‘Mis­sion Ac­com­plished’ re­in­forced by Trump

Pres­i­dent calls dec­la­ra­tion a ‘great mil­i­tary term’

USA TODAY International Edition - - NEWS - Gre­gory Korte

What Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush ac­tu­ally said in 2003 was, “Our mis­sion con­tin­ues. Al-Qaeda is wounded, not de­stroyed.”

WASH­ING­TON — It was a phrase that haunted Ge­orge W. Bush for the last six years of his pres­i­dency, and be­came a short­hand for a pre­ma­ture dec­la­ra­tion of vic­tory.

But Pres­i­dent Trump says he wants to bring “Mis­sion Ac­com­plished” back.

Trump used those two words Satur­day fol­low­ing what he said was a suc­cess­ful airstrike against tar­gets re­lated to Syria’s chem­i­cal weapons pro­gram.

And he used it again on Sun­day, say­ing it’s a “great mil­i­tary term” that should be brought back into com­mon us­age.

They were the same two words made in­fa­mous by a 2003 speech and photo op­por­tu­nity aboard the USS Abra­ham Lin­coln, in which Bush said “ma­jor com­bat op­er­a­tions in Iraq have ended.”

Bush never ac­tu­ally said “mis­sion ac­com­plished” that day. In fact, he said, “Our mis­sion con­tin­ues. Al-Qaeda is wounded, not de­stroyed.”

But as the Iraq war dragged on for years af­ter­ward, peo­ple re­mem­bered the ban­ner, not the speech. And the phrase took on an ironic mean­ing: Mis­sion not ac­com­plished. Trump wants to strip that his­tor­i­cal bag­gage.

“The Syr­ian raid was so per­fectly car­ried out, with such pre­ci­sion, that the only way the Fake News Me­dia could de­mean was by my use of the term ‘Mis­sion Ac­com­plished,’ ” he tweeted Sun­day. “I knew they would seize on this but felt it is such a great Mil­i­tary term, it should be brought back. Use of­ten!”

That fol­lowed a Satur­day tweet in which Trump said the Syr­ian op­er­a­tion was “per­fectly ex­e­cuted” and “could not have had a bet­ter re­sult. Mis­sion Ac­com­plished!”

Bush’s press sec­re­tary at the time, Ari Fleis­cher, re­sponded on Twit­ter that “I would have rec­om­mended end­ing this tweet with not those two words.”

But Fleis­cher also said the back story to the 2003 in­ci­dent largely has been for­got­ten: The air­craft car­rier was con­clud­ing its de­ploy­ment, and the ban­ner was meant to re­fer only to the car­rier group — not the over­all mis­sion.

That’s the same point Bush made when ques­tioned six months later.

“The ‘Mis­sion Ac­com­plished’ sign, of course, was put up by the mem­bers of the USS Abra­ham Lin­coln, say­ing that their mis­sion was ac­com­plished,” Bush said at a news con­fer­ence. “I know it was at­trib­uted some­how to some in­ge­nious ad­vance man from my staff — they weren’t that in­ge­nious, by the way.”

MAN­DEL NGAN/AFP/GETTY IM­AGES

Pres­i­dent Trump ad­dresses the na­tion Fri­day night on op­er­a­tions in Syria.

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