President Donald Trump was heavily criticized Saturday after he declared "Mission Accomplished!" following a military strike in Syria.
What did Trump say?
He posted on Twitter:
A perfectly executed strike last night. Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power o… https://t.co/oIPJVo3zQn— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1523708460.0
So proud of our great Military which will soon be, after the spending of billions of fully approved dollars, the fi… https://t.co/kZ5qqY35s1— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1523708988.0
What did critics say?
Ari Fleischer, press secretary for former President George W. Bush:
Um...I would have recommended ending this tweet with not those two words. https://t.co/h5Fl7kjea6— Ari Fleischer (@Ari Fleischer) 1523709726.0
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii):
I didn’t think I could be shocked by a tweet anymore but “mission accomplished” was so surprising I had to double c… https://t.co/JaEwFRbtDi— Brian Schatz (@Brian Schatz) 1523711323.0
MSNBC host Joy Reid:
Saying "mission accomplished" always works out well for presidents ... https://t.co/fbf8tcNt04— Joy Reid (@Joy Reid) 1523709572.0
NBC reporter Mark Murray:
Mission Accomplished. Scooter Libby. John Bolton. We’re going to party like it’s 2003... https://t.co/HBmlHm0UeE— Mark Murray (@Mark Murray) 1523709377.0
Why the criticism?
Fleischer knows all-too-well why presidents should not utter such words, as they will forever haunt the Bush legacy.
As the Washington Examiner noted, Bush, aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln in May 2003, said Operation Iraqi Freedom was a "a job well done." Bush spoke on the ship's flight deck, and above him was a banner that declared "Mission Accomplished."
As history knows, the mission was far from accomplished and the U.S. remains entangled in the Middle East to this day. As his presidency came to a close, Bush admitted his phrasing, and the banner behind him, was a "mistake."
However, the message had a more nuanced meaning, Fleischer shared after his initial tweet criticizing Trump. He said:
It’s obviously too late and I get the symbolism that came back to bite us months later when the war turned and the insurrection grew, but there is an interesting back story to the “Mission Accomplished” story. After our advance crew boarded the ship in Hawaii days prior to Bush’s landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln, the Navy crew told us they were returning from the longest deployment of any ship in Naval history. They were proud of what they had done.
The crew asked the WH staff if it would be ok to hang a banner saying “Mission Accomplished”. We readily agreed. We hung it in an obviously prominent place that also sent a message as Bush spoke to the nation.
In his remarks, Bush stated the danger was not over and that difficult missions lay ahead, particularly in the Sunni triangle. The nuance of his remarks, however, couldn’t compete with the message of this banner. After Bush left the ship and we took with us all the trappings of the presidency, the banner remained up. It was still up when the Abraham Lincoln pulled into its home port in Washington State.
It was the crew’s message from start to finish. It also was the backdrop for Bush’s speech. In May 2003, everyone thought the mission had been accomplished. The insurgency did not fully develop until the Fall of 2003. The WH press corps in May did not criticize the banner.
By the Fall, the shot of Bush with the banner became a symbol of what went wrong. And now you know the full story.
Mission Accomplished, 2003 edition. https://t.co/D9KN6slaur— Steven Dennis (@Steven Dennis) 1523709203.0
Syria, just like Iraq in 2003, appears to be far from a "mission accomplished."