It is difficult to forget the picture: U.S. President George W. Bush, dressed in a flight uniform he never wore in battle, perched on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln. Standing proudly beneath a banner reading ‘Mission Accomplished,’ Mr. Bush declared, “in the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.”
The fact that many of America’s long-term, trusted allies decided to pass on this disaster-in-the-making was not noted by Mr. Bush at that time. And what, exactly, had been accomplished was never adequately answered either.
What the ‘mission’ was had never been clearly defined: if it was to protect America from Iraq’s threat of weapons of mass destruction, then there never was any mission; Iraq had no such weapons. If the ‘mission’ was to prevent Iraq from obtaining nuclear weapons, again there was no mission: Iraq had no such active designs.
If the mission, as skeptics might say, was to secure Iraq’s oil fields for American consumption, than it had not then, and still has not, been accomplished. If the mission was to usher in a new era of peace and freedom for Iraq’s citizens, than that could not have been what Mr. Bush was referring to.
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As of May 1 of 2003, the date Mr. Bush spoke with the ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner as his backdrop, nothing worthwhile had been accomplished for Iraq. Saddam Hussein had been overthrown, so if Mr. Bush chooses to see that as his major accomplishment in Iraq, so be it. Today, four years later, there is still no worthwhile accomplishment to which Mr. Bush can point. But while nothing of worth has been accomplished in Iraq, there certainly have been ‘accomplishments.’
At least two million Iraqi citizens have fled their homes;
Over 600,000 Iraq citizens have been killed;
Those remaining have lost regular access to electricity, running water and medical care;
Hostilities between Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds have escalated to the point that the one peaceful nation is now embroiled in a horrifically bloody civil war.
Over 3,000 Americans are dead; tens of thousands have been seriously injured;
Hostility toward the U.S. has increased around the world;
The federal deficit has ballooned to historic proportions;
Monies needed desperately within the U.S. for such immediate needs as the rebuilding of New Orleans have been squandered.
American veterans injured in the war have been neglected, abused and ignored in hospitals created, funded and run specifically to meet their needs.
Iraqi freedom fighters responded to Mr. Bush’s challenge at that time and in the four years since. The result is over 3,000 American soldiers dead, and tens of thousands injured.
Four years later, the ‘force necessary to deal with the security situation’ that Mr. Bush so arrogantly described is now stretched so thin that deployments have been extended to 15 months. As early as January 24, 2006, Andrew Krepinevich, a retired Army officer, prepared a report for the Pentagon in which he concluded that “the Army cannot sustain the pace of troop deployments to Iraq long enough to break the back of the insurgency.” Then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld dismissed Mr. Krepinevich’s assessment, saying, “It's just not consistent with the facts.” Facts are something Mr. Rumsfeld seldom troubled to become closely acquainted with. It was only a few months later that Vice President Dick Cheney, another stranger to facts, declared that the insurgency was in its ‘last throes.’ Seven months later Mr. Bush himself had to concede, if not by his words then by his actions, that Mr. Cheney’s optimistic prediction had fallen far short of accuracy, when he announced the ‘surge’ to help quell the violence his invasion had caused.
On April 26, 2007, the Democratic-controlled Congress finally passed legislation, in spite of Mr. Bush’s promised veto, funding the war but mandating dates for the start and completion of troop withdrawal. That the bill will in all likelihood reach the president’s desk on the anniversary of his disgraceful ‘Mission Accomplished’ speech is more than a little ironic. The words of White House spokeswoman Dana Perino concerning that possibility are astounding: she said that sending it to the White House on that day would be “a ridiculous P.R. stunt.” This from an administration that, based on the ‘Mission Accomplished’ charade alone, is expert on ridiculous public relations stunts.
Congress will need, after Mr. Bush’s veto, to create a new bill. The president has said that he will not sign any bill that contains timetables for withdrawal. Yet Rep. John Murtha (D- PA) does not believe Mr. Bush will receive such a bill. Said he: “I think everything that passes will have some sort of condition (placed) on it.” One wonders when Mr. Bush will recognize that the Constitutionally-decreed balance of powers is in effect: Congress legislates with the President. When the American public has spoken clearly its desire for its soldiers to leave Iraq to settle its own differences, when the non-partisan Iraq Study Group has recommended negations over increased military presence, when members of his own party are fleeing his failed programs, it is long past time for Mr. Bush to accept the reality of his dismal failure in Iraq. Until he does so, Iraqis and Americans will continue to suffer and die needlessly. Their blood is on his hands.
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