In George W. Bush’s new book, Decision Points, the former president acknowledges that “it was a big mistake” to allow the “Mission Accomplished” banner to be displayed behind him when he spoke on an aircraft carrier years before the final American combat troops would leave Iraq. Though much attention has been given to this admission and Bush’s expression of regret over the way he handled the response to Hurricane Katrina, they differ little–if at all–from his views on these incidents expressed during his final press conference as president.
Nearly two years after the end of his administration and over seven-and-a-half years after the “Mission Accomplished” speech, this admitted mistake remains an embarrassing one for Bush. The giant banner provided the backdrop as the president arrived on the carrier in full gear after participating in two flybys in the co-pilot’s seat of a Navy fighter jet and it was also prominently set for all coverage of Bush’s speech that followed, in which he celebrated the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime and announced the end of major combat operations in Iraq.
When American casualties continued to accumulate—eventually surpassing the total suffered before the mission was supposedly accomplished—Bush’s dramatic photo op came to be perceived among many as foolish bravado; a two-word, tragically ironic summary of a leader who did not understand the role securing the peace has in actually winning a war.