Two days ago marked the 10th anniversary of George W. Bush’s landing of a jet on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and giving his televised “Mission Accomplished” speech. Despite the theatrics, Bush was just a passenger on the plane, though you’d have thought by strutting around in his flight suit that he’d just come back from the front lines.
The 10 years seem like they flew by. My neighbor, Barbara, who reminds me of the late comedienne Gracie Allen, tells me life is like a roll of toilet paper as “the second half goes by faster than the first.”
What have I accomplished these past 10 years, other than write columns critical of the Iraq war? At least this one is on an “anniversary,” albeit not one to celebrate but to learn from, though we never do. So many lessons unlearned. Currently U.S. Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham want us to get more involved in Syria. It’s as though they never met a war they didn’t like.
The entire “Mission Accomplished” stunt was just one bogus chapter in a thoroughly bogus war. And “bogus” is being generous. Personally, I think “criminal” could be substituted.
Evidently Bush thought it was a grand idea to dress up in a flight suit and land on the Abraham Lincoln to announce the “Allied victory.” (The bought and paid for “coalition of the willing” never sounded terribly enthusiastic.) Bush should have simply taken a helicopter, but he obviously wanted the world to see him as a macho pilot, which is odd because in the Texas Air National Guard his commitment was spotty at best.
Actually Bush’s being in the National Guard in the first place was totally corrupt as he miraculously skipped over 1,000 others ahead of him on the list. The man who arranged it all is still ashamed and ruefully admitted that it probably cost some innocent person his life in Vietnam. I know, picky, picky.
Another glaring problem with the “Mission Accomplished” bit was that the carrier, which was returning from action in the Persian Gulf, was almost all the way back to port in San Diego. It would have looked even more ridiculous for Bush to land on a carrier that was already docked. So the Abraham Lincoln had to be purposely slowed to make it appear like the ship was still at sea. What a fraud.
The staged event cost anywhere from $1 million to $3 million, according to various reports, all for a photo-op. Then again it was just a drop in the bucket for a war that eventually will cost $5 trillion! It’s a little tough to swallow, however, when disadvantaged kids are currently being kept out of Head Start and homebound elderly are being kicked off Meals On Wheels.
Meanwhile, the obstructionist Congress does nothing. Sen. Patrick Toomey, (R-Pa.), admitted on Wednesday that the GOP blocks bills just because Obama is in favor of them. How patriotic. And yet Congress somehow found money for air traffic controllers. Of course that’s because members of Congress fly and surely they can’t be inconvenienced.
But back to the aircraft carrier. Even though he paraded around the deck in his flight suit and holding his helmet under his arm, I repeat that President Bush was merely a passenger on that flight. A million-dollar passenger at that. I wonder how many Meals On Wheels that would pay for?
Under a huge “Mission Accomplished” banner, Bush told the country and the world that major combat operations in Iraq were over. Given that eight years later American GIs were still being killed and wounded, W was not exactly prescient.
It’s ironic that the 10 year “Mission Accomplished” anniversary fell on the same day the Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas opened to the public. W hopes the lavish library will show visitors that he had the “courage of his convictions.” I hate to break it to 43, but leaders don’t get credit for making decisions that were so blatantly wrong. In Japan they tend to commit Hare Kari.
And let’s not forget Bush was getting plenty of advice not to invade Iraq, including from Colin Powell. And there was also plenty of evidence Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. But W just had to “go with his gut.” Unfortunately we’re still paying for his gut.
But we’re told this is a more sensitive Bush than the often arrogant president. (“I’m the decider!”) W’s an artist now specializing in pet portraits. If the sensitive Bush wants to create art a little more profound he could always paint any of the thousands of American GIs who lost limbs because of his Iraq war.
So it is that, with a nod to my neighbor Barbara, I leave you with what George Burns used to say to his wife to end every one of their hit 1950’s TV shows. “Say goodnight, Gracie.”
Jack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.