In May 2003, a scant few weeks after the commencement of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, President Bush, clad in a flight suit, made a showy landing aboard an aircraft carrier and proclaimed, underneath a giant banner reading "Mission Accomplished," that "major military operations" in that conflict were over. Some 1,500 American fatalities later, with a mushrooming insurgency that rages ever more intensely, it is surely fair to say that the president's statement was premature - not just concerning the military facts but also concerning the nature of the mission and the accomplishment thereof.
In all fairness, much more has been achieved than Bush let on back in May 2003. Consider: A strategically located Arab nation, unified under authoritarian control, has been split into three disputatious fragments, though each of these is likely to operate under a form of authoritarian control as well. The aforesaid country, which had secular rule at the time, is now likely to be dominated by an Islamic Shiite theocracy, similar to the one that holds sway in Iran next door. In accordance with a proposed new constitution urged by the Bush administration, and with ongoing internal changes, certain functions formerly supported by the state, including medical care, are to be abandoned or made subject to market factors. As a result of those constitutionally ordained changes, the rights of women - which were at relative legal parity with those of men under the now-deposed Saddam - are due to be drastically reduced in accordance with strict Islamic doctrine.
Further: As a result of the Bush administration's mission in Iraq, a nation which - as we now know and as a heavily intimidated CIA dutifully tried to inform the president at the time - possessed virtually no al-Qaeda presence has become a veritable beehive of terrorist activity. Iraq's oil reserves, which were made over to the Western world in significant, reasonably priced quantities under prewar sanctions, are now scantily available and under constant threat of sabotage.
As a result of the ongoing mission in Iraq, the American military potential to meet eventualities elsewhere in the world - in Korea or off the China coast, say - has been stretched thin and debilitated. Simultaneously, military recruitment has fallen off significantly. Evidently, the degree of international sympathy and support which was extended to the United States in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks has proved either an embarrassment of some sort or an impediment to the administration's go-it-alone ethic. In any case, this reservoir of worldwide good feeling toward us has been converted into a cauldron of seething suspicion and ill will.
Oh, and don't forget about the transformation of the American image brought about by the disclosures from Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo or about the daily dose of war news and new casualty figures that divert us and, we grant, prevent us from becoming jaded.
More? Of course there is more - too much, indeed, for this modestly sized newsprint page to contain. Suffice it to say that this is one mission that has certainly been accomplished to a T. The Bush administration and all who have labored to this end within it are to be congratulated.