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Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2004 at 7:08 PM
President Bush may be heading to Iraq. He cut short his news conference in Colombia. As of 7:16 p.m. Central Time, he surprisingly has not been reported as landing in Texas. Bush no doubt would consider it a real coup to repeat the surprise visit he made last Thanksgiving to the troops in Iraq. Probably he is more eager this year, after his victory and as he kicks off four more years. Also, it has been a bad year for morale in Iraq. This trip is a must. His schedule and the secret plans for last year provide clues to this year, as explained below.
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MONDAY, NOV. 22 -- Bush flew to Cartagena, Colombia, to lunch with president Avaro Uribe. Meeting was supposed to be 4 hours. Arrived Colombia at 10:40 a.m. Eastern (US) Daylight Time, or 11:40 GMT. Was supposed to stay for 4 hours. If plane returns to Waco, Texas, or Fort Hood, Texas, AROUND 6 P.M. AND GOES ON, it probably means Bush is going on to Baghdad.
Tuesday, Nov. 23 -- Open day. President should be in Crawford, Texas, unless he goes to Iraq. He will not take his wife to Iraq.
Wednesday, Nov. 24 Meet with King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia of Spain, at Bush's Crawford, Texas, ranch for private luncheon.
THE LANDING TIME IN BAGHDAD WOULD BE IN DARKNESS, AT A REASONABLE TIME FOR DINNER (BAGHDAD TIME).
For newshounds, what day is the question.
MONDAY/TUESDAY --- Tuesday is open and A LATE MONDAY DEPARTURE IS A POSSIBILITY. TAKING OFF FROM ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE ON MONDAY NIGHT AROUND 10 OR 11 P.M. would get him to BAGHDAD ON TUESDAY, AROUND 5 TO 6 P.M. He could visit the troops for a couple of hours and be back at Andrews at 11 p.m. Tuesday (Eastern US time). He could be home in Crawford at around 1 a.m. Wednesday. The president could greet the king and queen at lunch in Crawford, on Wednesday, which may be the plan all along. All of this takes into consideration the flying time from North America to Iraq and the time zones. Bush is supposed to be in Colombia for four hours, including a luncheon. BUSH CUT SHORT HIS NEWS CONFERENCE IN COLOMBIA TODAY AFTER JUST FOUR QUESTIONS, SURPRISING EVEN PRESIDENT URIBE. If he leaves Colombia at 3 p.m., he should arrive in Waco, TX, or Fort Hood, TX, about 3.5 hours later, about 6:30 p.m. Colombia time (and US Eastern Daylight Time), which is 5:30 p.m. Central Daylight Time. If he is much later than this in Central Texas, it might mean he is not going there, but is going to Iraq. Also, if Air Force One stops in Waco or Fort Hood, TX, but goes on, Bush is likely going to Edwards AFB and Baghdad.
WEDNESDAY --- LEAVING WEDNESDAY EARLY EVENING OUT OF CRAWFORD, TEXAS, as last year, would get him out of Central Texas and INTO BAGHDAD UNDER COVER OF DARKNESS, THURSDAY, 5 TO 6 P.M. This would mean cutting short a visit with the king and queen of Spain, but the plan is for a "private" luncheon anyway. Also, the royals' hurried visit to Crawford after a whirlwind visit to Seattle could be a cover. For Bush to arrive in Baghdad at some time other than Thanksgiving would have less media efffect and would be harder to conceal from the troops in Baghdad. AN OUT-OF-PLACE (WRONG TIME/PLACE) THANKSGIVING MEAL WOULD BE A GIVEAWAY.
A KEY IS A BLACKED-OUT PLANE LANDING AT BAGHDAD OR TAKING OFF FROM WACO, TEXAS, OR FT. HOOD, TEXAS, OR ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE. The red and green navigation lights would even be out. Sunset in Central Texas, is about 5:30 p.m. local time. Sunset in Baghdad is about 5 p.m. in late November. The plane would not be traveling under the Air Force One code in any case.
This year, Bush is to welcome King Juan Carlos and his wife, Queen Sophia, at the Crawford ranch on Wednesday. This could be a cover, as this is the day Bush would have to leave to be in Baghdad on Thanksgiving Day. It would be an effective diversionary tactic, as the king and queen will arrive at the Waco, Texas, airport where Air Force One awaits Bush and police presence would be expected.
1 Wednesday. Depart from Crawford, Texas, ranch via backroads. Must avoid Crawford, Texas, nearest town, because the world press is there waiting.
Likely would travel in black or white Chevrolet Suburban with an escort of at least one vehicle ahead and behind.
Will probably depart from his road, Rainey Rd., and go west on Prairie Chapel Rd. instead of south toward Crawford.
Probably will take the network of back roads south to US Route 84, which would take him through McGregor, Texas, on the way to Waco or Fort Hood.
Also could take back roads north, to Texas state highway 6, which would take him through Valley Mills. I would assume he would avoid this route for security reasons. The road from the ranch to Valley Mills is typical Texas Hill Country: trees, ravines, bluffs. The preferred route would the the other route, US 84, which traverses flat prairie terrain.
A third possibilty to get to the Waco airport is the Marine 1 helicopter. However, this would attract a lot of attention.
2. With the king and queen of Spain arriving on the 24th, one would expect a lot of police activity. This is the ideal decoy for Bush's second coming to Iraq. It will create some confusion, but alert observers will be able to spot the really unexpected -- like Air Force One leaving over the holiday while Bush supposedly still is at the ranch.
3. Last year, Bush made the trip from the ranch to the airport in Waco incognito. The vehicles in his entourage apparently did not have any police escort. The stopped at all stop lights, etc., avoiding the appearance of a motorcade. However, a few vehicles trying to stay together while obeying the lights, etc., will be conspicuous. Especially Chevy Suburbans with US Government plates.
4. Normally Air Force One arrives and departs TSTC airport in Waco, an old military field with two long runways. Its arrival will be publicised. Only its departure on the Iraq sneak trip will be secret. There might be a ruse, such as Air Force One having to return to an Air Force base for maintenance; but if it occurs over the Thanksgiving holiday, it is probably on the Iraq trip. It takes about 45 minutes to drive from the ranch in Crawford to the airport in Waco.
If Air Force One takes off with the navigation lights (red and green) off and other lights off, it is a sure sign the trip is on.
FOLLOWING IS TIME LINE STARTING SOMETIME WEDNESDAY IN CRAWFORD, TEXAS (COULD BE MONDAY INSTEAD)
(This is based on last year's trip.)
Wednesday Afternoon: -- This could be any time in the morning or afternoon. Look for unusual activity among press personnel at the Crawford High School. They file their stories from a center on the front lawn of the school. Unusual activity would be if reporters started leaving in a hurry, or if they got picked up by Government cars. Again, the King Carlos visit could be a decoy.
Wednesday, Near Dusk: -- Near dusk, or right after dinner, look for reporters to gather in the parking lot of Baylor Field in Waco. Last year this was about 5:30 p.m. Central Time. The field could be the embarkation area for the press (it could be changed this time). Many of the reporters stay at the Marriott Residence Inn in Waco, which they would have left some time ago.
Wednesday, about 6 p.m. Central Time -- Press should board Air Force One at the Texas State Technical College airport. (Note: Laura Bush and officials sometimes use another airport, Waco Regional Airport. The presence of Air Force One at Regional would be a sign that something extraordinary is up there. The location of Airport One is pretty well known around Waco.)
Wednesday, about 7 p.m.. -- Bush should arrive at the TSTC airport (formerly James Connally AFB). He would have left the ranch at about 6:15 p.m., just after dinner, in darkness. It takes about 45 minutes. The Prez uses a white Suburban as his stealth vehicle. If you caught a glimpse of him, he probably would have a baseball cap pulled down and would be wearing a work jacket. He might be accompanied by a black female (Condoleeza Rice). There would proably be at least three vehicles in his convoy, probably no police cars. Look for black or other dark Chevy Suburbans or vans.
Wednesday, about 7:30 p.m. Central Time -- About a half hour after Bush arrives, Air Force One should take off for the east. Or, on MONDAY, it could take off again after the Bush motorcade leaves the airport for the ranch. The really funny thing, it will leave with the lights off -- no red and green navigation lights -- very unusual. It will travel unusually fast for a 747, about 665 mph, and will cruise at about 29,000 feet. Last time, the flight passed over Texarkana, Texas, and Charleston, West Virginia, en route to Andrews Air Force Base outside of Washington, DC. You might be able to monitor its conversations with the FAA En Route Air Traffic Control Centers, but it will be flying under some code other than "Air Force One."
Wednesday Night in Washington, DC, around 9 to 10 p.m. -- A tipoff that the trip is on would be activity at the Holiday Inn Express across from the main gate of Andrews Air Force Base. Reporters would be taken from here by government vehicles (black or white vans or SUVs) over to Andrews. If this is like last time, the only TV personnel will be Fox Network. Coworkers of reporters and photogs at AP, Reuters, AFP, Time, and Newsweek could look for suspicious behavior.
Wednesday Night, about 2 hours after leaving Waco, about 9:30 p.m. Central Time, 10:30 Eastern Time -- Air Force One will touch down at Andrews Air Force Base and taxi to its hangar. Again, the lights will be out. The Texas group will get off and board another Air Force One already fueled for the trip to Baghdad airport.
Wednesday Night, about one half hour after arriving at Andrews, about 11 p.m. Eastern Time -- Air Force One will take off with the lights out -- very unusual.
Thanksgiving Evening (Iraq time), around dusk, about 5:30 p.m. Baghdad time (10:30 a.m. Eastern Time) -- The plane should touch down at Baghdad airport after a straight-in approach (it will be steep but not a spiral or anything fancy). Again the lights will be out. The plane will stop at the end of the runway. The trip from Andrews AFB in the US to Baghdad takes about ten and a half hours.
Thanksgiving Evening (Iraq time), around dusk -- About a dozen vehicles will take the Bush party from the end of the runway to the dining facility. It will be dark and most will have their lights out (except for the lead vehicle). The trip will be quick, about 5 minutes.
Thanksgiving Evening (Iraq time), around dusk, about 2-3 hours after landing, about 8 p.m. in Iraq (noon Eastern Time) -- The party will reboard Air Force One in Baghdad (poor, weeping Baghdad).
Thanksgiving Evening (Eastern Time), about 11 p.m. -- Air Force One will refuel at Andrews Air Force Base.
Friday Morning (Central Time), about 5 a.m. -- Arrive at TSTC airport in Waco, Texas.
Happy landings, President!
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