The "Mission Accomplished" banner that provided the backdrop for President Bush's remarks aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln four years ago today is what most people usually remember of that Karl Rove-inspired photo op. It is an image that epitomizes the hubris and miscalculation of the Bush Administration. But some of the President's words on May 1, 2003, are also worth recalling on this anniversary:
Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country.
If only that were true.
President Bush took advantage of the opportunity to repeat one of the war's false pretenses:
The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror. We've removed an ally of al Qaeda, and cut off a source of terrorist funding.
According to the 9/11 Commission Report (see page 66), there was "no evidence" that contacts between Iraqi officials and representatives of al Qaeda "ever developed into a collaborative operational relationship. Nor have we seen evidence," the Commission continued, "indicating that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States." Since the "liberation of Iraq," that country has become what Afghanistan was in the 1980s--a training ground for terrorists.
In most respects, President Bush and his advisers were clearly "at sea"--and even adrift--"off the coast of San Diego," as the transcript of the speech notes. But on one important point President Bush's words were prophetic: "Americans, following a battle, want nothing more than to return home."