Gen. David Petraeus gave his potential boss, Barack Obama, a helicopter tour of Baghdad on Monday. It’s a technique the general has used in the past to show normal life in Baghdad—from a safe distance. John McCain suggested recently that Petraeus would change Obama’s mind and his plan about withdrawing from Iraq, but that plan has newfound momentum and it could easily be Gen. Petraeus who is asked to carry it out.
It’s been a whirlwind war zone tour for the candidate eager to establish his foreign policy gravitas - and who opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq. He spent Sunday in Afghanistan, which he says should be first priority in the fight against terrorism, and flew into the Iraqi city of Basra Monday morning, where American-backed government forces took control of the city from Shiite militias in March. In addition to the meetings with Iraqi luminaries, he was expected to meet with Crocker, U.S. troops and Gen. David Petraeus, who gave Obama a helicopter tour of the city. During Petraeus’s term as commanding general, he has frequently led reporters on helicopter flights intent on showing the normal life activities - like soccer games and rush-hour traffic - that have increased as violence as dropped to its lowest levels in four years. Obama has said that, if elected, he will listen to Petraeus and other commanders about the pace for withdrawing troops. Republican opponent John McCain, who backed Petraeus’s surge plan, says withdrawals should be tied to the growing capabilities of the Iraqi government and improved security—a position echoed by Iraqi leaders until recently. But now it seems the Iraqis are making their new preferences known.