Bush surprise visit to Baghdad

28 November 2003
US President Bush surprised 600 US soldiers by arriving for a Thanksgiving meal in Baghdad on 27 November. Bush spent two hours at the US airbase at Baghdad international airport and met US servicemen and local politicians, including the rotating head of the Iraqi Interim Governing Council (IGC) Jalal Talabani. Bush also delivered a strongly-worded speech to those present, in which he reassured listeners that the coalition would remain unperturbed by militant attacks in Iraq. '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,' he said.

Reports emerged late on 27 November, after Bush's plane had left Baghdad, from the small number of reporters invited on the 30-hour trip to Baghdad, about the intense secrecy of the trip. Bush was believed to be having Thanksgiving lunch with his family in Texas, who arrived unaware that he had left for Iraq.

Democrats have greeted Bush's visit with some scepticism. Senator John Kerry issued a statement saying that the trip was 'the right thing to do for our country.' But, he added that, 'when Thanksgiving is over, I hope the president will take the time to correct his failed policy in Iraq that has placed our soldiers in a shooting gallery.'

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