Mission not quite accomplished.
Ten years ago today, then-President George Bush delivered his now-notorious, premature speech in which he declared American operations had ended in Iraq.
With a banner draped behind him saying “Mission Accomplished,” Bush in 2003 delivered the televised address off the coast of San Diego from the USS Abraham Lincoln.
“Major combat operations in Iraq have ended,” he told the crowd. “In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.”
A few months earlier, Congress approved what would become the Iraq War, and the invasion began in March of that year.
Of course, the notion of “mission accomplished” could not have been further from the truth.
While the speech was well-received at the time, the war lasted another eight years. Congress decided to send in 20,000 more troops into the country in 2007. The war claimed the lives of at least 190,000 people–the bulk of whom were civilians, in addition to 4,488 U.S. soldiers and 3,400 U.S. contractors.
In December 2011, President Obama marked the exit of the last American troops from Iraq, ending nearly nine years of war there. Sectarian violence remains rampant.
Following the 9/11 attacks, the Iraq War was sold to the American people as a relatively easy mission that would prevent Saddam Hussein from using weapons of mass destruction. The cakewalk, however, became a quagmire. The WMDs did not exist and U.S. war planners underestimated the Iraqi insurgency. The war also produced the Patriot Act, Guantanamo, extraordinary renditions, torture, Abu Ghraib, and the modern surveillance state.
In 2009, at his final press conference, Bush admitted it was a mistake to hang the banner saying “Mission accomplished.”
“It sent the wrong message. We were trying to say something differently, but nevertheless, it conveyed a different message,” said Bush. “Obviously, some of my rhetoric has been a mistake.”
The 10-year anniversary of the “mission accomplished” speech comes the same day the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum opened to the public in Dallas, Texas, reigniting a debate over the 43rd president’s legacy.
Here’s a trip down memory lane: