Air Force One was nosed upwards from 30,000 feet, heading to 33,000 feet. The experienced
pilot had checked the radar screen and seen some possible turbulence ahead so he made the decision to climb above it. His goal, on
every flight, was to get the President of the United States, his staff and guests to their destination as safely and as comfortably
None of the passengers felt the change as the pilot gently pulled
back on the controls of the enormous Boeing 747. It took the powerful engines only a few minutes to rise the additional 3,000 feet.
The pilot had avoided the turbulence and the rest of the trip would be smooth as silk.
Air Force One, the President and his staff
and guests were midway over the Atlantic Ocean, returning from what would be his last official visit abroad – A series of meetings
with the heads of 5 European and 3 Mideast countries. Only 9 months remained in his presidency and he realized that this would be
the last opportunity to put his imprimatur on world peace and diplomacy efforts.
The President was outfitted in dark pants, western style shirt, cowboy boots trimmed in silver and his black Air Force One black leather
jacket emblazoned with the presidential seal.
He had called for a 10-minute break from the meeting with his Secretary of Defense,
Secretary of State, National Security Advisor and 2 of his closest political advisors.
The President disliked meetings in general and long ones in particular. The 5 attending the meeting watched as the President began
to fidget as the meeting approached the 45-minute mark. Topic of the gathering in the well appointed Air Force One conference room
was the ongoing war in Iraq. When the Secretary of Defense reported that the latest total of American armed forces deaths in Iraq
had just passed 5,000 the President said, “I’d like to take a break now, if that’s okay with you folks.”
The President rose from his chair, opened the door of the meeting room and walked aft, where he found row upon row of empty seats.
He wanted to be alone to refresh himself from the weight of the meeting and the negative news and reports. Two Secret Servicemen blocked
the aisle, giving the President his apparent wish for privacy.
in Chief sat slumped in a window seat. He absent mindedly peered out the window, watching the clouds below pass by. The President
was thinking of the reports he had just received. The war in Iraq had failed. He bit his lip and held back tears as he thought of
the more than 5,000 American deaths and scores of casualties. Iran was even closer now to producing nuclear weapons. Syria was providing
Iraqi militants with increased armaments, including more powerful rockets and launchers. The American embassy in Turkey has been bombed
and destroyed, killing 87 American civilians and military. He had thought of the newspaper headlines quoting his statement to the
American public, “Stay the Course.”
He drew his gaze from the window and stared
at the tip of is black cowboy boots. His mind was wandering. He thought of his days as Governor of Texas, running a baseball team,
his college days, his father’s presidency. He knew that the dreams he had for his country had not come to fruition. History would
judge him by America’s failure in the Mideast – by the image of the war in Iraq.
The President woke from his lassitude and looked up, seeing the broad backs of the Secret Servicemen. He smiled as if saying to himself,
“C’mon, cowboy, get on with it. You’ve got things to do.”
He tried to rise and return to the meeting, but the energy wasn’t there.
turned again to the window and stared. He thought, “This damn war, this damn fighting, the deaths, the misery. Where will it all end?”
As a picture of Baghdad and its broken neighborhoods formed in his mind two questions came to him, “Do most of the people in Iraq
want war? Do most Americans want us fighting a war in Iraq?” As he watched the fluffy clouds float under the plane’s wings he sat
up straight in the seat and thought, “If the Iraqis and the Americans don’t want this war what are we doing there?” The President
made a fast and spirited decision. “By the time my administration is out of office our military will be out of Iraq. The Iraqis will
have to govern and protect themselves.”
Thoughts and pictures flowed into the
President’s mind. He saw children searching for scraps of food in the streets of Iraq’s cities. He saw and felt the hatred for Americans
by the young and old of the Mideast. “It will take generations for the people of these countries to look upon Americans as their friends.
To these people Americans are soldiers shooting their family members, dropping bombs on their homes, destroying their cities.”
The President had read of the Marshall Plan, which followed World War II. He had read about America, after winning the war, spending
millions of dollars to help rebuild the countries it had just defeated.
“it” popped into his head!
He rose from the seat, walked briskly down the aisle,
past the taller of the two Secret Serviceman and headed for the conference room. He barked, “C’mon, let’s go. Back to the meeting.”
The President had never been this excited about an idea of his own during his presidency.
The Secretary of State was the last to return and be seated. The 5 could tell that the President was excited about something. The
room had an air of expectancy.
The President removed his black leather jacket
and practically threw it at an empty chair next to him.
He began, “I
want our military to do everything possible during the next 9 months to make Iraq safe for its citizens. I would like to see every
Iraqi city freed of the terrorists and murderers.”
The 5 knew something
else was coming.
The President sat down, put both elbows on the table in front
of him, leaned forward and said, “We must show the people of Iraq and the rest of the Mideast that Americans are God-fearing people.
We must show the youth of this area that America is more than bombs and tanks and people who bring death and destruction to their
“I want to propose that we start an immediate program of giving
10,000 children a year from Iraq and the Mideast countries foster homes and scholarships to American schools and that would be just
a start. Eventually I would like to see 50,000, 100,000 or more children from the Mideast go to school in America and learn what American
really stands for. A program like this would show the world that Americans are good and kind and generous people. These kids would
live in our neighborhoods, go to our schools and learn what America is really like. Then they would return to their lands and spread
the truth about America and Americans. America must remain strong. We must continue to have the strongest military on the planet,
but at the same time we must show the nations of the world what makes America special. These thousands of youngsters must be given
the opportunity to see the real America, the real Americans and then return to their home countries and tell their countrymen of the
wonders of this great country. It has become apparent over the past 6 years that wars such as we are engaged in do not always afford
us the answers and solutions to the differences between countries. There must be a better way than war.”
The Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, National Security Advisor and the President’s political advisors stood as one and applauded
the President’s presentation.
The Secretary of State spoke for the rest, “Mr.
President, I think you have created one of the great compassionate and benevolent visions for world peace in our time.”
With that the President rose from his chair, thanked the 5 members of his administration and quickly walked to the front of Air Force
One to tell his wife of his new vision.
And Air Force One continued its smooth