U.S. President George W. Bush was in Baghdad on Sunday for a farewell visit. Bush, who is set to leave office in just a few weeks, made the unannounced visit on December 14 according to Reuter’s news. On his visit, Bush held talks with the Iraqi Prime Minister and also addressed some of the troops.
On his fourth trip to Iraq since the 2003 invasion of the country, the President flew by helicopter to the Iraqi Presidential Palace to meet with Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani and his two vice-presidents. Later, he met with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki for talks and to congratulate him on successfully negotiating the new security agreement which was signed last week.
When President Bush arrived on the tarmac in Baghdad he was greeted by General Raymond Odierno and Ambassador Ryan Crocker. The fact that the President landed in broad daylight is a testament to the increased security in Baghdad, and how much safer it is in Iraq these days with a greater the U.S. military presence on the ground.
The security pact, signed last week, lights the way for Iraqi’s to take back control over the security of their country, and also plans for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Since the US economy is foremost on the minds of most Americans right now, the war in Iraq is increasingly seen as little more than a waste of valuable resources. Polls show that most Americans want to bring our troops home “sooner, rather than later.”
The Iraq war, now in its sixth year, has killed more than 4,200 American military personnel and over ten thousand Iraqi’s (unofficial sources put those numbers much higher). Bush wanted to take the opportunity to bid a final farewell to the troops who have given so much and to thank them for their service to their country.
The threat of militant violence is still present in many areas of Iraq and the presidential visit was under heavy security. Mr. Bush also limited his visit to Iraq to the most secure areas of the country, and the heaviest fortified areas of Baghdad. The White House kept a tight lid on the details surrounding the Presidents trip, and security was stepped up at Baghdad International Airport before the President’s arrival.
According to U.S. General David Patraeus, the violence in Iraq has fallen to its lowest level since 2003. Although car bombings and suicide blasts are still common, security is at its highest level in years in the war-torn nation.
The Bush administration has been long criticized for the war effort in Iraq. Still, President Bush insists that removing Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do, despite the tremendous loss of life, resources and international goodwill.