Five years after ‘Mission Accomplished’

STEPHEN JAFFE/AFP/Getty Images Today is the fifth anniversary of the day George W. Bush declared “mission accomplished” from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, just 42 days after the invasion of Iraq.  This morning, the Center for American Progress hosted a speech by Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha. Murtha, a Vietnam veteran, voted to authorize ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
595238_070827_bush_02.jpg
595238_070827_bush_02.jpg

STEPHEN JAFFE/AFP/Getty Images

Today is the fifth anniversary of the day George W. Bush declared "mission accomplished" from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, just 42 days after the invasion of Iraq. 

This morning, the Center for American Progress hosted a speech by Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha. Murtha, a Vietnam veteran, voted to authorize the war in 2003, but has since become one of its most strident critics. As he put it today:

STEPHEN JAFFE/AFP/Getty Images

Today is the fifth anniversary of the day George W. Bush declared “mission accomplished” from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, just 42 days after the invasion of Iraq. 

This morning, the Center for American Progress hosted a speech by Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha. Murtha, a Vietnam veteran, voted to authorize the war in 2003, but has since become one of its most strident critics. As he put it today:

I was skeptical about giving the president authorization to go to war in 2003, but I gave this president the benefit of the doubt. That decision was a mistake. In Vietnam, we never had a strategy to win. In Iraq, we never had a strategy.

Murtha, who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, agrees with a majority of retired and active military officers that Iraq has left the U.S. military unprepared for future threats. He’s also very concerned about China’s military buildup, and thinks leaders in Beijing are watching the situation closely:

We must refocus our attention to the threats down the road. If you remember in World War II, we cut off the oil supply of the Japanese when they attacked. us. Now, I don’t say that’s going to happen with China. But one thing’s for sure, if they misperceive our readiness to act, we’re going to have a real problem.

While it’s pretty unlikely that the Chinese are planning another Pearl Harbor (the line was absent from Murtha’s prepared remarks so he may have ad-libbed it), it’s fair to say that Iraq has decreased both U.S. military readiness and diplomatic standing.  

After five years, the administration seems unwilling to come to terms with what an embarassment “Mission Accomplished” was. As of yesterday, White House spokesperson Dana Perino was still insisting that Bush was misinterpreted. “Mission Accomplished,” she claimed, only referred to “sailors who are on this ship on their mission” (though it’s hard to believe that even she buys that line). However they try to spin it, “Mission Accomplished” will haunt the Bush administration as a symbol of the myopia and reckless optimism that characterized the early days of the Iraq war.

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.