President George W. Bush on Sunday made a farewell visit to Iraq, a place that defines his presidency (winning a war), just 37 days before he hands the war off to a successor who has pledged to end it (lose the war).
Air Force One, Bush's distinctive powder blue-and-white jetliner, landed at Baghdad International Airport in the afternoon local time, after a secretive Saturday night departure from Washington and an 11-hour flight.
Aiming to celebrate a new security pact between Washington and Baghdad, the president planned meetings with top U.S. officials stationed in Iraq as well as with Iraqi leaders.
It was Bush's fourth visit to the war zone as president and his last before President-elect Barack Obama takes office Jan. 20. Bush's most recent Iraq stop was over 15 months ago, in September 2007.
Bush's trip was conducted under heavy security and a strict cloak of secrecy. People traveling with the president agreed to tell almost no one about the plans. The White House tried to avoid raising suspicion about the president's whereabouts by putting out false schedules detailing activities planned for Bush in Washington on Sunday. Though the security situation in Iraq has improved dramatically, a trip to that war zone is still considered dangerous.
As you recall, this blog and many others celebrated Victory in Iraq Day on November 22. For detailed reasons leading to this conclusion, read the following at Zombietime, who came up with the idea of VI Day, especially this:
On Sunday, November 16, Iraq's cabinet approved a security agreement with the U.S. which top analysts and pundits are saying is the closest we'll ever get to a bureaucratic declaration of victory and of the war's end. Hugh Hewitt, for example, says:
The Battle For Iraq Has Been Won. Will The President-elect Preserve The Victory?
Yesterday's vote by the Iraqi cabinet to approve a status of forces agreement confirms what most reasonable people had concluded this summer --that the battle for Iraq is over and the country is stable and secure even though its enemies remain in small enclaves within the country and across the border in Iran. It has taken five years and come at a high cost in American lives lost and in thousands of wounded soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. It is, however, a crucial victory in the war against Islamist extremism and for stability in the Middle East.
None of this would have happened without the courageous leadership of George W. Bush, who stayed the course to pursue victory in Iraq.
Thank You, President Bush!