Mission Accomplished plus four years

From wikipedia:

On May 1, 2003 George W. Bush landed on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, in Navy One, a Lockheed S-3 Viking, wearing a flight suit. A few minutes later he gave a speech announcing the end of major combat operations in the Iraq War. Clearly visible in the background was a banner stating “Mission Accomplished.”

Bush’s historic jet landing on the carrier, the first by a sitting president, was criticized by opponents as an overly theatrical and expensive stunt. For instance, they pointed to the fact that the carrier was well within range of Bush’s helicopter, and that a jet landing was not needed.[1] Originally the White House had stated that the carrier was too far off the California coast for a helicopter landing and a jet would be needed to reach it. On the day of the speech, the Lincoln was only 30 miles from shore but the administration still decided to go ahead with the jet landing. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer admitted that the president “could have helicoptered, but the plan was already in place. Plus, he wanted to see a landing the way aviators see a landing.”[2] The Lincoln made a scheduled stop in Pearl Harbor shortly before the speech, docked in San Diego after the speech, and returned to its home base in Everett, Washington on May 6, 2003.

I am tempted to consider this the most obnoxious piece of agit-prop of the wars that George W Bush has shuffled under “War On Terror”.  Perhaps the mythologized stories of Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch better qualify, but they at least had the possibility of never being tested and prodded away to full exposure of their very artifice.  In the case of the Tillmans, it was the wrong family to concoct a story out of — what with Pat Tillman being the stereotype-breaking Noam Chomsky accolade NFL star, a dichotomy I saw some indymedia posters as well as Ann Coulter unable to grapple with.  Theoretically, the Pentagon thought they saw unsophisticated West Virginia hicks in the Lynches — easy to be persuaded that hyping up a story of Jessica Lynch’s heroism is good for the morale of the nation, so let it be — it will work out for us all.  But sometimes you just have to trust American’s (and anyone in the world’s, for that matter) ability to push out the BS when necessary.

The “MIssion Accomplished” banner was flawed from the beginning.  Bush’s accompanying speech was full of mixed messages, and again the wikipedia article explains the problem:

Whether meant for the crew or not, the general impression created by the image of the President under the banner has been criticized as premature — especially later as the guerrilla war began. Subsequently, the White House released a statement saying that the sign and Bush’s visit referred to the initial invasion of Iraq. Bush’s speech noted:

“We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We are bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous.”[5]
“Our mission continues…The War on Terror continues, yet it is not endless. We do not know the day of final victory, but we have seen the turning of the tide.”

However the speech also said that:

“In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.”

Bush appeared to have been hedging his bets.  Even then, guerilla fighting was moving forward, deaths were coming, and surely someone somewhere in Bush Administration knew this was going to continue.  Perhaps they had the apologia in mind — they did not say “Mission Accomplished” because they said “we still have difficult work”.  Weak in a visual world, and for that matter in an audio world where you can splice the contradiction together in five seconds.

I always thought that if Bush had lost the presidential election, this would have been when he lost it.  There was a measure of managing expectations that he screwed up, within the time-frame that he could float the electoral math of the Iraq War in his favor.  (That pretty well expired just after election day, actually, with help from John Kerry’s contradictions.)  But this presidency is impulsive in this regard: anything for a cheap and temporary thrill.

Four years hence, the Democratic Congress sends a bill of non-binding timetables to meet with Bush’s second veto.  The debate over the nature of the Democratic Congress — they sent us a bunch of conservative Democrats, right? — is somewhat beside the point.  The Democratic class of 2006 was a smidgen to the left on economic matters than their predecessors– if you want to say protectionist I don’t particularly care right now to quibble –, a bit over the map in social issues, and… the only real common denominator no matter how they stack up on the other matters — the voters gave them a Prime Directive to deal with Bush’s obstinance with the Iraq War.  And that battle commences, awkwardly.  To Accomplish a Mission, or not to accomplish a mission.

The “Mission Accomplished” banner has finally come back to Bush.  As we had to have known it would.

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