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Welcome Back From Baghdad, Mr. President

After taking off on a top-secret Thanksgiving Day jaunt to Baghdad, President Bush appears to be on a mission to be the Badass-in-Chief. Or are there other motives at work? Our writer chases the paper trail.


FROM: The Office of the Vice President

TO: The President of the United States

Dear Mr. President:

Welcome back from Baghdad. Lynne and I held a prayer session in our little underground home-away-from-home for the entire two hours you were on the ground in Iraq. I see this morning that you’re quoted in the papers as being ‘the biggest skeptic of all’ about this secret Thanksgiving adventure, but with all due respect, Mr. President, when Condi, Andy Card, and I came up with the idea, I have to say that I was the biggest skeptic of all, especially after that cargo plane was hit by a missile at Baghdad Airport a few days before your trip. To your credit, it didn’t take much convincing to get you back on track, and I couldn’t be happier that you’re home, safe and sound. That’ll keep those Dems on the run.

By the way, just a thought—since the Baghdad caper was pulled off so neatly, why not show the world a little more of what you’re really made of? I’ve been chatting with Prince Abdul Aziz, and we both think it would really show those radical elements in Saudi Arabia a thing or two if you agreed to fly to Riyadh and do the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Wahhabi Days Theme Park. The prince tells me it would really help with morale in their anti-terror effort. And I’m sure the boys in Air Force One will let you sit in the cockpit again when you land.

 

* * *


FROM: The Office of the Vice President

TO: The President of the United States

Dear Mr. President:

Welcome back, Sir. My, that was a close call. But great pictures for the press, don’t you think? Lynne thinks all that singed hair makes you look distinguished. And don’t worry, the ringing in your ears will go away in a few days, tops. I tell you, right now the mullahs are probably shivering in their boots in madrassas from Damascus to Karachi, now that they realize just how fast you can duck. Too bad about that theme park, though. As you can see from your specially prepared news summary this morning, the nation is swooning over your latest adventure, and hey, did you notice those poll numbers?

Anyway, maybe this is silly, I know that you’re tired, but I think you should strike while the iron is hot, so to speak. The way we’re going now, the war on terror is practically won. Now remember, this is super-secret, so don’t mention this to Andy or Condi, and certainly not to Laura and the girls. It’s that sensitive. President Hamid Karzai tells me the Taliban are ready to surrender. You’re just too much for them, Sir. But they want to do it in your presence. It’s some mujahedeen code-of honor rule, I think. So we’ve arranged a secret meeting in the mountains north of Kandahar. There’s a small, isolated runway nearby that’s perfect. Imagine the photo ops when the Afghan evildoers lay down their arms at your feet. Don’t forget, you get to sit in the cockpit again, and this time I’m told you get to hold the steering wheel.

 

* * *


FROM: The Office of the Vice President

TO: The President of the United States

What a triumph, Mr. President. If you were back here in Washington to read it, your specially prepared news summary would make you proud: the surrender of the Taliban, your poll numbers going through the roof, and three Democratic candidates dropping out of the race in despair. As for all the machine-gun fire and the grenades: I understand that’s just a Taliban tradition for when they surrender. If the ceremony hadn’t been such a secret, I’m sure George Tenet would have briefed you properly. Anyway, I hear that you’re in the best hospital in Kandahar, so don’t worry. That arm sling will look great in all the re-election commercials, and a Purple Heart is on its way.

OK, maybe this isn’t the best time to suggest this, but since you’ve practically single-handedly won the war on terror, why not be there for the big enchilada? That’s right, the Special Forces guys have located bin Laden, and since you’re in the neighborhood, they want you to be there. I know, Air Force One needs to get all those holes repaired, but my contacts at Halliburton can lend us a plane at a moment’s notice. And your IVs are portable, you know. Just think: the Number One Evil Doer in custody, and you’re the one who cuffs him. And this time we don’t have to observe all those fussy White House protocols—this time, you get to fly the plane. Think of the headlines, the legend in the making: President flies plane one-handed in the dark over the mountainous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, lights out, so gutsy he’s the only one not wearing a parachute…well, you get the picture. We’ll make sure you get to wear a pilot’s outfit too. Your daddy’ll be so proud.

I know you won’t let the American people down, not to mention all the freedom-loving people around the world. With bin Laden’s capture, we’ll probably have to cancel the election—who’d dare run against you? If Lynne were here, looking over my shoulder as I write this (she’s out buying new furniture), I know that she’d join me in offering you our most heartfelt and patriotic thanks.
 

Philip Graham is the author of seven books of fiction and nonfiction, his latest being The Moon, Come to Earth: Dispatches From Lisbon. He is a co-founder of the literary/arts journal Ninth Letter and currently serves as the nonfiction editor. He teaches creative writing at the University of Illinois and the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and he can also play every musical instrument in the world extremely well in his mind. His seres of short essays on the craft of writing can be read at philipgraham.net. More by Philip Graham