Editorial: Take that, Saddam

November 30, 2003

When the history of the Iraq War is written, President Bush's secret Thanksgiving visit in Baghdad may well be seen as the day the tide turned in winning the peace.

Though it might seem to some - and will certainly be viewed by his Democratic critics - as a public relations gimmick to boost his ratings in the popularity polls, Bush's Baghdad visit made several important points to the Iraqis.

First, it demonstrated clearly once again that America won the war. It was the president of the United States, not the ousted president of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, who was serving mashed potatoes to the troops in Baghdad on Thanksgiving Day. Bush came to Iraq not as a conqueror but as a friend. The message was crystal clear: Not only are American troops firmly in control of the country, their commander in chief was there, too.

Secondly, the Bush visit demonstrated America's commitment to staying in Iraq until the job is done. As Bush told the troops, "We did not charge hundreds of miles into the heart of Iraq, pay a bitter cost of casualties, defeat a ruthless dictator and liberate 25 million people only to retreat before a band of thugs and assassins."


To both our friends and foes in Iraq the message was unmistakable: America will not back down to the terrorists and Saddam loyalists who are trying to run us out - at least as long as Bush is president.

Which leads us to the third point brought home by the visit to Baghdad. If the Iraqis didn't already know it, the daring flight into an airport where only days before a transport plane had been hit by a terrorist rocket showed them the kind of person they are dealing with.

For too long in the Middle East, America has cut and run when terrorists were able to inflict casualties. The Bush visit showed that not only are America's soldiers brave and determined, their commander-in-chief is, too.

Bush's sudden appearance from behind a curtain at the Baghdad airport was a great morale-booster for the troops in Iraq, and for Americans at home watching the scene on TV (after it was already over, of course).

But it must have been a real morale-bruiser for "the thugs and assassins" whose only hope for getting themselves and Saddam back in control of the country is to scare America away. At the same time, it must have given heart to the vast majority of Iraqis who just want to live in peace in a country with a government that does not murder them.

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