Four Years After 'Mission Accomplished'

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What a difference four years makes. Monday marks the start of the fifth year of the war in Iraq. What better time to revisit some pivotal moments in the war's infancy?

What first comes to mind is the president's May 2003 fatigue-clad strut across the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln underneath a banner emblazoned with the words "Mission Accomplished." One wonders whether that now infamous public-relations stunt will go down in history with as much derision as Michael Dukakis's Snoopy-like image while taking a spin in a tank. Dukakis rose out of the top of the tank wearing an oversize helmet, trying to dismiss claims that liberals are soft on defense. Liberals never looked softer.

March 2003 wasn't even over and Vice President Cheney famously predicted the conflict would last "weeks rather than months."

One wonders if that statement will go down in history with the classic shot of President Harry Truman holding a newspaper with the (very incorrect) headline "Dewey Defeats Truman." The two scenarios were equally accurate.

Let us not forget the words of war architect and repentant neoconservative Richard Perle, who said in 2003, "Next year at about this time, I expect there will be a really thriving trade in the [Iraq] region and we will see rapid economic development. And a year from now, I'll be very surprised if there is not some grand square in Baghdad named after President Bush."

Last fall, just before the November elections, Perle was profiled among a handful of neocon war cheerleaders who've now deserted the administration on this issue. Vanity Fair reported: "According to Perle, who left the Defense Policy Board in 2004, this unfolding catastrophe has a central cause: devastating dysfunction within the administration of President George W. Bush. Perle says, 'The decisions did not get made that should have been. They didn't get made in a timely fashion, and the differences were argued out endlessly.... At the end of the day, you have to hold the president responsible....I don't think he realized the extent of the opposition within his own administration, and the disloyalty.' "