Dem candidates weigh in on "Mission Accomplished"

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama issue statements about the five-year anniversary of the speech President Bush gave from the deck of an aircraft carrier.

By Alex Koppelman

Published May 1, 2008 5:51PM (EDT)

Thursday marks the five-year anniversary of the day that President Bush landed on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and -- with a banner that declared "Mission Accomplished" flying in back of him -- told the country, "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended."

Obviously, what Bush said that day has turned out to be somewhat less than true. And so, with the war continuing, and remaining a significant issue in the presidential campaign, both Democratic presidential candidates weighed in with statements on the anniversary.

In her statement, Hillary Clinton said:

The fifth anniversary of President Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech comes the same week as a chief architect of the Bush administration's war in Iraq conceded, "We were clueless on counterinsurgency." That statement confirms what we have all known: the planning and strategy was flawed. Our troops deserved and deserve better.

All Americans honor the service and sacrifice of our men and women of the Armed Forces of the United States in Iraq. We are grateful for the tremendous burden they have carried. Our troops have done their job.

The path forward is to use American diplomacy and our allies to allow U.S. forces to come home, and turn responsibility back to Iraq and its people.

That is the plan I have laid out to the American people as a Senator and as a candidate, and that is the plan that I will carry out as President.

In his statement, Barack Obama said:

Five years after George Bush declared "mission accomplished" and John McCain told the American people that "the end is very much in sight" in Iraq, we have lost thousands of lives, spent half a trillion dollars, and we're no safer. It's time to turn the page on Washington's false promises and failed judgments on foreign policy, so that we can finally ease the enormous burdens on our troops and their families, and end a war that should've never been authorized. I am the only candidate in this race who opposed the war in Iraq when Washington was falling in line with George Bush, and as President I will end this war.

The different emphases in the two statements are instructive. Clinton, of course, doesn't mention that she voted for the war, but does make fairly unsubtle gestures toward trying to excuse that vote by emphasizing that the war's "planning and strategy was flawed." Obama's statement, meanwhile, doesn't mention Clinton by name, though it does mention McCain -- that's a continuation of the campaign's strategy of looking forward to the general election to create a sense that the primary campaign is over. And, of course, he mentions that he opposed the war from the beginning, a position that has served him well with Democratic voters this year.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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2008 Elections Barack Obama Hillary Rodham Clinton Iraq War War Room