Back in the Days of “Mission Accomplished”

According to the public, “mission failed” is more like it, and it’s a failed mission that is now doing more harm than good.

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Back in the days of “mission accomplished”
Our chief was landing on the deck
The sun was setting on a golden photo op
Back in the days of “mission accomplished”

             —Neil Young, from the album “Living with War”

Well, it’s been almost exactly four years since that “golden photo op.” How does the public feel now about Bush’s proclamation of “mission accomplished” in Iraq? No polling organization has asked that exact question, but we can get a pretty good idea of how negatively the public feels about Bush’s contention from some recent data collected by the Pew Research Center.

Start with the broad question of whether, even in the future, the United States will accomplish its mission in Iraq. As the chart below shows, a majority of the public (51 percent) now thinks the United States will fail “in establishing a stable democratic government in Iraq,” compared to 42 percent who believe we will eventually achieve that objective.

Other questions from the survey go all the way back to the time Bush made his “mission accomplished” claim. One such question asked whether the war in Iraq has helped or hurt the war on terrorism. About the time Bush was landing on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, 65 percent thought the Iraq war was helping the war on terror; that figure’s now down to 38 percent—less than the current number who think the Iraq war is hurting the war on terror (44 percent).

An even more stunning reversal of sentiment is indicated by another question from the survey that simply asked “How well is the U.S. military effort in Iraq going?” Around the time of Bush’s “mission accomplished” stunt, an amazing 93 percent of the public thought the military effort was going well. Today that’s down to 38 percent, while 59 percent feel the military effort is not going well.

“Mission accomplished”? Not even close. Mission failed is more like it, according to the public, and a failed mission that is now doing more harm than good.

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Ruy Teixeira

Former Former Senior Fellow

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