop to visit the troops in Iraq was carefully planned by the White House, with secret preparations used to maximize the element of surprise:

President Bush was supposed to leave Washington on Monday for an international summit in Australia. Instead, the day found him mingling with U.S. troops in the desert about 120 miles north of Baghdad.

Bush's unannounced trip to Iraq was arranged in tight secrecy, with the president sneaking out a side door of the White House about 18 hours before his scheduled departure for Sydney and driving in a two-car motorcade to Andrews Air Force Base, Md.

Reporters traveling on Air Force One had been sworn to secrecy a day earlier and were held behind curtains in the rear of the plane until takeoff.

The rest of the press corps, on a separate flight headed for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation gathering, learned of the president's Iraq detour only as they arrived in Honolulu for a scheduled refueling stop.

The president met with Iraqi leaders and top U.S. officials during his six-hour stop at Al Asad Air Base, then traveled on to Australia.

On the way to Iraq, White House officials denied that the visit was little more than a stunt designed to help Bush make his case that his military strategy is making progress.

The president "felt it was important for him to come firsthand," said national security advisor Stephen J. Hadley, adding that Bush was particularly looking forward to meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, as well as Sunni Arab tribal leaders. "There is no substitute for sitting down, looking him in the eye and having a conversation with him."
Bush's visit is being held up as a major turning point in the war on terror, commensurate to the significance of the Battle of Gettysburg in the American Civil War.

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