Five Years After 'Mission Accomplished'

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Thursday, May 1, 2008; 12:56 PM

Much has happened in the five years since President Bush flew aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier in "Top Gun" style, stood under a banner proclaiming "Mission Accomplished" and proudly declared: "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended."

Five years ago, 139 American troops had died in Iraq. Now that number is 4,064. Five years ago, 542 American troops had been wounded in Iraq. Now that number is 29,395.

Five years ago, the national debt was $6.5 trillion. Now it's $9.3 trillion. Five years ago, your average gallon of gas cost $1.44. Now it costs $3.57. Five years ago, Bush's job-approval rating was at 70 percent. Now it's at 28.

Five years ago, Bush's appearance on the carrier was widely hailed as a brilliant PR move, imbuing the president with the aura of a conquering hero. Now, it's possibly the single most potent image of Bush's hubris.

One thing that's not so different: Five years ago, there were about 150,000 American troops in Iraq. Now there are slightly more.

The Coverage

Richard Sisk and James Gordon Meek write in the New York Daily News: "Five years after President Bush's 'Mission Accomplished' speech about Iraq, America's twin wars are looking more like 'Mission: Impossible.'

"On May 1, 2003, Bush flew on a Navy jet to the carrier Lincoln, where he announced 'major combat operations in Iraq have ended' and the U.S. had 'prevailed.'

"Today, that same ship is sailing back to the Persian Gulf and 4,370 coalition troops and thousands more Iraqis are dead.

"The U.S. is no closer to Bush's pledge that 'we will leave.'"

And as Sisk and Meek point out, it wasn't just victory in Iraq that Bush was celebrating prematurely: "In his Lincoln speech, the President also boasted: 'In the battle of Afghanistan, we destroyed the Taliban, many terrorists, and the camps where they trained.'

"Yet in 2007, a record 232 coalition troops died in that country, where the Taliban insurgency has expanded to every corner and Al Qaeda has 'reconstituted some of its pre-9/11 operational capabilities,' a State Department report grimly stated Wednesday."

AFP reports on what it calls the White House's "annual act of political contrition, mixed with defiance. . . .

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