Sat, Dec 06, 2003 - Page 1 News List

More fiction than fact discovered in Bush's Baghdad trip

THE GUARDIAN AND REUTERS , WASHINGTON

US President George W. Bush did go to Baghdad. That much seems to be true, but some of the well-publicized details of last week's surprise Thanksgiving Day trip have since been called into question as the White House spin is deconstructed.

The problems start with the turkey. It is the focus of the quintessentially American holiday, and photographs printed around the US showed the president holding a prize roasted specimen on a platter.

However, the turkey was just for decoration, put there to make the occasion look more heartwarming, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.

The soldiers were actually served pre-sliced turkey from canteen-style hot plates. The president never took a knife to the bird he held for the cameras. It may not even have been edible.

News of the Baghdad trip dominated the media for days but some other dubious details of the White House account have emerged.

The White House on Thursday also admitted that Bush's flight plan was falsified.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan read for reporters a British air traffic control statement that the flight plan filed for the trip said the plane was a Gulfstream 5, rather than Air Force One.

He described the step as a reasonable security precaution on a visit intended to boost morale for US troops, who are serving extended deployments in Iraq and threatened by insurgent attacks.

"The American people understand the importance of not compromising security, not only for the president of the United States, but for those on board the plane and those on the ground as well," McClellan said.

But David Wise, author of the 1973 book The Politics of Lying, said, "The question is, should the government engage in lying in order to essentially ... protect a photo op? The answer is, no it shouldn't," he said. "It's a serious business when government lies, and eventually it does hurt a government and a president's credibility."

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