Today marks the fifth anniversary of George W. Bush standing on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, with the now infamous banner declaring, "Mission Accomplished." Bush didn't utter those words himself — what he said was:
"Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed."
In convenient timing, the US State Department released a report yesterday confirming al-Qaeda is still the greatest terrorist threat to the US and its allies. The news is part of the department's annual Country Reports on Terrorism. In year five of "Mission Accomplished," the number of terror-related deaths rose by 8 percent in 2007, and says "the ability of [Iraqi] attackers to penetrate large concentrations of people and then detonate their explosives may account for the increase in lethality of bombings in 2007."
The White House announced yesterday that they've paid the price for the banner. Press Secretary Dana Perino said the sentiment, which now seems laughably premature, was actually just not specific enough. The banner apparently was meant for the ship's crew. Perino said, "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."
Do you buy that explanation? Regardless of Bush's words on that day, saying combat has ended and the US has prevailed, did we all just misunderstand the intended recipient of the prominently located banner? Has the White House paid the price for the vagueness of the message? After five years, is the fact that the State Department is still calling al-Qaeda the greatest threat mean we're surprisingly far from accomplishing any mission?