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Like a Thief in the Night 600 US troops get turkey for Thanksgiving
by Bryan Zepp Jamieson
Zepps Commentaries
November 28, 2003

Profiles in Courage it wasn't. Four days after the fortieth anniversary of the JFK assassination, Putsch made what Faux News trumpeted as a bold, unique, courageous foray deep into enemy territory to show his love, compassion and appreciation of the troops.

The only trouble was, it wasn't bold. It wasn't unique. It certainly wasn't courageous.

Other Presidents have visited war zones, of course. And while some were unannounced (FDR's visits to Teheran and Malta, for instance) most were. Certainly. In this case, however, the security, always suffocating with this paranoid and fearful president, went right over the top.

The media that came along (mostly right wing stooges from the Faux "News" network) were enjoined to utter silence, being advised that if there was the faintest hint that word of the stunt had gotten out, Air Force One would turn right around and head straight back to Washington.

At one point, a British Airways pilot spotted the plane over mid Atlantic, and got on the radio and asked "Is that Air Force One?" The pilot of the presidential plane then lied, stating that they were a Gulfstream 5.

The plane landed at night, which is hardly unusual. The fact that it landed without landing lights, without runway lights, without even CABIN lights, and with the control tower being unaware of the craft's identity is very unusual.

Baghdad International Airport is under American control about as much as any place in Iraq can be said to be under American control. The trouble is, that makes for fairly tenuous control. While Iraqis aren't free to shell and donkey bomb the airport like they can pretty much at will in the rest of their country, they can still fire SAMs, and did manage to wing a cargo DHL craft a week earlier. AF1 has more sophisticated defenses than a typical cargo carrier plane, and we're told it isn't particularly vulnerable to SAM attacks.

Which doesn't explain the security.

Of course, we saw this fretful need to utterly control surroundings just a few weeks earlier in London, where American security went so far over the top as to bring their own chefs to cook Putsch's meals (thus miffing the Queen, who takes a certain amount of pride in Buckingham Palace's cuisine, and who knows that the English stopped poisoning foreign dignitaries some 500 years ago, and in any event only rarely poisoned their own allies). They even tried to get Her Majesty to slip on an identification badge - in Buckingham Palace. (If I had been her, I would have pinned a fiver on my breast with a note reading, "Ooo do yer fookin' THINK I am?")

And of course, free Americans are accustomed to being corralled into "First Amendment Zones" so no hint of displeasure among the peasantry might offend the regal eyes of George W.

Countries with freedom of expression have been "requested" to do the same. Much of London was blocked off to protesters to oblige the timid Putsch, sitting in his bomb proof and bullet proof limousine with the black windows, breathing the canned air (no furrin' air for THIS boy!), staring out mistrustfully at traffic on the wrong side of the road, and at people who don't like country music.

The trip was announced several hours after Putsch was safely out of Iraq. It might have been quite the public relations coup, like the one Clinton scored when he went to Kosovo, or what Eisenhower did when he went to Korea. But as soon as details of the secrecy of the trip got out, a startled public turned disdainful.

There's something wrong with that man. There's an old saying that the tyrant fears laughter more than the assassin's bullet, but this man seems to have an obsessive fear of both in equal measure. Heaven forbid he should ever encounter a laughing assassin. The moment the presence of such registered on George's feeble brain, the purpose of the assassin would become moot, and a pooper-scooper would be required to tend to the president's final proclamation.

The difference was that in the case of Clinton and Eisenhower (and other presidents to visit war zones, such as Johnson and Nixon), the trip was announced, and while precautions against assassinations or other attacks were taken, it wasn't done with the quivering, fretful paranoia and secrecy that is the hallmark of this administration. Prudence the public could understand; the extreme secrecy and clandestine nature of this trip smacked of timidity, and was quickly seen as a public relations stunt. I thought of the actor who, while sitting with a movie reviewer and watching his cinemagraphic doppleganger hang from a cliff by a frayed rope, proudly boasted that he did his own stunts. Only in this case, the cliff was a matte, and the studio floor was never more than a foot below the actor's feet.

It also reminded me a bit of the scene from "To Kill a Mockingbird," when the siblings goad Dill into running up and touching the front door of the Boo Radley place. We need a word for excessive courage when facing no danger, and maybe "dilly" is the word we could coin.

Two days later, Senators Clinton and Reid (D-NV) who had made announced visits to Kabul on Thanksgiving Day, visited Baghdad. They did so openly, with their heads exposed to the Baghdad sun. No sneaking around, lying about their identity (at one point, Putsch and Condi Rice pulled baseball caps down over their heads in the hope it would disguise their appearance) and in broad daylight. No cowardice there.

Reid and Clinton made a bold stand. As for George...well. It was a dilly of a trip.

Yeah. That works.

The people who have been saying that the number of attacks against Americans in Iraq average less than one attack for every million Iraqis are the same people talking about what a bold move this was on the part of president Chickenhawke of the Fustercluck.

The dinner with the troops was carefully choreographed to produce the greatest amount of surprise and delight, and the hooting and cheering troops happily obliged. As would any audience; it was stage management of the sort that often elicits cheers from audiences at rock concerts, pep rallies, and pro wrestling matches.

One Usenet reader, Mhirtes, remarked, "Bush, being 'Mister Preemptive', was visiting the Corpses-To-Be in advance so he won't have to deal with their funerals later on."

But there was a picture in many newspapers the next day that showed Putsch with his arm draped around a soldier's shoulders (black and female, of course: The GOP never misses an opportunity to try to politicize everything) and the soldier is smiling broadly.

But behind them stand fifty or sixty other soldiers.

And not one of them is smiling.

Posted: December 1, 2003


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