Talking Points: Four Years and No Progress

Unfortunately, the naive bluster and confidence of Bush's now-infamous "Mission Accomplished" speech have been undermined by the harsh reality of the facts on the ground.

On May 1, 2003, in a carefully-orchestrated photo-op, President Bush landed aboard the U.S.S. Lincoln decked out in full-fighter gear, ready to announce to the nation and to the world that “major combat operations in Iraq have ended.” Standing under a banner proclaiming “Mission Accomplished,” Bush declared with gusto, “In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.” Unfortunately, the naive bluster and confidence of Bush’s now-infamous “Mission Accomplished” speech have been undermined by the harsh reality of the facts on the ground. Four years later, with 146,000 American soldiers stuck in the middle of Iraq’s anarchic civil war, the battle of Iraq rages on with deadly consequences. The best available alternative to Bush’s course remains Strategic Redeployment.

  • In the four years since “Mission Accomplished” was declared, the war in Iraq has cost America and its allies dearly. When Bush made his speech, 139 members of the military had lost their lives. Today, as of April 26, there have been 3,337 military fatalities in Iraq. 524 Americans had been wounded in Iraq by this date in 2003 while today 26,188 Americans have been injured in the war zone, many of whom have received sub-par treatment in over-taxed military hospitals. In 2003, there were an average of 8 insurgent attacks a day. Today, American soldiers face a daily toll of 148.9 attacks. At the time of the speech, America had spent $53 billion on the war. Today, $448 billion has been spent, with another $124 billion set to be spent in the war funding supplemental passed by Congress. The public’s attitude toward Iraq has shifted dramatically over the past four years as well. In 2003, 75 percent of the public approved of President Bush’s handling of the war while today only 24 percent of Americans support his leadership on the issue. In 2003, 70 percent of Americans believed the Iraq war was “worth fighting.” Today, a minority of Americans — only 34 percent — believe that war has been worthwhile.
  • Here at home, sentiment continues to run against the course in Iraq. Appearing on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos this past Sunday, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) noted that the Bush administration has been showing “disregard and disrespect for the will of the American people” with their stay-the-course mentality in Iraq. Americans all around the country are speaking up to tell the administration that they are tired of being “disregarded.” In New York, the state legislature passed a resolution yesterday “opposing the President’s escalation in Iraq and calling on President Bush not to veto the supplemental legislation that Congress recently passed.” Nineteen other states have introduced similar resolutions. Upset with the war policies coming out of the White House, students and faculty at two universities are actively protesting upcoming commencement addresses by Vice President Dick Cheney and President Bush. At Brigham Young University in Utah, the announcement of Cheney as the graduation speaker “set off a rare, continuing protest at the Mormon university, one of the nation’s most conservative.”
  • It’s time for a plan to move forward. The war supplemental passed by Congress last week is set to be delivered to President Bush today for his expected veto. With the veto expected, the post-veto legislative fight is just beginning. Iraq critics in Congress are already considering a number of options for the next phase, including an interim spending bill that would fund the Pentagon for a few months and the passage of a bill with provisions that “contribute to putting pressure on Bush” over his war policies. Center for American Progress Action Fund President and CEO John Podesta, along with senior fellows Lawrence Korb, Scott Lily, and Brian Kaktulis have issued a memo that lays out four principles to remember and four scenarios for Congress to consider in the wake of Bush’s veoto. The scenarios include providing a short infusion of  funding of $40 billion, demanding that the president account for military readiness of units sent to Iraq, demanding the certification of progress towards benchmarks for Iraq’s political progress, and continuing pressure for redeployment dates by offering redeployment language in the markups of fiscal year 2008 Defense Authorization and Appropriations bills.

The positions of American Progress, and our policy experts, are independent, and the findings and conclusions presented are those of American Progress alone. A full list of supporters is available here. American Progress would like to acknowledge the many generous supporters who make our work possible.