Today is the fourth anniversary of George Bush’s speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln — the one Democrats and anti-war activists call the “Mission Accomplished” speech. The crew of the carrier flew the banner because their mission had indeed been accomplished — they had successfully supported the invasion of Iraq and the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government, and were returning to the United States. Instead, everyone has attributed the banner’s message to George Bush.
All that proves is that they didn’t listen to what he had to say four years ago. As A Better Where To Find points out, Bush hardly communicated anything remotely like “the war is over”:
We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We’re bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous. We’re pursuing and finding leaders of the old regime, who will be held to account for their crimes. We’ve begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons and already know of hundreds of sites that will be investigated. We’re helping to rebuild Iraq, where the dictator built palaces for himself, instead of hospitals and schools. And we will stand with the new leaders of Iraq as they establish a government of, by, and for the Iraqi people.
The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort. Our coalition will stay until our work is done. Then we will leave, and we will leave behind a free Iraq.
Nowhere in this speech did Bush declare that the war was over, nor that we could leave Iraq. In fact, he made it plain that we would stick by the Iraqi people and remain in place until they could establish a democratic government that could secure the nation.
Not everyone on the Left was fooled by the banner. Hillary Clinton, in a speech that preceded Bush’s, also made it clear that the overall mission was far from over:
Tonight President Bush will address our Nation and will tell the world that Operation Iraqi Freedom’s military action is over, at least insofar as major military engagements may be required. We know we will have continuing problems, like those we have seen in the last few days. But it is true we are now moving toward the second phase, which is the rebuilding of Iraq. So this colloquy we are having today is especially timely because of the President’s announcement this evening.
And that much has been true. We have not had major military operations in the same sense as the invasion. We have been engaged in police actions intended on securing portions of cities against attacks, not major military maneuvers such as the opening days of the conflict. Those police actions are still deadly, but they represent the traditional role of stabilization for an allied government.
This meme has all sorts of holes in it, mostly involving a refusal to engage in an intellectually honest manner about what was said and done four years ago today. The same people who complain that the pre-war intel of two administrations and most of the world’s spy agencies wasn’t perfect seem to have no issue using half-truths and less in a weak attempt to score points four years later.