Exactly five years ago tomorrow, President Bush landed aboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, stood under a banner proclaiming “Mission Accomplished,” and declared, “major combat operations in Iraq have ended.” Since that day, more than 3,900 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq, representing more than 97 percent of total troop deaths there.
Today, reporter Helen Thomas asked White House Press Secretary Dana Perino how the president would “commemorate” the date tomorrow. Perino said the White House had “certainly paid a price for not being more specific on that banner”:
PERINO: 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. And I recognize that the media is going to play this up again tomorrow, as they do every single year.
This is only the latest tack the White House has taken to defend Bush’s 2003 remarks. Last year, Perino insisted that “we did prevail,” while former press secretary Tony Snow laughably claimed that Bush “said just the opposite” of “mission accomplished.”
In fact, regardless of Perino’s attempts to amend the banner, it’s clear what Bush meant. Just a month after his speech on the U.S.S. Lincoln, he also spoke to troops in Qatar: “America sent you on a mission to remove a grave threat and to liberate an oppressed people, and that mission has been accomplished.”