White House Clarifies 'Mission Accomplished' Sign Five years ago President Bush gave a speech on a U.S. aircraft carrier declaring major combat in Iraq was over. Now, press secretary Dana Perino says that a banner behind Bush that day "should have been much more specific."

White House Clarifies 'Mission Accomplished' Sign

White House Clarifies 'Mission Accomplished' Sign

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Five years ago President Bush gave a speech on a U.S. aircraft carrier declaring major combat in Iraq was over. Now, press secretary Dana Perino says that a banner behind Bush that day "should have been much more specific."

BILL WOLFF: From NPR News in New York, this is the Bryant Park Project.


Overlooking historic Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan, live from the NPR Studios, this is the Bryant Park Project from NPR News. News, information, the factor is on. I'm Mike Pesca.


And I'm Rachel Martin. It's Thursday, May 1st. I understand you have a beef to pick this morning?

PESCA: Two-thousand and eight, you forgot to say. Yeah.

MARTIN: Oh, yeah, 2008.

PESCA: So, I...

MARTIN: Lest we forget.

PESCA: OK, look, you know, being a host of a morning show has screwed up my normal routine. I used to like to read the paper in the morning. So, now I read it after I go online and read the paper. I try to keep with the news, but the arts section, the arts section often piles up.


PESCA: So, just yesterday, I got to the Tuesday art section in the New York Times, and they were talking about the Coachella Festival, which we've done some reporting on, and I'd like to read to you this passage. We're talking about Roger Waters and his performance.

"A giant balloon pig, as large as a small plane and tagged with graffiti like 'fear builds walls,' and the name Obama next to a checked voting box, was lofted over the audience, then released into the air." What's wrong with that sentence? Do you remember in our reporting? The pig floated away by accident. Don't you remember that?

MARTIN: So, they're saying it was intentionally released?

PESCA: It says "released into the air." Doesn't release imply intention?

MARTIN: Well, someone had to - no. Because someone had - I mean, releasing, it could happen accidentally. It is just the action.

PESCA: A release, an accidental release?

MARTIN: I don't think there's intention. This is a much longer conversation, and you and I are going to have it a different time.

PESCA: I believe it implies intention, and I demand a correction. And if you're with me on this, what does O'Reilly call his legions? "Factor maniacs"?

MARTIN: Yeah. That's what he calls them.

PESCA: You will email it to us.

MARTIN: New York Times, you've been warned.

PESCA: And tell me if we demand a correction. And the reason we're talking about O'Reilly is that Hillary Clinton was on "The O'Reilly Factor" last night, and David Folkenflik is on the BPP Factor today to analyze and assess.

MARTIN: Also, Raul Castro, you've heard of him. He's rolling back some restrictions in Cuba. We're going to check in with what's happening there, talk about how far-reaching those reforms are.

PESCA: And Langhorne Slim is in the studio to play some music from his new record. Let's call his music "singer-songwriter-punk-rock."

MARTIN: Let's.

PESCA: We'll get today's headlines in just a minute, but first...

(Soundbite of music)

(Soundbite of airplane)

MARTIN: That was the sound five years ago today when President Bush landed aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln. He stood in front of a banner that read "mission accomplished," and said this.

(Soundbite of speech)

President GEORGE W. BUSH: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and her allies have prevailed.

(Soundbite of applause)

PESCA: It was one of the more impressive photo-ops in presidential history. Of course, that banner and those words became a thorn in the Bush administration's side several months later when the Iraq War took a turn for the worse.

Around that time, reporters started asking the White House whose idea was that "mission accomplished" banner, and do you think it was a mistake? On October 28th, 2003, nearly six months after landing on the Lincoln, President Bush said it was the Navy's idea.

(Soundbite of press conference)

President BUSH: The "mission accomplished" sign, of course, was put up by the Marines of the USS Abraham Lincoln, saying that their mission was accomplished. And that was attributed, somehow, to some ingenious advancement from my staff. They weren't that ingenious, by the way.

MARTIN: But the very next day, then White House Spokesman Scott McClellan said, well, OK, we had something to do with it.

(Soundbite of press conference)

Mr. SCOTT MCCLELLAN (Former White House Spokesman, George W. Bush Administration): The idea for the banner and the idea for the sign was suggested by those onboard the ship, and we were pleased to help them with that.

PESCA: But while there may have been some confusion over whose idea it was, both Bush and McClellan insisted the sign wasn't a mistake. Because, as McClellan told reporters, the term "mission accomplished" was meant to refer specifically to the troops on the USS Abraham Lincoln. But reporters had a tough time buying that explanation.

(Soundbite of press conference)

Unidentified Reporter: Are you denying now that the president had the distinct intention at the time of that speech that Americans would see that picture and think the mission in Iraq has been accomplished, the overall mission?

Mr. MCCLELLAN: What I'm saying is that this was about paying tribute to our sailors, and aviators, and naval officers onboard the USS Lincoln. That's what this was about.

MARTIN: We might point out that, to this day, if you go to the whitehouse.gov, the title of that speech is, quote, "President Bush announces major combat operations in Iraq have ended." So, people could be forgiven for thinking he was referring to more than just the personnel on the USS Lincoln.

PESCA: And, in fact, the administration acknowledged some level of error yesterday, although they're sticking to the idea that "mission accomplished" didn't refer to the whole Iraq War. Here's White House Spokesperson Dana Perino.

(Soundbite of press conference)

Ms. DANA PERINO (White House Spokesperson, George W. Bush Administration): President Bush is well aware that the banner should have been much more specific, and said "mission accomplished for these sailors who are on this ship on their mission."

MARTIN: Perino also had this to say.

Ms. PERINO: I recognize that the media is going to play this up as they do every single year.

PESCA: Mission accomplished. Now, let's get some more of today's headlines from the BPP's man on the mission, Mark Garrison.

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