Bush Teleconference with Soldiers in Iraq Staged

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"In a cringingly wooden exchange the group of soldiers stationed in Saddam Hussein's home town of Tikrit told the president exactly what he wanted to hear - that Iraqis were eager to vote on a new constitution this weekend and the country's fledgling security forces were ready to meet the challenge," Jamie Wilson wrote in the October 14, 2005, Guardian Unlimited (UK).

Although the October 13, 2005, teleconference call "was billed as a conversation with U.S. troops," the questions President George W. Bush asked "were choreographed to match his goals for the war in Iraq and Saturday's vote on a new Iraqi constitution. 'This is an important time,' Allison Barber, deputy assistant defense secretary, said, coaching the soldiers before Bush arrived. 'The president is looking forward to having just a conversation with you'," the Associated Press's Deb Riechmann wrote.

"When prompted by the president to say something, the Iraqi soldier [who was present and], who was not immediately identified, said in English: 'Good morning, Mr. President, thank you for everything. Thank you very much for everything. I like you.'" [1]

One of the soldiers participating in the "dialogue" was Master Sgt. Corine Lombardo, who works in public affairs for the military as spokesperson to the media.

The Teleconference

Bush Quotes of the Day

  • "I wish I could be there to see you face to face and thank you personally. Probably a little early for me to go to Tikrit. Perhaps one of these days the situation will be such that I'll be able to get back to Iraq." --Courtesy of Atrios.
  • "We’re never going to back down, we’re never going to give in, we’ll never accept anything less than total victory, ... Thank you for all your work. When you get back to the United States, if I’m hanging around, come by and say hello." --Associated Press.


  • "Paul Rieckhoff, director of the New York-based Operation Truth, an advocacy group for U.S. veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, denounced the event as a 'carefully scripted publicity stunt.' Five of the 10 U.S. troops involved were officers, he said. ... 'If he wants the real opinions of the troops, he can't do it in a nationally televised teleconference,' Rieckhoff said. 'He needs to be talking to the boots on the ground and that's not a bunch of captains.'" [2]
  • "If any Iraqis caught the hilarious videoconference today between Bush at the White House and troops from the 42nd Infantry Division in Tikrit, it may have seemed like a high-tech version of a familiar scene from the old days when Saddam used to travel to Tikrit to feel (and more importantly to have others feel) his greatness. ... The videoconference was a display of just how far the propaganda system has come since Bush took over from Saddam. Instead of visiting Tikrit, which the president lightly acknowledged he could not safely do, Bush addressed--via satellite--an adoring bunch of US soldiers that had apparently been given a heavy dose of Kool-Aid before the telecast began," Jeremy Scahill wrote in the October 13, 2005, edition of CounterPunch.
  • "The Senate minority leader, Harry Reid, said: 'The American people and our brave troops deserve better than a photo-op for the president and a pep-rally about Iraq. They deserve a plan. Unfortunately, today's event only served to highlight the fact that the president refuses to engage in a frank conversation about the realities on the ground.'"

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