President George W. Bush and Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and Jack Reed, D-R.I., all made visits to Iraq last week. The trips were quick, in part because of safety risks, including a difficult “corkscrew” landing by an unlit Air Force One. The purpose of both visits was to visit the troops, who were away from their families during Thanksgiving weekend. While these visits could have included more time gathering first-hand information, the leaders deserve credit for choosing to skip family gathering time to thank the soldiers who had to miss theirs.
News coverage focused on the troops, although the media noted that Clinton took time to discuss women’s rights in Iraq.
The White House and Congress have to solve a complex and problematic situation in Iraq. As such, it’s truly unfortunate the leaders did not take time to see more, although safety likely played a part in this. Still, in the words of one Iraqi, “(They) could have gone to the streets to feel what is happening. It’s better than people telling (them) what is happening.”
Campaign ads will no doubt feature all the photo opportunities with soldiers and turkey. Bush faces a tough re-election, and the trip again raised questions about Clinton’s political ambitions. We have no doubt that political gain motivated the trips at some level. This can be said, however, of nearly all public appearances by politicians. In the end, a good deed is a good deed, despite a possible mix of motivations, and thanking soldiers qualifies.
Whatever one thinks about Iraq policy, soldiers deserve gratitude from those they serve. Choosing to put another’s safety ahead of your own is not normal human behavior. For a soldier, at the most basic level, it is a job. In Iraq, where danger and poor living conditions are a way of life, many have seen that job’s duration extended.
The senators and our president took the time and safety risk to thank our military members. While not a solution to the problems at hand, it was the right thing to do.