Very smart move here on Bush’s part.
President Bush made a surprise visit to Iraq Monday, shortly before a White House deadline to report to Congress on the U.S. troop increase there.
Air Force One touched down under a blazing sun at Al Asad Air Base, for a six-hour presidential visit to tout a "remarkable turnaround" in the mostly Sunni Anbar province west of Baghdad.
After exiting the aircraft, a line of military officials, including top war commander Gen. David Petraeus, welcomed Bush with smiles, salutes and handshakes in the 115- degree heat.
Bush plans to eat dinner with U.S. troops and to meet with top military commanders, the U.S. ambassador, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and provincial tribal leaders. Video Watch commanders welcome Bush
Bush has hailed Anbar as a success, citing the U.S. military’s alliance with tribal leaders in fighting al Qaeda in Iraq.
He brought along Robert Gates, Condoleezza Rice, General Peter Pace, national security adviser Stephen Hadley, and the "war czar" General Douglas Lute. He stayed in Anbar instead of Baghdad which speaks volumes about the level of change that has been going on in Iraq plus he met with Maliki, of course, but also tribal leaders which is huge in my opinion. This means that Bush and his Administration recognize that Iraq has a different sort of Democracy. The tribal leader is a very important part of that landscape and what Bush is saying here is that we will work with them.
Another reason Bush went to Iraq, according to National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, is that the President felt he had to make this visit "in order to put himself in a position to make some important decisions." A sign of a true leader.
Meanwhile American deaths are down:
American combat deaths in Iraq have dropped by half in the three months since the buildup of 28,000 additional U.S. troops reached full strength, surprising analysts and dividing them as to why.
U.S. officials had predicted that the increase would lead to higher American casualties as the troops "took the fight to the enemy." But that hasn’t happened, even though U.S. forces have launched major offensives involving thousands of troops north and south of Baghdad.
American combat casualties have dropped to their lowest levels this year, even as violence involving Iraqis remains high.
Military officials and observers are wondering whether the lower U.S. casualties are a sign of success or an indication that insurgents and militiamen simply chose a different battlefield when the Americans mounted their offensive in Iraq’s capital.
"Nobody here is doing cartwheels yet," said one senior military official at the Pentagon, who requested anonymity in order to speak freely.
Oh, I’m sure many of them moved to places where the heat wasn’t so bad but I think one of the biggest factors is that we have experienced combat troops in Iraq and the civilian population trusts us more. We’ve been there for over 4 years and this has created a encyclopedia of combat tactics against this enemy we call terror. It’s priceless actually. Just when we need it most, we have it. Michae Yon described it best in his piece a few weeks back: (h/t QandO blog)
When I wrote the dispatch “Be Not Afraid,” I thought at least dozens of soldiers might be killed when we attacked on 19 June, and that hundreds might be wounded. After years of experience, the terrorists had prepared Baqubah to an extent greater than either Fallujah or Ramadi had been. During one of the briefings Saturday, General Petraeus mentioned that Baqubah was probably the most rigged city of the entire war. Another officer at the briefing said there is so much explosives residue in Baqubah that the bomb dogs get confused.
Since the beginning of Arrowhead Ripper—with the loss of one 3-2 SBCT soldier killed in action—troops found more than 130 bombs planted in ambush, about two dozen buildings rigged to explode, and more than half a dozen car bombs. (That’s only the beginning.) Yet street by street, house by house, step by step, the infantry soldiers cleared most of Baqubah, working under intensely stressful conditions. They cleared block by block, no place to sleep but the ground, no showers to wash away the sweaty grit of war. This combat-experienced brigade outsmarted the enemy. I’d like to say more, but the enemy will get no help from these pages.
Add this to the fact that our enemy has no real friends left in Iraq, which means intelligence from the residents.
BAGHDAD – Four more U.S. troops and a British soldier have died in attacks, military officials said Tuesday, in a possible sign that extremists are regrouping after a drop in American deaths last month.
The spate of recent U.S. deaths — 19 so far in August — seems certain to intensify the debate over U.S. progress to calm Iraq and gain ground against militants ahead of a key September report to Congress.
U.S. deaths had dropped slightly in July to 79 — the lowest monthly tally since 70 were killed in November. Before July, more than 100 American forces died each month in the April-to-June period as the U.S. military struck out at insurgents on dangerous streets and cities across Iraq.
It couldn’t possibly be because the Bush strategy is more successful than anyone dared suggest it might be.
In fact, there have been some much-heralded spikes in combat deaths as Americans engaged. But the turning of the tribes, a revolt that continues to spread, has dramatically cut violence in ways that were not anticipated when the surge was first announced. Combat operations north and south of the city have been highly successful. Al Qaeda operations in key areas have been terminated, and leadership has fled, attempting to spark bloodshed elsewhere.
It’s a war. Battlefields shift. But sometimes, the taking of territory, defeating the enemy, reducing one’s own losses is an indication of pending, is actually a indicator of pending victory, rather than defeat. Hard concept to grasp, I know.
And then there is this morale thing that is constantly being harped on by the left. If this news story is any indication, morale is doing just fine.
You’d expect complaints. I didn’t hear one. And talking to three Jersey boys, I was surprised to hear just how positive they felt about the mission.
"I’d do it again in a heartbeat," Lance Cpl. Justin Blitzstein of West Milford told me. Self-assured and ready for anything, he added, "Anybody who doesn’t think we should be here should see the difference we’ve made in the way these people live. And everybody here’s a volunteer. We want to be here."
Lance Cpl. Jason Hetherington of Cape May County leapt in, "The progress from us being here [in the police precinct] less than six months is unbelievable. People who don’t think we’re making a difference should just see what we do."
A thoughtful man, Hetherington paused to choose his next words. "We were surprised that it wasn’t a combat situation in Fallujah anymore. It’s rewarding to see the kids out in the streets and the shops open."
Blitzstein nodded. "We were amazed at how easy it was when we moved in. We were the first Marines thrown into the meat grinder, right in the middle of Fallujah, but it worked out. It was good planning on somebody’s part."
Lance Corporals not complaining that the war is lost? When the lowest rung of the enlisted corps is doing fine then you know morale is good. There will always be bitching, it was common when I was in and when my father was in and when my great-grandfather was in. The lefts pipe-dreams of a demoralized American military ala Vietnam is just that, a pipe-dream. Make no mistake, they are trying their best to get them to hate America as much as they hate it but they are failing miserable. This is a volunteer military, young men and women who enlist now understand where they could end up and they WANT to be there. They see that our military has performed magnificently in Iraq and Afghanistan and while there will be many hardships they still go. True Americans through and through.
Our military morale is high, our military is kicking ass in Iraq both in the combat realm along with the political realm, Iraq is slowly turning the corner on Democracy. While its not picture perfect with civilian deaths still high, neither was Germany for 30 years after WWII, so all in all I think Iraq is turning the corner.
And now Bush goes to Iraq to show it. Good for him.
My favorite picture of the day:
President Bush receives a challenge coin as he meets with a Marine combat patrol unit at Al-Asad Airbase in Anbar province, Iraq, Monday, Sept. 3, 2007.
Don’t know what a challenge coin is? Google it.
A great comment at LGF which highlights something different then other Presidents:
Think about it:
How many times did Roosevelt visit the front lines in WWII?
How many times did Wilson visit troops in the trenches in the Ardennes?
How many times did Johnson go to Vietnam?
Clinton in Bosnia? Nope.
Do you see a common factor between those 4 Presidents? Although I seem to remember Johnson and Nixon both visiting Vietnam but I could be wrong.
Semper Fi Mr. President.
The left is in a uproar of course over the Bush visit but my favorite headline has to be this idiotic KOS piece:
How dare Dubya smile while in Iraq
These people are insane. The only thing that would make them happy is Bush weeping and yelling his apologies for going into Iraq only for Halliburton while he wails that the war is lost and that he is pulling all troops out of the Middle East since we all know America can’t fight. We’re a land of losers you see. Then to top it all off he would announce that from this day forward he will only rule by opinion polls.
Then we would see these idiots smile.