On May 1, 2003, U.S. President George W. Bush made a historic speech aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, off the coast of California, which would become known as the “Mission Accomplished” speech. In it, Bush declared that “major combat operations in Iraq have ended,” signaling a turning point in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq that had begun on March 19, 2003.
The invasion, officially known as Operation Iraqi Freedom, aimed to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, and liberate the Iraqi people from his oppressive regime. The U.S., along with coalition partners, including the United Kingdom, Australia, and Poland, among others, launched a swift military campaign that successfully toppled Saddam Hussein’s government in just three weeks.
Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech was initially hailed as a symbol of American military prowess and the successful conclusion of the Iraq War. However, the situation in Iraq soon deteriorated, with an insurgency taking root and sectarian violence escalating. The absence of WMDs, which served as a primary justification for the invasion, further fueled criticism of the war effort and the U.S. administration.
The “Mission Accomplished” speech would become a source of controversy and an enduring symbol of premature triumphalism. It would be years before the U.S. could claim any semblance of stability in Iraq, and the conflict would claim the lives of thousands of U.S. troops and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians.