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President George W. Bush addresses sailors during the "Mission Accomplished" speech, May 1, 2003.

"Mission Accomplished," refers to a banner titled "Mission Accomplished" that was displayed on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln during a televised address by United States President George W. Bush on May 1, 2003 and the controversy that followed.

Bush stated at the time that this was the end to major combat operations in Iraq. While this statement did coincide with an end to the conventional phase of the war, Bush's assertion — and the sign itself — became controversial after guerilla warfare in Iraq increased during the Iraqi insurgency. The vast majority of casualties, among both coalition (approximately 98% as of October 2008) and Iraqi combatants, and among Iraqi civilians, has occurred since the speech.

"Mission accomplished" is a phrase that has long been associated with completing a mission. In recent years, it has been particularly associated with this event.



The USS Abraham Lincoln returning to port carrying its Mission Accomplished banner

On May 1, 2003, Bush became the first sitting President to make an arrested landing in a fixed-wing aircraft on an aircraft carrier[1][2] when he arrived at the USS Abraham Lincoln in a Lockheed S-3 Viking, dubbed Navy One, as the carrier returned from combat operations in the Persian Gulf. He posed for photographs with pilots and members of the ship's crew while wearing a flight suit. A few hours later, he gave a speech announcing the end of major combat operations in the Iraq War. Clearly visible in the background was a banner stating "Mission Accomplished."

Bush's historic jet landing on the carrier was criticized by opponents as an overly theatrical and expensive stunt. For instance, they pointed to the fact that the carrier was well within range of Bush's helicopter, and that a jet landing was not needed.[3] Originally the White House had stated that the carrier was too far off the California coast for a helicopter landing and a jet would be needed to reach it. On the day of the speech, the Lincoln was only 30 miles (48 km) from shore but the administration still decided to go ahead with the jet landing. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer admitted that the president "could have helicoptered, but the plan was already in place. Plus, he wanted to see a landing the way aviators see a landing."[4] The Lincoln made a scheduled stop in Pearl Harbor shortly before the speech, docked in San Diego after the speech, and returned to her home port in Everett, Washington on May 6, 2003.

S-3B Viking "Navy One" at the National Museum of Naval Aviation

The S-3 that served as "Navy One" was retired from service and placed on display at the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Florida on July 17, 2003. The museum makes it clear that President Bush was a passenger—not the pilot—of the plane.[5] Unlike his father, who was a Navy pilot, George W. Bush was never trained to land on a carrier.

The banner stating "Mission Accomplished" was a focal point of controversy and criticism. Navy Commander and Pentagon spokesman Conrad Chun said the banner referred specifically to the aircraft carrier's 10-month deployment (which was the longest deployment of a carrier since the Vietnam War) and not the war itself, saying "It truly did signify a mission accomplished for the crew."[6]

The White House claimed that the banner was requested by the crew of the ship, who did not have the facilities for producing such a banner. Afterwards, the administration and naval sources stated that the banner was the Navy's idea, White House staff members made the banner, and it was hung by the U.S. Navy personnel. White House spokesman Scott McClellan told CNN "We took care of the production of it. We have people to do those things. But the Navy actually put it up."[7] According to John Dickerson of Time magazine, the White House later conceded that they actually hung the banner but still insists it had been done at the request of the crew members.[8]

President Bush, with NFO Lt. Ryan Philips, in the flight suit he wore for his controversial televised arrival on the USS Abraham Lincoln.

Many people who watched the event on television and saw the banner displayed on the ship drew the conclusion that the banner declared that the U.S. mission in Iraq had been completed.

Whether meant for the crew or not, the general impression created by the image of the President under the banner has been criticized as premature, especially later as the guerrilla war began. Subsequently, the White House released a statement saying that the sign and Bush's visit referred to the initial invasion of Iraq. Bush's speech noted:

"We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We are bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous."[9]
"Our mission continues...The War on Terror continues, yet it is not endless. We do not know the day of final victory, but we have seen the turning of the tide."

However the speech also said that:

"In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed."[9]

When he received an advance copy of the speech, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld took care to remove any use of the phrase "Mission Accomplished" in the speech itself. Later, when journalist Bob Woodward asked him about his changes to the speech, Rumsfeld responded:"I was in Baghdad, and I was given a draft of that thing to look at. And I just died, and I said my God, it's too conclusive. And I fixed it and sent it back… they fixed the speech, but not the sign."[10]

Bush reiterated a "Mission Accomplished" message to the troops at Camp As Sayliyah on June 5, 2003 — about a month after the aircraft carrier incident: "America sent you on a mission to remove a grave threat and to liberate an oppressed people, and that mission has been accomplished."[11]

President George W. Bush on the Abraham Lincoln being saluted by the flight deck crew

For critics of the war, the photo-op became a symbol of the administration's unrealistic goals and perceptions of the conflict. Anti-war activists questioned the integrity and realism of George W. Bush's "major combat" statement. The banner came to symbolize the irony of the President giving a victory speech only a few weeks after the beginning of a relatively long war. Many in the administration came to regret the slogan. Karl Rove later stated "I wish the banner was not up there."[12]

In a less publicized incident, Rumsfeld also declared an end to major combat operations in Afghanistan on May 1, a few hours before President Bush's announcement.[13]

At a May 1, 2008 press conference in Washington, D.C., Democratic Senator Jim Webb stated:

"This is the fifth anniversary of the day that President Bush arrived on an aircraft carrier in a flight suit and declared 'mission accomplished.' And in an ironic way, I think it can be said, when you look at the historic way that we use our military, that the Iraq war was over five years ago, in classical terms. And what began was a very contentious occupation that placed our military in what classically we would call a holding position, totally dependent on the ability of the political process to reach the type of solution that would allow this occupation to end."[14]

In November 2008, Bush indicated that he regretted the use of the banner, stating in a CNN interview, "To some, it said, well, 'Bush thinks the war in Iraq is over,' when I didn't think that. It conveyed the wrong message."[15]

In January 2009, Bush said that "Clearly, putting 'Mission Accomplished' on an aircraft carrier was a mistake".[16]

Media references

Iraq War opponents have used the phrase "mission accomplished" in an ironic sense as well as denoting a public relations failure in general. In addition, some mainstream outlets questioned the state of the war with derivatives of this statement. For example, the October 6, 2003 cover of Time featured the headline "Mission Not Accomplished."[17] On April 30, 2008, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said "President Bush is well aware that the banner should have been much more specific and said 'mission accomplished for these sailors who are on this ship on their mission.' And we have certainly paid a price for not being more specific on that banner."[18] On May 5, 2008, The Daily Show mocked her statement by producing a graphic of what such a sign might have looked like.[19]

  • "Mission accomplished" style banners appear in three episodes of the Fox Broadcasting Company's television sitcom Arrested Development.[20]
  • The third season finale of the HBO drama The Wire is entitled "Mission Accomplished." The third season uses the failed War on Drugs as a metaphor for the Iraq War through the needless war over territory between two drug crews that dominates much of the third season.
  • In a FoxTrot comic from around the time of this incident, Jason receives a "G.I. Jim Presidential Photo Op" Aircraft Carrier Playset for Christmas, parodying this incident. His best friend Marcus says he thought all those were recalled, to which Jason responds "Santa must have shopped early."
  • In a Pearls Before Swine comic one of the crocodiles shows a banner stating "Meeshunn Akkompished." Wearing a party hat, he celebrates the rumored killing of an antelope by his folks across the street. After the antelope shows up very alive, he says "Sign not my idea."[21]
  • On The Daily Show, Stephen Colbert lampooned the sign with the anagram "C'mon I lied, so scampish." Jon Stewart also lampooned this publicity stunt by wearing a flight suit and appearing in front of a banner that read "My Bad!"
  • On MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Keith Olbermann ends most of the broadcasts by stating the number of days since "the declaration of Mission Accomplished in Iraq."
  • Comedian Bill Maher pointed out that coincidentally the third anniversary fell on approximately the same date of the premiere of the Tom Cruise film Mission: Impossible 3.
  • On the November 11, 2006 episode of Saturday Night Live, one skit parodied a Donald Rumsfeld interview with him being moved out of his office. As the move was just being started, they showed a banner that said "Move accomplished"
  • On an episode of Scrubs, J.D. reads "Iraq War for Dummies". He then calls Turk saying: "You know what's messed up? I just got to the part where President Bush gave his Mission Accomplished speech on a battleship, and I still got like 400 more pages to go!"
  • Filmmaker Michael Moore mocked the scene in his film Fahrenheit 9/11 by underscoring it with the theme song from The Greatest American Hero.
  • A video appeared on YouTube alleging the White House website's official video of the speech Bush made on the aircraft carrier has now been cropped to conceal the "Mission Accomplished" banner.[22] Some dispute that the edits to the video were for the purpose of hiding the banner, citing evidence that, due to camera angles, the banner would not have appeared in that shot in any event,[23] and that blacked out portion of the video likely covers television graphics belonging to the source of the video.[24]
  • Musician Serj Tankian's music video for the song Empty Walls, which shows children imitating various events from the Iraq War features a child dressed and acting like a leader with a banner behind him that says "Mishin Akomplishd."
  • An episode of "30 Rock" titled Cougars mirrored this story, with Alec Baldwin's character, Jack Donaghy, as President Bush and an inner-city youth baseball team representing the Iraqi people. After "fixing" the underprivileged team by buying them expensive equipment (e.g., new uniforms and a scoreboard), Jack (inexplicably dressed like Douglas MacArthur) displays a banner that reads "FUN TIMES ACCOMPLISHED." This storyline serves as a metaphor for the war in Iraq throughout the episode.
  • In early 2008, upon signs that Sony's Blu-ray disc format may have won the format war against HD-DVD, Sony's CEO Howard Stringer refused to declare victory, and stated "I never put up banners that say 'Mission Accomplished'." [25]
  • In March 2008 a book entitled Mission Accomplished! (or How We Won the War in Iraq) was released. A continuation of the "Experts Speak" series from the Institute of Expertology, this book by Christopher Cerf and Victor Navasky, with illustrations by Robert Grossman, is a compilation of hundreds of quotations from prominent figures in the media and government concerning military operations in Iraq.[26]
  • In the MTV November 2009 documentary, Real World: Return to Duty about Real World: Brooklyn's cast-member Ryan Conklin return to Iraq, Conklin made a reference to Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech as he wrote the famous phrase on a wall in his barracks.
  • The May 10, 2009 episode of The Simpsons, entitled 'Four Great Women and a Manicure', depicted Queen Elizabeth I (as played by Patty Bouvier) standing under a "Miſſion Accompliſhed" banner on the shores of England, prior to a battle between the heavily outnumbered British Navy and the Spanish Armada.


  1. ^ Lyke, M.L. (2003-05-02). "Commander in chief's visit sets aircraft carrier's crew abuzz". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 20 April 2009.  
  2. ^ Richard Nixon had landed aboard the USS Hornet in a helicopter for the Apollo 11 recovery, but not in an arrested landing. Blair, Don (2004). Splashdown! NASA and the Navy. Turner Publishing Company. p. 161. ISBN 9781563119859. OCLC 56563004.  
  3. ^ 'Mission Accomplished' Whodunit, W. House Changes Stories On Much-Mocked Banner At Carrier Speech - CBS News
  4. ^ Byron York on Presidential Lies on National Review Online
  5. ^ "Viking (S-3B)". National Museum of Naval Aviation. Retrieved 2008-12-01.  
  6. ^ 'Mission Accomplished' Whodunit - Oct. 29, 2003
  7. ^ - White House pressed on 'mission accomplished' sign - Oct. 29, 2003
  8. ^ Bush's 'Bannergate' Shuffle - Printout - TIME
  9. ^ a b Text Of Bush Speech, President Declares End To Major Combat In Iraq - CBS News
  10. ^ DefenseLink News Transcript: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld Interviews with Mr. Bob Woodward - July 6 and 7, 2006
  11. ^ - Bush to troops: Mission accomplished
  12. ^ 'Mission Accomplished' Revisited, CBS' Kuhn On The Anniversary Of Bush's Aircraft Carrier Speech - CBS News
  13. ^ - Rumsfeld: Major combat over in Afghanistan - May. 1, 2003
  15. ^ Bush Says He Regrets Use of Iraq `Mission Accomplished' Banner, Holly Roswenkrantz, Nov 12, 2008, Bloomberg News.
  16. ^,8599,1871060,00.html
  17. ^ TIME Magazine: Mission Not Accomplished
  18. ^ White House Press Briefing for April 30, 2008
  19. ^ May 5, 2008 The Daily Show clip commenting on the famous banner.
  20. ^ Episodes of Arrested Development containing the banners
  21. ^ Pearls Before Swine comic strip of October 27th, 2007
  22. ^ YouTube - Broadcast Yourself
  23. ^ Hot Air » Blog Archive » Did the White House doctor the video of Bush’s “mission accomplished” speech?
  24. ^ Hot Air » Blog Archive » Video: Mike McIntee is lying
  25. ^ BBC NEWS | Technology | Blu-ray supporters scent victory
  26. ^ Mission Accomplished! Or How We Won the War in Iraq: The Experts Speak: Christopher Cerf, Victor S. Navasky, Robert Grossman: Books

External links


Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

President Bush Announces Major Combat Operations in Iraq Have Ended
by George W. Bush
The President Bush Announces Major Combat Operations in Iraq Have Ended speech given by American President George W. Bush on 1 May, 2003 from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln announcing the end of major combat operations in Iraq.

Admiral Kelly, Captain Card, officers and sailors of the USS Abraham Lincoln, my fellow Americans: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country.

In this battle, we have fought for the cause of liberty, and for the peace of the world. Our nation and our coalition are proud of this accomplishment — yet it is you, the members of the United States military, who achieved it. Your courage — your willingness to face danger for your country and for each other — made this day possible. Because of you, our nation is more secure. Because of you, the tyrant has fallen, and Iraq is free.

Operation Iraqi Freedom was carried out with a combination of precision, and speed, and boldness the enemy did not expect, and the world had not seen before. From distant bases or ships at sea, we sent planes and missiles that could destroy an enemy division, or strike a single bunker. Marines and soldiers charged to Baghdad across 350 miles of hostile ground, in one of the swiftest advances of heavy arms in history. You have shown the world the skill and the might of the American Armed Forces.

This nation thanks all of the members of our coalition who joined in a noble cause. We thank the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom, Australia, and Poland, who shared in the hardships of war. We thank all of the citizens of Iraq who welcomed our troops and joined in the liberation of their own country. And tonight, I have a special word for Secretary Rumsfeld, for General (Tommy) Franks, and for all the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States: America is grateful for a job well done.

The character of our military through history — the daring of Normandy, the fierce courage of Iwo Jima, the decency and idealism that turned enemies into allies — is fully present in this generation. When Iraqi civilians looked into the faces of our servicemen and women, they saw strength, and kindness, and good will. When I look at the members of the United States military, I see the best of our country, and I am honored to be your commander in chief.

In the images of fallen statues, we have witnessed the arrival of a new era. For a hundred years of war, culminating in the nuclear age, military technology was designed and deployed to inflict casualties on an ever-growing scale. In defeating Nazi Germany and imperial Japan, Allied Forces destroyed entire cities, while enemy leaders who started the conflict were safe until the final days. Military power was used to end a regime by breaking a nation. 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 advance when the guilty have far more to fear from war than the innocent.

In the images of celebrating Iraqis, we have also seen the ageless appeal of human freedom. Decades of lies and intimidation could not make the Iraqi people love their oppressors or desire their own enslavement. Men and women in every culture need liberty like they need food, and water, and air. Everywhere that freedom arrives, humanity rejoices. And everywhere that freedom stirs, let tyrants fear.

We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We are bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous. We are pursuing and finding leaders of the old regime, who will be held to account for their crimes. We have begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons, and already know of hundreds of sites that will be investigated. We are 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. And then we will leave — and we will leave behind a free Iraq.

The Battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11th, 2001, and still goes on. That terrible morning, 19 evil men — the shock troops of a hateful ideology — gave America and the civilized world a glimpse of their ambitions. They imagined, in the words of one terrorist, that September the 11th would be the "beginning of the end of America." By seeking to turn our cities into killing fields, terrorists and their allies believed that they could destroy this nation's resolve, and force our retreat from the world. They have failed.

In the Battle of Afghanistan, we destroyed the Taliban, many terrorists, and the camps where they trained. We continue to help the Afghan people lay roads, restore hospitals, and educate all of their children. Yet we also have dangerous work to complete. As I speak, a special operations task force, led by the 82nd Airborne, is on the trail of the terrorists, and those who seek to undermine the free government of Afghanistan. America and our coalition will finish what we have begun.

From Pakistan to the Philippines to the Horn of Africa, we are hunting down al-Qaida killers. Nineteen months ago, I pledged that the terrorists would not escape the patient justice of the United States. And as of tonight, nearly one-half of al-Qaida's senior operatives have been captured or killed.

The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror. We have removed an ally of al-Qaida, 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.

In these 19 months that changed the world, our actions have been focused, and deliberate, and proportionate to the offense. We have not forgotten the victims of September the 11th — the last phone calls, the cold murder of children, the searches in the rubble. With those attacks, the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States. And war is what they got.

Our war against terror is proceeding according to principles that I have made clear to all:

Any person involved in committing or planning terrorist attacks against the American people becomes an enemy of this country, and a target of American justice.

Any person, organization, or government that supports, protects, or harbors terrorists is complicit in the murder of the innocent, and equally guilty of terrorist crimes.

Any outlaw regime that has ties to terrorist groups, and seeks or possesses weapons of mass destruction, is a grave danger to the civilized world, and will be confronted.

And anyone in the world, including the Arab world, who works and sacrifices for freedom has a loyal friend in the United States of America.

Our commitment to liberty is America's tradition — declared at our founding, affirmed in Franklin Roosevelt's Four Freedoms, asserted in the Truman Doctrine, and in Ronald Reagan's challenge to an evil empire. We are committed to freedom in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and in a peaceful Palestine. The advance of freedom is the surest strategy to undermine the appeal of terror in the world. Where freedom takes hold, hatred gives way to hope. When freedom takes hold, men and women turn to the peaceful pursuit of a better life. American values, and American interests, lead in the same direction: We stand for human liberty.

The United States upholds these principles of security and freedom in many ways — with all the tools of diplomacy, law enforcement, intelligence, and finance. We are working with a broad coalition of nations that understand the threat, and our shared responsibility to meet it. The use of force has been, and remains, our last resort. Yet all can know, friend and foe alike, that our nation has a mission: We will answer threats to our security, and we will defend the peace.

Our mission continues. Al-Qaida is wounded, not destroyed. The scattered cells of the terrorist network still operate in many nations, and we know from daily intelligence that they continue to plot against free people. The proliferation of deadly weapons remains a serious danger. The enemies of freedom are not idle, and neither are we. Our government has taken unprecedented measures to defend the homeland — and we will continue to hunt down the enemy before he can strike.

The war on terror is not over, yet it is not endless. We do not know the day of final victory, but we have seen the turning of the tide. No act of the terrorists will change our purpose, or weaken our resolve, or alter their fate. Their cause is lost. Free nations will press on to victory.

Other nations in history have fought in foreign lands and remained to occupy and exploit. Americans, following a battle, want nothing more than to return home. And that is your direction tonight. After service in the Afghan and Iraqi theaters of war — after 100,000 miles, on the longest carrier deployment in recent history — you are homeward bound. Some of you will see new family members for the first time — 150 babies were born while their fathers were on the Lincoln. Your families are proud of you, and your nation will welcome you.

We are mindful as well that some good men and women are not making the journey home. One of those who fell, Corporal Jason Mileo, spoke to his parents five days before his death. Jason's father said, "He called us from the center of Baghdad, not to brag, but to tell us he loved us. Our son was a soldier." Every name, every life, is a loss to our military, to our nation, and to the loved ones who grieve. There is no homecoming for these families. Yet we pray, in God's time, their reunion will come.

Those we lost were last seen on duty. Their final act on this earth was to fight a great evil, and bring liberty to others. All of you — all in this generation of our military — have taken up the highest calling of history. You are defending your country, and protecting the innocent from harm. And wherever you go, you carry a message of hope — a message that is ancient, and ever new. In the words of the prophet Isaiah: "To the captives, 'Come out!' and to those in darkness, Be free!"

Thank you for serving our country and our cause. May God bless you all, and may God continue to bless America.

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