Today (May 1) is the fourth anniversary of one of the most dishonest propaganda speeches in modern American history.
President Bush did his flight suit strut on the deck of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln in front of a banner proclaiming “Mission Accomplished.”
Bush proclaimed, “With new tactics and precision weapons, we can achieve military objectives without directing violence against civilians.” Tell that to Haditha – tell that to all the Iraqi families who have had kinfolk killed at US checkpoints – tell that to the people of Fallujah.
Bush assured Americans and the world: “We’ve begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons, and already know of hundreds of sites that will be investigated.” With each passing month, we are learning more about how the administration was warned before attacking Iraq that Saddam had long since abandoned the production of chemical and biological weapons. But Bush could still successfully use that hobgoblin in the weeks after Baghdad was battered into submission.
Bush declared, “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.” This is ironic in hindsight, since the Bush administration is now using Al Qaeda’s presence in the postwar rubble to justify perpetuating American military occupation.
Bush closed his speech with the following Biblical contortion: “All of you, all in this generation of our military, have taken up the highest calling of history: You were 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.”
I guess the Abu Ghraib exemption to captives coming out did not make the final cut of Bush’s speech.
As things deteriorated in Iraq in the summer and early Fall of 2003, the Bush team sought to rewrite the history of that speech. At an October 28, 2003, press conference, Bush was asked about the giant banner hung on the aircraft carrier, Bush replied: “The ‘Mission Accomplished’ sign, of course, was put up by the members of the USS Abraham Lincoln, saying that their mission was accomplished. I know it was attributed somehow to some ingenious advance man from my staff—they weren’t that ingenious, by the way.”
The design of the banner had the same design, typeface, and background as a large “Jobs and Growth” banner hung at a Bush speaking event in Ohio a week earlier. A few days after Bush’s Abraham Lincoln speech, the Washington Post noted that Bush’s “aides say the slogan was chosen in part to mark a presidential turn toward domestic affairs as his campaign for reelection approaches.” After Bush’s October 28 comment on the banner, White House spokesman Dan Bartlett asserted that the slogan was thought up by sailors who then asked the White House to create the banner. The White House
arranged for the banner to be created and delivered to the aircraft carrier. But Bush was correct that the banner was not hung up on the carrier by his press secretary, Ari Fleischer.
A few weeks after the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln speech, I wrote in the “Iraq & the War on Terrorism” chapter of Terrorism & Tyranny (which hit the streets in late August 2003): “The fact that Bush went to war against Iraq based on a deceptive strategy is core to knowing what to expect from the remainder of the Bush presidency. There is no reason to presume that Bush was more deceptive and manipulative about the war on Iraq than he is about the war on terrorism or other subjects. The main difference is that the evidence of false claims on Iraq became much clearer, especially after the U.S. invasion. As long as terrorist groups do not succeed in launching high-profile attacks on America or Americans, Bush can represent the war on terrorism however he pleases.”
Nothing has happened since May 1, 2003 to make George Bush a smidgin more honest.
The only difference is that the carnage in Iraq is so obvious that even many of his loyal supporters are no longer willing to believe and cheer Bush’s lies.