Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement on the floor of the U.S. Senate today, the fifth anniversary of President Bush’s speech aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln beneath the “Mission Accomplished” banner. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Five years ago today, on the deck of an aircraft carrier, returning from the Middle East, America and the world bore witness to perhaps the greatest act of hubris that our nation has ever seen in wartime. Resplendent in a flight suit, landing theatrically in a fighter jet, President Bush declared that, ‘In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.’ Above him, a banner – printed by the White House – that proclaimed ‘Mission Accomplished.’
“With families fleeing from Iraq by the thousands to live as refugees – ‘Mission Accomplished.’ With extremists pouring into Iraq by the hundreds, spoiling for a fight – ‘Mission Accomplished.’ With no government in place, with towns destroyed, with infrastructure in shambles – ‘Mission Accomplished.’
“When President Bush put on his flight suit, 139 American troops had lost their lives. Today, the toll has reached 4,058. April had the highest death count in seven months – 51 Americans killed. When President Bush landed on the runway of the USS Abraham Lincoln, 545 Americans had been wounded. Today, that count is more than 30,000 – many of those injuries grave.
“When President Bush announced that ‘major combat operations have ended,’ American taxpayers had spent $79 billion in Iraq. Today, $526 billion – and rising every single day – with experts predicting a total cost of $3 trillion, all of it borrowed. In May 2003, many of our allies had already begun to stand apart from us on the war. Today our moral authority in the world has been gravely damaged.
“Not one American looks back on the five years since that aircraft stunt with any sense of satisfaction. Our country looks back with grief, sadness, yet with a fierce and unwavering commitment to finally change the mission and responsibly end the war in Iraq.
“That day aboard the USS Lincoln, our President told us that the war would not be endless. He said that ‘Americans, following a battle, want nothing more than to return home.’ He told the brave men and women aboard that carrier that home was their direction that day. That ‘After service in the Afghan and Iraqi theaters of war – after 100,000 miles, on the longest carrier deployment in recent history – you are homeward bound.’
“To the men and women aboard the Lincoln, that day – that speech – must seem a distant memory. Could they have imagined that day that many of them and their brothers and sisters in arms would now be on their third, fourth or fifth tour of duty?
“The ‘Mission Accomplished’ speech will rightly be remembered with great anguish. George Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld will be written in the pages history as the men who rushed a peaceful, deliberate nation head-first into war without the slightest notion of what it meant to run or end it. Five years later, the cost of their hubris is staggering – in lives lost, dollars spent, and moral authority squandered.
“I think back to the men and women aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln that day five years ago. The excitement they must have felt by a Presidential visit. The encouragement of his words. The satisfaction in heading home to their families after a job well done. They did their jobs. Their Commander-in-Chief did not do his. Just as he has not done his job here at home – with record gas and oil prices, an economy spiraling into recession, and 40 million Americans uninsured.
“On this fifth anniversary of a sorry moment in our country’s history, we pause to honor the troops aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln – and all of their brothers and sister in arms who have fought, sacrificed and continue to sacrifice in Iraq. They deserve a new course. Not the false hope of a slogan – but the real hope of a responsible end to a war that has raged for far too long.”