Sunday, August 22, 2010


"Mission Accomplished" - ?

My Libertarian friend R and I have a running argument or difference of opinion as to President Bush's state of mind when he stood on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln with that sign as a background. I believe that Mr. Bush had been persuaded by Mr. Rumsfeld and others that the war in Iraq would be short and sweet, much like the war his father had waged more than a decade earlier. The Iraqi army had been defeated, Baghdad was occupied by American troops, Saddam Hussein was on the run, and it did appear that the war was about over.

My friend R believes that "mission accomplished" meant no more than that a mission in the war had been accomplished. Baghdad had been captured and occupied. Now on for other missions. R goes on to state that the notion that Bush believed the war was over is a vicious fabrication of the left-wing pundits and media.

There is no way that either of us can prove what we believe. I don't know of anyone besides Bush himself or his wife Laura who knows what he believed at that moment. In spite of R having given me numerous citations and web links about "mission accomplished" I still believe that Mr. Bush did actually believe that the war was about over and all that remained was to clean up pockets of resistance and put in place a "democratic" government to replace that of Saddam Hussein. I believe that Mr. Bush relied heavily on the advice of Donald Rumsfeld, his Secretary of Defense.

Mr. Rumsfeld had earlier overruled the advice of General Shinseki who asserted that an army of at least 500,000 would be needed to conquer and control Iraq. Rumsfeld insisted on a much smaller mobile force of about 150,000. Rumsfeld was right about the size of army needed to defeat the Iraqi army. He overlooked the likelihood that all the operations of government, including policing, would collapse when Saddam was removed from power. After we Americans were through rejoicing about "mission accomplished," we were treated to the news that the Baghdad Museum had been looted and many precious ancient artifacts had been stolen. We also heard the news that the Americans had not bothered to establish any protection against looting at any institution of the Iraq government except the Oil Ministry. We then learned that Saddam Hussein had disappeared and that the Americans were looking for him. Clearly we were not going to be able to leave Iraq nearly as soon as Mr. Rumsfeld had expected.

I don't understand the fierceness of R's defense of Bush. To me, there is no discredit that he may have been misinformed or mistaken. As a cranky old liberal I would have criticized him for starting the war in the first place, but if things had worked out as I believe he expected I would be a rather lonely crank. As it is, I have many who agree with me that the war was a mistake. There are two possibilities:
  1. Bush and Rumsfeld were sure the war would be of short duration, similar to the Gulf War of a decade earlier. Any deception used to justify the war would be forgotten in the aftermath. Besides, there was general belief that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction that he was prepared to use on his enemies, both foreign and domestic.
  2. Bush and Rumsfeld knew that the war would last some time. Bush put on the show of "mission accomplished," to mislead the public for a time. More misinformation would be distributed later, as needed to calm the anger of the public.

If (1) is the case, we can not accuse Mr. Bush of deliberately deceiving the public. If (2) is the case, he did deliberately mislead the American people and deserves all the calumny he is getting from us left-wing cranks. I want to give George Bush the benefit of doubt. Therefore, I believe in case (1) and that he really did think the war was substantially over when he appeared with the sign "Mission Accomplished."

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