The Mission That Was Not Accomplished

The Nation’s Greg Mitchell reminds us that May first is the anniversary of George Bush landing on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. Remember how the media and the GOP swooned over the swaggering George W. Bush? Now, in retrospect, what exactly did president George W. Bush accomplish? More from Greg Mitchell:

May 1 marks the eighth anniversary of Mission Accomplished Day, or as it might better be known, Mission Accomplished (Not) Day. Coming on a weekend, there werre even fewer mentions of this in the national media than last year, and Keith Olbermann is not on the air to update the once-normal close to his telecast when he marked exactly how many days since Bush declared victory (you do the math).

In my favorite antiwar song of this war, “Shock and Awe,” Neil Young moaned: “Back in the days of Mission Accomplished/ our chief was landing on the deck/ The sun was setting/ behind a golden photo op.” But as Neil added elsewhere: “History is a cruel judge of overconfidence.”

Nowhere can we see this more clearly than in the media coverage of the event. Even today, eight years later, the often “overconfident” reporting from Baghdad and Kabul sometimes takes your breath away. At least two US soldiers have been killed in Iraq this week so far, and over 45,000 or our troops remain there today. (For a full accounting of costs of all sorts, go here.) So let’s return to the days of Mission Accomplished…

On May 1, 2003, Richard Perle advised, in a USA Today Op-Ed, “Relax, Celebrate Victory.” The same day, President Bush, dressed in a flight suit, landed on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and declared an end to major military operations in Iraq—with the now-infamous “Mission Accomplished” banner arrayed behind him.

Chris Matthews on MSNBC called Bush a “hero” and boomed, “He won the war. He was an effective commander. Everybody recognizes that, I believe, except a few critics.” He added: “Women like a guy who’s president. Check it out. The women like this war. I think we like having a hero as our president. It’s simple.”

PBS’ Gwen Ifill said Bush was “part Tom Cruise, part Ronald Reagan.” On NBC, Brian Williams gushed, “The pictures were beautiful. It was quite something to see the first-ever American president on a—on a carrier landing.” (more…)