Truth or Dare? The Bush Administration Memoirs

In this coming Sunday's Book World, The Post's national security editor, Carlos Lozada, presents a history of the Bush administration as told through snippets -- all cited verbatim -- from tell-all memoirs by former White House aides, executive branch officials, generals and diplomats. It's a rollicking and revealing look back at George W. Bush's presidency.

President Bush touches down in Iraq for Thanksgiving in 2003. (AFP/Getty Images/Anja Niedringhaus)

As a preview, we offer this dueling pair of reminiscences by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of coalition forces in Iraq in 2003-2004, and L. Paul Bremer III, who was presidential envoy to Iraq in the same period. Both are describing President Bush's surprise visit to Iraq on Thanksgiving Day, 2003.

The question is, who introduced Bush to the cheering troops? Was it . . .

Ric Sanchez?
The doors to Air Force One opened, and Bush walked down the stairs, took two steps, and got into the Suburban next to me.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez (AP/Dusan Vranic)

"Hi, Ric, good to see you," he said.

"Happy Thanksgiving, Mr. President," I replied. "It's great that you're here. I know the troops will be very glad to see you."

As we drove over to the tent, I briefed Bush about the details of the event and how we were going to get him in front of the troops. Ambassador Bremer was waiting at the tent to greet the President, and then he and I walked out on the stage while Bush waited behind the backdrop. We welcomed everybody to the event and then I casually said, "Gee, I wonder who outranks me back there and wants to come out and talk to the troops."

At that cue, the President walked out from behind the backdrop and the effect was electrifying. Our troops went absolutely wild. They cheered, screamed, applauded, and jumped up and down. It was a fantastic demonstration that lasted for four or five minutes.

(from Wiser in Battle: A Soldier's Story by Ricardo Sanchez)

Or Paul Bremer?
Sanchez and I walked around the net and went to the podium, where Rick said a few words of greeting to the troops, and then turned to me. "Mr. Ambassador," he said, "would you please read the president's Thanksgiving declaration."

Paul Bremer. (Reuters/Ceerwan Aziz)

I took the page from my jacket as if I were about to read Bush's words, but then paused before the microphone. "Thank you, General," I said. "But by tradition, the most senior U.S. government representative present should read it." I paused for effect. "Is there any representative more senior than me in the room?"

At that point, the president of the United States came around the side of the net, walked to the center of the stage, and the room exploded. The shouting, applause, and yelling created a palpable rush of air, a sound wave I could actually feel. The troops were on their feet, hooting and hollering, waving their arms. Camera strobes flashed in an unbroken glare that lasted several minutes.

(from My Year in Iraq: The Struggle to Build a Future of Hope by L. Paul Bremer III)

By Alan Cooperman |  October 10, 2008; 7:42 AM ET Alan Cooperman
Previous: Translating the Nobel Prize Decision | Next: Washington Post Book Club: Friedman, Ehrenreich, Singletary on the Financial Crisis


Please email us to report offensive comments.

I want to read the papers that are released 50 years from now that tell us the real story.

Posted by: jen | October 10, 2008 8:54 AM

Should we feel surprised that Bush administrtion officials are tweaking their stories?
Looking forward to the full history.

Posted by: dave | October 10, 2008 9:13 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.


© 2010 The Washington Post Company