First, let's look at the more recent rhetoric. In a speech to military personnel at Ft. Bragg, NC, in June 2006, President Bush said: "Sending more Americans would undermine our strategy of encouraging Iraqis to take the lead in this fight. And sending more Americans would suggest that we intend to stay forever, when we are, in fact, working for the day when Iraq can defend itself and we can leave." (tip)
The day before the President's national address (10 January 2007), Presidential spokesman Tony Snow took us back to May 2003 in his response to a question about "Mission Accomplished." [Not only has the White House has cropped the "official" photo/video to remove the "Mission Accomplished" banner from the press release, the video has been disabled.] Snow said:
You know that the "Mission Accomplished" banner was put up by members of the USS Abraham Lincoln. And the President, on that very speech, said just the opposite, didn't he? He said it was the end of major combat operations, but he did not say it was the end of operations. Instead, he cautioned people at the time that there would be considerable continued violence in Iraq, and that there would be continued operations for a long period of time. That single episode has been more widely mischaracterized than just about any aspect of the war.
1 May 2003:
Major combat operations have ended; in the battle of iraq, the US and her allies have prevailed... We've removed an ally of al Qaida... Because of [the US military], the tyrant has fallen, and Iraq is free... We thank all the citizens of Iraq who welcomed our troops and joined in the liberation of their own country.
Today, we have the greater power to free a nation by breaking a dangerous and aggressive regime. With new tactics and precision weapons, we can achieve military objectives without directing violence against civilians. No device of man can remove the tragedy from war; yet it is a great moral advance when the guilty have far more to fear from war than the innocent...
The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11, 2001 -- and still goes on...
The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror. We've removed an ally of al Qaeda, and cut off a source of terrorist funding. And this much is certain: No terrorist network will gain weapons of mass destruction from the Iraqi regime, because the regime is no more.
What Was The Mission?
Sounds pretty much like "mission accomplished" to me. Of course, we have to rewind the tape to March 2003 to try to figure out "the mission." I've done my best. Please read the speeches yourself -- maybe you can find a more concrete statement of mission -- but everything I've found boils down to this: overthrow Saddam Hussein and save the world from his (nowhere to be found except in the minds of some US "intelligence" staff) weapons of mass destruction.
19 March 2003:
American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger... The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder.
23 March 2003:
I am pleased with the progress that we're making in the early stages of a -- of the war to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction, and to free the Iraqi people from the clutches of a brutal dictatorship.
31 March 2003:
We will end the Iraqi regime, an ally of terrorist groups and a producer of weapons of mass destruction.
Snow Dissembles Again:
Most of the "Mission Accomplished" speech is full of "we've won!" rhetoric, but there is one small disclaimer. It's the one Snow hung his hat on -- even though Bush does not say word one about "considerable continued violence" ... "violence" appears only once, when the President claims we can overthrow governments and simultaneously exempt civilians from violence. Tell that to the Somalian citizens hit with bombs this week.
1 May 2003:
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. (Applause.)
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. (Applause.)
But even this small nod to reality includes one major flaw -- the WMD claim -- and it continues the theme of the speech that the worst is behind us. The opposite of the reality of the next four years.
Next: Rewind to 2003