Who was responsible for the “Mission Accomplished” banner?

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It’s that time of the year again, folks:

Republican John McCain said President Bush should not be held responsible for the much-criticized “Mission Accomplished” banner five years ago, but he should be blamed for bungling the early months of the war.

On Thursday, the fifth anniversary of Bush’s dramatic landing on an aircraft carrier where the banner hung, McCain said, “I thought it was wrong at the time.”

“So all I can tell you was that I was the strongest advocate, or one of the strongest advocates, for changing to adopt the surge,” McCain told reporters. “And I think that history will judge me by the fact that I thought it was wrong.”

McCain said he can’t blame Bush for the banner. After shifting explanations, the White House eventually said the “Mission Accomplished” phrase referred to the carrier’s crew completing its 10-month mission, not the military completing its mission in Iraq.

I’ve blogged on this almost every year. It was a great speech, whose contents are overshadowed by the “Mission Accomplished” banner, spun by the derision of political opponents and war critics.

Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld was also someone who didn’t like the banner, nor the “implication of finality”, to which he had taken a critical pen to drafts of the speech that implied any kind of finality and over-optimism. From an interview with Bob Woodward:

MR. WOODWARD: And you know, one thing — just one quick thing not on the list but someone told me about the other day, which I found fascinating. When the person that gave that speech on the Lincoln with the “Mission Accomplished” on the back, somebody told me that the White House speechwriters had used MacArthur’s surrender speech on the Missouri as a model. And they literally had in that speech “the guns are silent,” and you edited it out.

SEC. RUMSFELD: I took “mission accomplished” out. I was in Baghdad, and I was given a draft of that thing to look at. And I just died, and I said my God, it’s too conclusive. And I fixed it and sent it back..

MR. WOODWARD: were you on the trip?

SEC. RUMSFELD: I was. And we got it back and they fixed the speech, but not the sign.

MR. WOODWARD: That’s right. But it had “the guns are silent,” and someone said you line-edited it out and said the guns are not silent.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Yeah, that’s for darn sure.

MR. WOODWARD: Is that —

SEC. RUMSFELD: Yeah. No, there’s no question but that I was well aware that things were still happening there. I was there.

And who was responsible for the inclusion of the banner?

Robert Draper writes in Dead Certain (hardly what I’d call a “pro-Bush” book), pg 194-5:

Scott Sforza flew out to the USS Lincoln five days before the speech. Sforza was the White House’s in-house producer.


In the course of his labors, Sforza became quite taken with the crew. When they mentioned to the White House aide that they would like to emblazon the stage with a banner reading MISSION ACCOMPLISHED so as to send up a victorious signal to their families and Navy buddies, Sforza loved the spirit of it and was effusive in his pitch to Fleischer, Bartlett, and the others. By conference call, they mused among themselves: Could the slogan backfire? But Fleischer reminded the others that the press had been haranguing Bush to declare an end to major combat operations for weeks now. The press shop gave Sforza the green light.

Sforza had the MISSION ACCOMPLISHED banner designed by a private vendor, with a slick red-white-and-blue background. It was unfurled and pinned alongside the carrier, directly behind where the president would give his nationally televised speech on the evening of May 1.

According to Draper’s book, pg196,

(Rumsfeld learned of the banner only after the fact and was not pleased. The final draft of the speech, he would say, “was properly calibrated. But the sign left the opposite impression, and that was unfortunate.”)

Perhaps no one took it harder than Scott Sforza, who knew the truth! The banner- it was for the troops! And everyone was saying that the White House was announcing “mission accomplished”! When anyone could plainly see in the text, plainly hear the president say it: We have difficult work to do in Iraq.

And anyway, no one in the media bothered to call Sforza and find out what the facts were. This was what so galled him. Because Sforza had worked with the great ones, Koppel and Brinkley and Roone Arledge, back in the day when reporters weren’t hired just for their looks. It was quite a somber epiphany for the man who had spent the past week adjusting lights and divining camera angles and dressing up crew members in matchning colors….

The media- they just don’t pay attention to facts the way they used to.

21 Responses to “Who was responsible for the “Mission Accomplished” banner?”

  1. 1


    How could anyone misinterpret the “Mission Accomplished” banner only referred to the Lincoln and her crew completing a 10 month deployment? To infer anything else says that they did not listen to President Bush saying there are many days of hard work ahead that would require considerable time and patience.

  2. 2



    It is the whole historical revisionists that changei to say Bush put it up there. theyarethe people that are teaching our college kids how bad the US is. Remember the Democratst hink that every one is stupid and they lie and lie some more until the people believe it to be the truth. Just like the taxes for the Wealthy crap, and almost anything that comes out of their mouthes.

  3. 3

    Scott Malensek

    Those people are so right. Bush was completely wrong to declare MISSION ACCOMPLISHED, and as a result of their comments, I have now seen the light. No matter what, I will not vote to re-elect GWB this fall. Well done! Great job pointing out President Bush’s “errors.” Really worth the time and bandwith.

  4. 4


    Now, you have to appreciate the irony here!
    The same day that the lefties are moaning over the fact that BHO’s ties to Jeremiah Wright are being run through the media cycle repeatedly, and that BHO’s “distancing” of himself from his former pastor should put an end to the “distraction” from the “real issues” out there; this same day we are reminded that five years ago there was a “Mission Accomplished” banner behind President Bush when he gave his speech aboard the Abraham Lincoln at the end of major combat operations in Iraq. You want to talk about a story that just won’t be allowed to die? Now, they’re trying to extend it to stain the candidacy of John McCain. You really do have to love the hypocrisy of the left!

  5. 5


    Ironically on the 5th anniversary of ‘Mission Accomplished’ the ‘LA Times’ reports today that the death toll among American soldiers in Iraq reached a 7 month high in April while civilian deaths also climbed dramatically. However, not to be undone by the affair there was this immediate solutive to the pressing problematic:

    U.S. commanders will be relying increasingly on their Iraqi counterparts to provide security as the American presence diminishes from a peak last year of nearly 170,000 to about 140,000 by July.

    … yeah –that’ll work.

  6. 7


    Way to go Doug!!! It’s about time someone on this site pointed out how great (not) the Iraq war is going!!! You righties vote for Grampy McCain!!! As if he has a clue how to get us out this worthless war….

    it also looks like the righties on this thread want to re-write history Along with president BUSH…

    Here is the truth:

    The White House said on October 29, 2003 that it had helped with the production of a ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner as a backdrop for President George W. Bush’s speech onboard the USS Abraham Lincoln to declare combat operations over in Iraq. This file photo shows Bush delivering a speech to crew aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, as the carrier steamed toward San Diego, California on May 1, 2003.

    A banner proclaiming “mission accomplished” on the aircraft carrier where President George W. Bush declared an end to major combat in Iraq. That banner was put there by

    There has been over 3,926 since Bush pulled this photo op stunt.

    Then Bush stated “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended”

    yeah right… we’ve all been Bushed

  7. 8



    sky55110 wrote:

    it also looks like the righties on this thread want to re-write history Along with president BUSH…

    BDS sufferers hear what they want to hear. No matter how much you wish it to be otherwise, the fact is, the banner was suggested by the crew of the Abraham Lincoln to send a message to their families and fellow servicemen, as their carrier returned from combat operations.

    As for Doug’s comment which you waved your pom-poms over, it’s just more of the glass half-empty mentality that does nothing but demoralize and act as a ball-and-chain on those who are trying to succeed in Iraq.

    Here’s some other recent news to mull over:

    Iraq Government Takes Control of Basra

    Sadr Tells Followers to Observe Truce

    Sunni Bloc Returns to Iraqi Cabinet

    Enemies Become Allies at Iraq’s Camp Bucca

    There’s a lot going on in Iraq, both positive and negative. The sky is not always falling; there will always be setbacks and challenges in paving the way to victories and successes.

  8. 9


    Thanks for your efforts Wordsmith, the information you provide is something I hadn’t seen before, difficult to dispute.

    General Franks and others have explained the MA banner, but it’s the non-sourced chopped up cut and paste from, I’m assuming a fly by nite blogsite w/o a site addy provided that we must accept as fact along with koolaid. Personally, after four kids, six grandchildren and one great grandchild, I no longer have to do koolaid, that stuff gets served at their houses, rarely.

    In addition to the homeward bound traditional banner, the crew was treated to the “Mission Accomplished” banner, the President’s landing on their ship, his speech and time spent with them, they enjoyed every bit of it. They were at sea 286 days in major combat without any significant injuries, their performance was outstanding, we should all continue to be proud of what they did especially when the anniversary pops up, let’s use it to remember that crew. I’m a proud daughter, wife and mother of some outstanding sailors, the Navy will always have a soft spot in my heart and it discusts me to see out of the loop loons spitting on their homecoming.

    I don’t know if anyone has seen this site, it’s a photo journey of the Lincoln, thought I’d share:


    They also mentioned the Mission Accomplished banner in the paragraph above this explanantion of the pennant tradition:

    “The homeward bound pennant is a Navy tradition, dating back to the days of sail. It is flown on the last leg of her homebound voyage by a ship that has been overseas for nine months or more, prior to arrival at the first U.S. port. The length is one foot for each person, officer or crew, who has been aboard for 9 months or more, providing the length does not exceed the ship’s length. On arrival in homeport, the pennant is cut up. The blue is presented to the captain, and the remainder is divided among the men. U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Photographer’s Mate Mahlon K. Miller. [030502-N-0226M-003].”

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    Doug wrote:

    Ironically on the 5th anniversary of ‘Mission Accomplished’ the ‘LA Times’ reports today that the death toll among American soldiers in Iraq reached a 7 month high in April while civilian deaths also climbed dramatically.

    Max Boot at WSJ:

    The Truth About Iraq’s Casualty Count
    May 3, 2008; Page A11

    The newspapers are predictably filled with articles about how 52 U.S. soldiers died in Iraq last month – the highest toll since September. Iraqi civilian casualties are also said to be at the highest level since August. These losses are being used to cast aspersions on claims of progress in Iraq.

    Even one death is too many and 52 deaths is tragedy multiplied 52-fold. But let’s keep some perspective. As the icasualties.org website makes clear, for better or worse, April was still one of the lighter-casualty months during the long war in Iraq.

    More important, casualties cannot be looked at in a vacuum. A spike in casualties could be a sign that the enemy is gaining strength. Or it could be a sign that tough combat is under way that will lead to the enemy’s defeat and the creation of a more peaceful environment in the future.

    The latter was certainly the case with the casualty spike during the summer of 2007. (More than a hundred soldiers died each month in April, May and June.) Those losses were widely denounced as evidence that the surge wasn’t working, but in fact they were proof of the opposite.

    At the time, troops were engaged in hard fighting as part of Operation Phantom Thunder that eventually cleared most terrorists out of Anbar, Baghdad, Diyala, Babil and other provinces, leading to dramatic reductions in violence over the last year (more than 80% before the recent fighting).

    The latest increase in casualties is the result of another coalition offensive: Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s decision to break the grip of militias in Basra. At first the results did not look promising: Iraqi troops were rushed in without adequate preparation, and shortly after the March 25 offensive began appeared stymied in their battles against the Mahdist Army. Mr. Maliki seemed to agree to an Iranian-brokered cease-fire with Moqtada al Sadr that left the Mahdists in control of much of the city. But as April progressed it became clear that the results of the initial clashes were more beneficial than most (including me) had initially suspected.

    Iraqi security forces have not suspended their operations in Basra. In fact, since the “cease-fire,” they have continued to increase their area of control. An April 25 article by a London Times correspondent who visited Basra finds: “Raids are continuing in a few remaining strongholds but the Iraqi commander in charge of the unprecedented operation is confident that his forces will soon achieve something that the British military could not – a city free from rogue gunmen.”

    The political repercussions in Baghdad have been just as positive and just as unexpected. First, by taking on Shiite militias, Mr. Maliki has gained new-found respect from Kurds and Sunnis who had viewed him as a hopeless Shiite sectarian. Not coincidentally, the main Sunni party has now announced plans to rejoin the cabinet.

    Second, Mr. Maliki has managed to mobilize the other Shiite parties into an anti-Mahdist bloc, demanding that Moqtada al Sadr disarm his militia if his party expects to wield political power. Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the senior Shiite cleric in Iraq, has backed that demand.

    Mr. Sadr has so far refused to comply, but nor has he staged a major uprising across the country, probably because he knows it would not succeed. His plan to hold a “million man” anti-American protest in Baghdad on April 5 fizzled out at the last moment. Mr. Sadr appears increasingly isolated – as symbolized by the fact that he chooses to remain in Iran.

    Finally, by exposing Iranian machinations in Basra, the recent offensive has sparked an anti-Iranian backlash even among Shiite politicians with longstanding links to Tehran. Thus a high-level Shiite delegation has gone to Iran to present the Iranian leadership with evidence of the nefarious activities of their Quds Force (as if they don’t already know!) and to demand that they knock it off.

    The Iranian answer, notwithstanding some soothing words about wanting stability in Iraq, is coming in the shelling and rocketing of the Green Zone and other Iraqi and American bases. The Iranians have been providing longer-range rockets to their allies in the Special Groups and the Mahdist Army.

    U.S. and Iraqi troops have been forced to push deeper into Sadr City than they have previously gone in order to take away launching sites. The Mahdists have had years to prepare defenses, and the subsequent battles account for much of the increase in casualties among Americans (and Iraqis) that have so disturbed the press.

    The ongoing operations could still fail. But if they succeed, the result would be greater fracturing of the Mahdist forces and more government control of Sadr City, an area of some two million people that has been effectively run by the Sadrists since 2003.

    This would represent a major achievement, because, as al Qaeda in Iraq has lost strength in the past year (thanks in large part to the surge), the Shiite extremists have become the major remaining threat. Unfortunate as the latest deaths are, they are in all likelihood a sign of things getting worse before they get better.

  10. 12



    It definitely is funny how those with DBS just can’t read, or do not follow history. The “Mission Accomplishment” sign was for the sailors or the ship and even they said so. And Bush never said that the war was over, just the main battle.

    And I will say it again, I am not voting for Bush in November.

  11. 13


    I personally don’t like to mock people, at least the regular people that one yaps with at the water cooler. But when it comes so-called “experts” that deal with peoples lives in war and when they have been wrong time and time again, and then still persist in pushing for more war, well, then, I have to sort of admit, I have a twisted Freudian attraction to enjoy it.

    I always have had a soft-spot for Mr. Boot, sometimes he can really make me giggle:

    To answer that question, [why neocons love McCain?] ask yourself which presidential candidate an Ahmadinejad, Assad or Kim would fear the most. I submit it is not Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama or Mike Huckabee. In my (admittedly biased) opinion, the leading candidate to scare the snot out of our enemies is a certain former aviator who has been noted for his pugnacity and his unwavering support of the American war effort in Iraq.

    While many ponder over the dilemma of being either feared or respected, Boot’s expertise forces us back to the school yard for answers.

    Those that enjoy Boot as much as i do probably do so more for his “3 stooges-type” analogies. Here’s one that many fans like myself always go to:

    Other statistics add to the context. According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 114 U.S. police officers died in the line of duty this year, almost exactly the number of service people who have been killed by Iraqi insurgents since May 1. And more than 41,000 people are killed on U.S. highways every year, according to the Department of Transportation. So during the last six months, while more than 300 Americans were dying in Iraq, more than 20,000 were dying on the roads at home.

    You can’t buy that kind of slipshod intentionality– “how i do enjoy aiming my 42 caliber truck into head-on traffic every Sunday morning!”

    While Boot is one of those “experts” who has said some of the dumber things about the war, he has a certain crude honesty that many a beer and chips guy can relish. So I want to take a few minutes at what he says here. Doing so will better enable all of us, perhaps, to say less stupid s*** in the future.

    To begin I want to thank Mr. Boot for not even considering waisting his valuable time mentioning almost a thousand civilians killed, homes destroyed, families ruined and access to central Baghdad cut off, due to Sadr City being walled off– they, as well as many other innocent Iraqis are expendable to further our five year plus goal for a democratic Iraq.

    Secondly, April’s increase in U.S. troops killed represents a 122 percent jump from December. Therefore, it doesn’t matter that Mr. Boot details why there has been a casualty increase due to “coalition offensives” in Sadr City. Were we having offensives the whole time since December? I believe we were playing a sort of whack-a-mole. Hot-spots like Mosul, Tikrit, and Nineveh have had US campaigns that have been going on longer than Basra and Sadr City. What about them? Could not Basra or Sadr City become a Mosul or Nineveh?

    Thirdly, I love the massed assumptive grouping here:

    More important, casualties cannot be looked at in a vacuum. A spike in casualties could be a sign that the enemy is gaining strength. Or it could be a sign that tough combat is under way that will lead to the enemy’s defeat and the creation of a more peaceful environment in the future.

    So, he assumingly believes contrarian arguments on casualties have assumed vacuum-like contexts, then quickly leaps to an assumptive prophetic of the “enemies defeat,” and decidedly ignoring the assumption that “the enemy is gaining strength,”. Another third option here, that Boot ignores is this could be a long hard run to some kind of bloody stale-mate. It certainly has been looking that way for over 5 years now, considering all the parties involved. I wish he wouldn’t have assumed this was not a realistic option. Sadr has a numerous youthful following.

    Fourthly, after detailing why the casualties need to be contextualized with his insight, he leaves us with these vague yet wise words:

    Unfortunate as the latest deaths are, they are in all likelihood a sign of things getting worse before they get better.

    Yes, how true. But for how much longer?

    This is ironic considering the glories awarded to the surge by so many so-called “experts”. In fact, the sheer magnitude of the wrongness they exhibited will likely be studied by scholars for decades to come.

    Mr. Boot has learned his lesson well this time: “It’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” For if we can jump into the way-back-machine we can remember Max Boot proclaiming “Now, victory is within our grasp ” in the weeks after December’s lull.

    In conclusion, yes, US troop casualties are very saddening. Yet Boot has put their deaths and the nameless others into an “expertise” perspective for us. Yet oddly, he’s not finished; this time Boot is more circumspect, to the order just shy of missing saying too much he says, “things get worse before they get better” …wiser words– words more “experts” and novices should consider. …Shame it took so many errors to find this realization.

    Now Boot needs to openly consider the option of a stale-mate in the course of our military operations– a fake worse than death to his kind of military-solutions-are-the only-solutions “expertise”.

  12. Sky55110: Then I guess you are terrified that Democrats appointed THIS MAN head of the House Intelligence Committee:


    Doug: I’ve been known to be a bit long winded myself, but really… Did you have to use 930 words to get your point across? Sorry, but I’ve got the 1000 plus page book (“Turmoil and Triumph”) by former Secretary of State Shultz to work through, so I’m not able to devote the extra time to wade through your latest. How about a cliff notes version?

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    Thanks Wordsmith, whenever I see prisonplanet I just roll the old eyes, isn’t that where a lot of truther stuff comes from? Of course that black bar has sinister intentions as does the WH, always covering something up. These nuts and flakes wonder why most don’t take them seriously. LOL

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